Change is in the air for the new series of Strictly Come Dancing, with a new judge getting ready to wave those score paddles at the next cohort of celeb contestants.
After months of speculation, Motsi Mabuse has been announced as Darcey Bussell’s replacement for the 17th series – but not everyone has welcomed the appointment.
While Mabuse was hailed “terrific” by the official Strictly Twitter account and “one of the greatest female dancers of all time” by Strictly professional Neil Jones, some fans of the show were left fearing how impartial a judge she will be as her sister Oti is a professional on the show.
But Strictly: It Takes Two host Rylan Clark-Neal – himself a newcomer, joining Zoe Ball on the upcoming spin-off – has dismissed any outrage, claiming the new panel will be “great”.
Speaking exclusively to RadioTimes.com ahead of the announcement, he said: “Darcey was a great judge but I mean we can go as far back as Bruno [Tonioli], Len [Goodman] and Arlene [Phillips]. There was uproar when Arlene left, and there was uproar when Len left. Then Shirley [Ballas] came in and everyone thinks she’s great. These things happen. People move on.”
The former X Factor star said Strictly’s status as the biggest show on television means it can bring in viewers regardless of complaints.
“I don’t think anything can touch Strictly. I really don’t,” he said. “As long as the judge is someone in that scene, that knows what they’re talking about and not afraid to be honest, that’s all that matters.”
While we’re yet to see Mabuse in action here in the UK – she is currently on the panel of Germany’s version, Let’s Dance – Clark-Neal is hoping she’ll give fellow judge, and Mr Nasty, Craig Revel-Horwood, a run for his money.
“Craig’s always the nasty judge, but pantomime nasty,” he says. “I love Craig and that’s why he works, but I would love a really nasty judge. Like Simon Cowell but even worse. Someone who would say, ‘You were terrible. You should be ashamed of yourself’.”
Zoe Ball on It Takes Two (BBC Pictures)
Clark-Neal also teased what’s to come for It Takes Two, revealing he will share hosting duties with Ball, who he claimed came close to stepping down after taking over the BBC Radio 2 Breakfast Show from Chris Evans.
“I think everyone in the industry sort of knew Zoe was either going to leave or step back a bit, because of Radio 2 and I know that there was loads of chats with presenters putting themselves forward for it before anyone even knew,” he said.
“It’s going to be really, really fun and for me it sort of fills that Big Brother’s Bit on the Side void that I’ve got, where it’s just about being fun, having a laugh, talking about a show you enjoy. It’s the perfect replacement for what I’m missing. I’ve got jobs and I’m so thankful but BBOTS was like my child so it’s nice to be able to fill that slot in my head again.”
Strictly Come Dancing and Strictly: It Takes Two return to the BBC later this year