Leaving 'Dancing with the Stars' 'is like coming down off a hard drug'
It's the day before the Dancing with the Stars finale and the final rehearsals are taking place in a studio in Wicklow. A huge translucent sheet of material billows in a wind machine as chiselled dancers pivot and pose around it.
There's no tension in the air, but there's a lot of flirting and quipping. We already know the finalists - Red Rock actress Denise McCormack, Kerry footballer Aidan O'Mahony and former Fair City star Aoibhin Garrihy (the bookies' favourite) - and we already know it will be a ratings behemoth.
The return of the whole cast tells you that this is not really about the competition, however, as much as it is a lap of honour for the departed stars who lit up the series. And who now crowd in for the obligatory selfie, fixing their grins in place as they wait for McCormack to get her bra on offset.
For the final tonight, each of the returning contestants will have a prop that references their reason for being famous or their previous outing on the show. Teresa Mannion will carry a stop sign in homage to her outside broadcast when a sign knocked into her. Hughie Maughan will have a tanning booth in reference to his moment, during the series, where it looked, as he puts it, "like I had put Nutella all over my face". This caused uproar in the RTE make-up department, which washed its hands of the incident (several times presumably - that stuff takes ages to get off) and Hughie dealt with the fallout, today telling Katherine Lynch, quite earnestly, that someone on the internet threatened to go for him "with a machete" for going on in what they mistakenly presumed was Hughie in blackface.
Undaunted, he put on a serious coat of fake tan again this morning and it should come up nicely by tomorrow night, he told me.
For all last week's debate about the licence fee and how it's used, Dancing with the Stars shows that, when it comes to light entertainment, simple and familiar still wins the race.
And for the stars themselves, who have learned to foxtrot, jive, tango and salsa, it has been a curiously gratifying ballot on their popularity. "When it ended you come out of the bubble of it and it's like coming down off a hard-core drug," Mannion said. "The final is going to be incredible." z