Strictly Come Dancing Head Judge Len Goodman is hotfooting it out of the ballroom after this year’s series and there are plenty of experts ready to take charge of his sparkly score paddles.
“This adventure began when I was 60 and now that I’ve reached my 70s, I’ve decided after this year it’s time to hand the role of Head Judge to someone else,” Goodman said ahead of this year’s series, having been with the show since it launched in 2004. “It is an honour being part of the wonderful Strictly Come Dancing family and I’m looking forward to my last series very much and to whatever comes next.”
Names quickly hit the rumour mill for his replacement, including former and current professional dancers, as well as experts from the show’s various international panels.
Insiders suggest that one of the current judges – Bruno Tonioli, Darcey Bussell and Craig Revel Horwood – will be promoted into the Head Judge role (if they all return), with the new recruit backfilling their spot.
But just who is in the running? Here are the latest rumba-lings….
Anton Du Beke
No sooner had news of Goodman’s departure broke, was pro dancer Anton Du Beke top of the list of potential new recruits, which he himself has described as “flattering”.
It’s not a big surprise. The dancer has been with the show since the beginning and is well liked by fans.
He’s also got the backing of Goodman himself, which is handy. Discussing both Du Beke and former pro and It Takes Two regular Karen Hardy, he told the Courier he wants to see: “Someone from the world of ballroom rather than stage or theatre dancing.”
Darcey Bussell threw her weight behind him, too saying: “I think Anton would love it,” she told the Mirror. “He has done a lot on television already. And he is a great technician with everything he has to give as well.” Although she warned that whoever takes over will have a tough job following in Goodman’s footsteps because he has such “a great personality”.
Du Beke himself said: “It’s very flattering that people think it’s a possibility and I’m 50 this week so I can’t dance forever.”
“Brendan and I are the only two original dancers, so we’re working hard to keep up the pace. But who knows what’ll happen in the future.”
Talking of Brendan, he’s in the mix too.
“It makes sense for people to speculate it would be either Anton or myself because we’ve been there from the start,” he told The Sun.
He’s confident in his abilities, having been a judge on the New Zealand version, Dancing with the Stars.
“I’ve done judging in a different country. And if you look at Anton and myself we’re definitely good at what we do and what you need to do to create good entertainment.
“I don’t agree with a lot of what the judges say — I’ve got 34 years of dance experience.
“I got to the top of my game and I didn’t do it the easy way — I worked my a**e off to get there, so I’ve done the hard work.”
Of following Goodman, Cole warned:
“He’s irreplaceable. Whoever steps into his shoes, they’ve got to make their own thing of it.”
Former judge Arlene Phillips, who was on the panel from 2004 until 2008, fancies a return to the show citing Dermot O’Leary’s X Factor U-turn as her inspiration.
Asked who should take the empty seat Phillips told the Mirror: “Me, of course. Who else? The BBC will do what they want. Anton has been suggested. He’d be a lot of fun.”
Referencing O’Leary’s X Factor return after just one series away, she added: “It’s the first time I ever thought about it,” she said. “I just went: ‘You know people can go back’. We’ll see.”
A new name in the mix is Helen Richey, a judge on Australia’s Dancing with the Stars.
She’s been on the show’s panel for all of its fifteen series. She boasts a huge amount of dancing experience, as well as coaching and judging professional tournaments. In fact, many of the DWTS pros are said to have been at least partly coached by Richey.
BBC bosses are said to have been impressed by Richey before.
“Helen is known across the dancing world and highly respected,” a source told the Sun. “She’s been a judge in Australia for 12 years so is used to the cameras and has a similar calm temperament to Len.
“I know that BBC chiefs were impressed by her when she fronted out and dismissed cheat claims when they erupted on that show,” the source added.