Strictly's return pulls in 1.6MILLION more viewers than last year

STRICTLY Come Dancing came cha-cha-charging back with 1.6million more viewers than last year.

The audience peaked at 10.1million on Saturday as singer HRVY topped the leaderboard.

That made it the second most-watched entertainment programme of the year behind Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway.

HRVY, real name Harvey Cantwell, is now the new favourite to win the 18th series of the award-winning BBC1 reality show.

The 21-year-old scored 25 points for his jive with Janette Manrara, 36, and they are 6-4 with William Hill to collect the Glitterball.

He has edged ahead of Maisie Smith, 19, who earned 24 points for her samba.

But the EastEnders actress was accused on social media of holding an advantage over the other contestants.

Maisie had won the Children In Need Strictly last year.

Angry viewer Sian Toumazi tweeted: “Maisie on Strictly. Come on, how long has she had dancing lessons? So unfair.”

Viewer Sharona posted: “She was too good. That’s the problem. Not fair to the others.”

Brit boxer Nicola Adams, 37, and Russian pro Katya Jones, 31, made history by performing the show’s first same-sex dance as competitors, coming joint third with a quickstep.

The first celeb will be ditched next Sunday with ex-Home Secretary Jacqui Smith, 57, tipped to go. She has the longest odds in Strictly history at 200-1.

Judges Shirley Ballas, 60, Craig Revel Horwood, 55, and Motsi Mabuse, 39, returned but Bruno Tonioli, 64, is still in Los Angeles and sent a video message.

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