The Real Full Monty on Ice, episode 2: triumph over adversity and temperature-related shrinkage

The celebrities get ready to skate – and strip: Colleen Nolan, Linda Lusardi Hayley Tamaddon and Shaughna Phillips (L-R) - ITV
The celebrities get ready to skate – and strip: Colleen Nolan, Linda Lusardi Hayley Tamaddon and Shaughna Phillips (L-R) - ITV

The show must go on. Even if that show involves celebrities getting their skates on and their kit off. In an unlikely development, The Real Full Monty on Ice (ITVturned into a heartwarming tale of triumph over adversity –and temperature-related shrinkage.

The final episode of the annual striptease in aid of cancer awareness was beset by problems, mostly pandemic-related. First, the production’s director, Dancing on Ice’s Dan Whiston, tested positive for Covid-19. He’d been in close contact with choreographer Ashley Banjo, meaning he had to self-isolate too. When the plucky participants took their own routine tests, soap actor Jamie Lomas’s came back positive, so he had to pull out at the 11th hour.

“Could this year get any worse?” asked Loose Women’s Coleen Nolan, leader of the women’s team. “Could making this programme get any more difficult?”

Singer Jake Quickenden's arm was in a sling. Love Island’s Chris Hughes had an anxiety attack. Former glamour model Linda Lusardi had a hissy fit, fearing her unhappy husband would make her drop out. The wheels were well and truly coming off. Would the naked ice-skating extravaganza actually happen?

The semi-famous strippers soldiered on. They attended a bonding retreat somewhere that looked suspiciously like a Center Parcs, where they attempted the Dirty Dancing lift in a lake. Around the campfire that evening, Quickenden explained what had motivated him to take part: the loss of his father and younger brother to cancer. “I feel like I’m missing a piece of my heart,” he said.

Jenni Murray - ITV
Jenni Murray - ITV

Hughes, whose brother was living with testicular cancer, led the males in a self-checking session. Strapping Welsh rugby hero Gareth Thomas got amusingly told off by his elderly mother for failing to take his health seriously enough.

The women attended a burlesque class with body confidence coach Sam Vale. It turned out that Vale and her colleagues were all breast cancer survivors who’d had surgery. Cue lovely scenes of solidarity and camaraderie as everyone shared their experiences and showed their scars.

The stripping skaters were still way behind schedule and starting to panic. But inspired anew, Nolan – who lost her sister Bernie to the disease, while Anne and Linda are currently fighting it – summoned up some Blitz spirit. “We’ll do this,” she vowed defiantly. “We’ll think of all the people we’ll love and we’ll do it for them.”

Doctor Zoe Williams bares all  - ITV
Doctor Zoe Williams bares all - ITV

Come the day of the big undressing, there still hurdles to overcome. The dance routine had to be rapidly rejigged. While Quickenden was rehearsing his live song, a family snap of his late father and brother appeared on the backdrop. He broke down in tears.

Stage-frightened Hughes had a panic attack but Quickenden gave him an amusingly unconventional pep talk: “You’ve got nothing to worry about, mate. You’ve got the face of an angel and the willy of the Loch Ness monster.”

Quickenden might have played the clown – on the previous night’s episode, the alumnus of The X Factor, I’m a Celebrity and Dancing on Ice said, “I’m probably best known to the public for just doing any show that I can” – but he was rapidly emerging as the breakout star.

The cathartic, climactic performance was a proper show-stopper. A group routine mixed contemporary wafting and fierce streetdance.

Former rugby star Gareth Thomas  - ITV
Former rugby star Gareth Thomas - ITV

Former Woman’s Hour host Dame Jenni Murray, aged 70 and unable to skate due to two hip replacements, appeared looking magisterial on a sleigh. “I think this is what’s known as being very far from your comfort zone,” she admitted wryly.

Behind showgirl-style feathered fans and soundtracked by The Greatest Showman’s acceptance anthem This Is Me, the women stripped to their bras. The men recreated the classic Full Monty routine in security guard uniforms, getting down to silver posing pouches which looked like something you'd wrap a turkey in.

Both genders lined up and bared all at once, while the virtual audience went wild. Amid scenes of jubilation, chilly extremities and possible chafing, a caption appeared on-screen: “A check is for life, not just for Christmas. So get checking!”

Yes, this is one of the more random reality franchises on-air. Yes, doing it on ice seemed like a gratuitous twist for the sake of it. But it was also empowering, admirably open-hearted and ended on an uplifting flourish. The show must indeed go on.