Why Strictly 2020 needs Bruno Tonioli more than ever

With lockdown threatening so many Strictly staples, it's vital that Bruno isn't yet another loss for the show, says Lauren Morris.

Bruno Tonioli – Strictly Come Dancing

It goes without saying, Strictly Come Dancing has changed immensely throughout its 16 years on BBC One. We’ve seen a wider range of dance genres performed, an increase in contestants taking part and over the years, we’ve lost and gained hosts, professionals and judges.

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However, viewers have always been able to rely on one man to keep Strictly at its campy best, and that’s Bruno Tonioli. A judge since day one of the celebrity dance competition, ballroom dancer and choreographer Bruno has pumped energy into every series of Strictly with his witty critiques, overdramatic reactions and manic theatrical delivery.

While Strictly fans were undoubtedly excited to see the Italian firecracker back on our screens this autumn, recent reports suggest that Bruno may pull out of Strictly 2020. With the coronavirus pandemic making international travel almost impossible, Bruno wont be able to travel back and forth to the US each week to film both Strictly and America’s Dancing with the Stars simultaneously.

Various changes to Strictly’s 2020 series have already been reported this year – from the scrapping of its live studio audience, live band and Blackpool week, to the potential quarantining of professionals and celebrities weeks before the competition starts. But these changes are purely superficial – who needs a studio audience when the core ingredients of Strictly are still there? The dynamic cast of talented professionals, charismatic yet knowledgable judges and colourful dance routines combined with a new set of sequinned celebs and Tess Daly and Claudia Winkleman’s chemistry create the winning formula for Strictly.

However, Strictly Come Dancing without Bruno is like Tess Daly without a co-host – something doesn’t feel right. Without the 64-year-old dancer, Strictly feels undressed, unbalanced and unfinished and while the rumours of his series 18 absence are currently unconfirmed, COVID-19 has impacted Strictly in so many ways already that the BBC (and the British public) cannot afford to lose him.

Strictly Come Dancing Bruno Tonioli
Strictly Come Dancing’s Bruno Tonioli and Shirley Ballas

Without a studio audience to provide the show’s upbeat atmosphere, Strictly will need Bruno to deliver his trademark high-energy, arm-flailing critiques whilst jumping out of his chair several times each episode. The lack of applause and standing ovations are bound to impact the mood of the room for both viewers at home and the nervous contestants, so Tess, Claudia, the couples and all the judges will need to bring their A-game for Strictly to feel as magical as usual.

Without Bruno, the show’s scoreboard might also feel a bit lack-lustre as less-gifted contestants often rely on Bruno’s consistently generous marking, which always offsets Craig Revel Horwood and Shirley Ballas’ lower-numbered paddles. You can always rely on Bruno to dish out a seven when a routine only realistically deserves a five.

On the topic of Craig, Bruno is the ying to Craig’s yang, the good cop to Craig’s bad cop, the fairy godmother to Craig’s evil queen. Bruno showers contestants with fiery compliments to thaw Craig’s icy critiques. Without the duo’s pantomime-esque chemistry, will the judges’ critiques continue to entertain viewers or will we start fast-forwarding through to the scores?

In the past when Bruno or any other judge has been absent, a variety of guest judges have filled his seat, including Alfonso Ribeiro, Jennifer Grey and Donny Osmond – all of whom have competed on Strictly’s US counterpart. However, none of them have brought the same zest, hilarity, animation or range that Bruno delivers every single episode.

While of course the health and safety of everyone on the Strictly team should take priority, it will really be such a shame for Strictly 2020 to happen without Bruno, who many regard as the face, heart and soul of the long-running family show. The series’ fanbase will be watching no matter what, as the British public desperately needs the comforting hug of entertainment that is Strictly in these tumultuous times, but Bruno’s bubbly brightness will undoubtedly be missed.

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Strictly 2020 will air later in the year. If you’re looking for more to watch, check out our TV Guide.