Jason Gardiner: ‘I must be doing something right!’

Jason Gardiner tells TV Times that his cruel-to-be-kind approach has been more controversial than he ever expected in Dancing on Ice

So Jason, we’re well into the sixth series of Dancing on Ice and as usual you’re not pulling your punches. Do you think you can be too harsh sometimes?

“I’m not there to please anybody or to sugar-coat anything – I’m there as a judge. What the contestants need is an objective, impartial eye that comes in every week and doesn’t wrap them in cotton wool. As you know, the panel has had quite a culling this year and I survived, so if my bosses weren’t happy and the public wasn’t impressed I wouldn’t be here. I must be doing something right.”

Your relationship with coach Karen Barber has been quite stormy this series. You had to apologise to her on-air recently for remarks you made when judging Johnson Beharry’s performance…

“There was no pressure from anyone. When I saw it played back in the results show I thought, ‘I’m not thrilled with what I said there and how that came across. I felt I overstepped the mark. It was personal and I’m not proud of it. I honestly wanted to apologise to Karen. I’ve known her for six years. Even though it’s been a tempestuous time, I don’t wish her any harm.”

You’ve been described as a bully by some – does that upset you?

“I find that term offensive to people who are really being bullied on a daily basis. In my youth I was severely bullied for my sexuality and it’s physically threatening and violent. It’s not somebody giving you a critique based on a performance. Other than that I honestly don’t care what people think about me, but if everybody is talking about the show because of what I’m saying, then that’s a bonus.”

Some of your comments this year have been a bit cryptic. What did you mean when you told Jeff Brazier his facial expressions ‘looked like he was missing a couple of chromosomes’?

“The way he was flailing his arms around looked like he was some sort of primate, but I couldn’t think of the word. It caused a lot of consternation and I do understand why and I apologised on Twitter. None of us are perfect, it’s live television and in the heat of the moment you will say things that can be misconstrued or offend people, but that’s not my intention. It’s an entertainment show and 10.5 million people watch every week – if I’m really that offensive why are they still tuning in?”

You’ve even criticised some of the show’s best skaters – you told Chloe Madeley she had a ‘baboon bum’!

“Of course she doesn’t actually have a baboon’s bum, but it looked like that when she stuck it out during the performance. After the show she said to me she now has that mental image and will never do it again, which is exactly what I was hoping for. There is method in my madness – first and foremost I want to give them analogies that they can grasp, that they can go away and work with. If I had been more technical with her she wouldn’t have understood what I was saying, plus I’m very mindful not to alienate the audience. Everybody who was sat at home would have understood exactly what I was saying.”

Is that why you told Craig McLachlan that he ‘looked like he was wearing a soiled nappy’?

“Exactly and he took it in good faith and he even said, ‘Oh I thought I’d changed my nappy’. Being Australian he understands me and he’s not as sensitive as people are over here.”

One of your favourite contestants this year is ‘Comedy’ Dave Vitty, yet you called him ‘a triple threat to himself’ and compared his performance to a Thunderbird puppet. Why are you such a fan?

“I’ve never encountered this before with any other contestant in the six years we’ve been doing the show. He has endeared himself to me because he’s still trying his hardest and there is no denying he does make us laugh. Technically his skating is a disaster, but he has put so much of himself into it and you can see he really wants to be good.”

Denise Welch got rather upset when you told her to ‘lose the skating-with-your-mum quality.’ Do you think that was a disrespectful comment to make?

‘Everybody knows Denise is not a typical woman of her age – she’s got more energy and more spirit than most. She’s full of life and hilariously funny, so why did I say that to her? Because I knew how horrifying she would find it and that she would say, ‘Oh my God is that what I look like?’ I want her to start injecting her real personality into the performances. I’m missing the Denise that we see on Loose Women and I don’t want her to play into being her partner’s mum and short change herself.”

So do you see yourself as an amateur psychologist when you critique the performances?

“Exactly – what I say has got to be relevant to them. I get a lot from watching a person when they perform. I can see all their insecurities and what they need to work on. That comes from years and years of being in this business, working with so many different egos and personalities. It is a very needy industry and it’s taught me a lot.”

Did you take a similar approach with Kerry Katona when you told her she was using her partner ‘as a crutch’?

“Yes, you can’t look left or right without seeing Kerry’s personal life all over the place and on the show she is still very much reliant upon her partner Daniel. He is excellent, but sometimes he’s too good. He will absolutely get her through her insecurities, but he’s doing all the work. I want to see more from Kerry – she’s not on par with everyone else. Let’s see what Miss Katona is really capable of doing.”

Finally Jason, just to double check, do you have any intention of being less ruthless as we get nearer the final?

‘No – I always call it as I see it!’