While Strictly Come Dancing fans can’t wait for the long-running dancing competition to return to our screens in the autumn, the BBC dealt a huge blow last week when it confirmed that Bruno Tonioli won’t be on the judging panel for the 2020 season.
The Italian stallion, who’s been a judge on the show since it’s first series back in 2004, won’t appear in-person on the upcoming series due to COVID-19, and his absence isn’t the only change the BBC hit show is facing this year – both the number of episodes and the Strictly Come Dancing 2020 line-up has been reduced.
Here’s everything you need to know about why Bruno Tonioli isn’t on Strictly this year and who might be replacing him.
Why isn’t Bruno Tonioli on Strictly this year?
Due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Bruno Tonioli is stuck in the US, where he acts as a judge on Dancing with the Stars (Strictly’s American cousin), the new series of which is due to begin this September.
In previous years, Tonioli has been able to fly between countries to film both Dancing with the Stars and Strictly on different days, however due to COVID-19, that doesn’t seem possible this year.
In a statement, Bruno said: “I absolutely adore being part of Strictly and can’t wait to see what incredible dancing this year has in store! Lockdown has resulted in me being in LA for the foreseeable, but I’m excited to be involved as much as I possibly can. There was no cha-cha-chance I’d miss out!”
Will Bruno Tonioli be on Strictly at all this year?
Not in person, no. However, he has promised to be involved virtually and plans to return to the show full time towards the end of the season if possible.
The BBC confirmed: “Bruno will be keeping a close eye on the series throughout the run and will be involved remotely in the Sunday night Results show each week, from across the pond.’
“Plus, Bruno will be making his grand return to the show full time towards the end of the series,” the broadcaster added.
Head Strictly judge Shirley Ballas previous said that she thought Tonioli would try to appear in every episode. “All I can say is, I’ve known Bruno 11 years. If there is a way to fly backwards and forwards, he will find the way,” she said at this year’s TV BAFTA awards.
Who will replace Bruno Tonioli on Strictly?
Various celebs and other potential contenders are lining up to fill Bruno’s place on the judging panel this series, with RuPaul’s Drag Race alumni and Dancing with the Stars Australia runner-up Courtney Act expressing interest in taking the role.
“Someone said to me that they’re looking for a new judge on Strictly and I was like, ‘Hey – sign me up!'” she told RadioTimes.com.
Other famous faces tipped to be Bruno Tonioli’s replacement include 2018 winner Stacey Dooley, ex-professional James Jordan, long-running pro Anton Du Beke, ex-judge Arlene Phillips and even The Greatest Dancer’s Cheryl Cole.
However, Craig Revel Horwood isn’t too sure about the last choice, commenting on the rumours in July: “Cheryl. Lovely girl, but I don’t think it will happen.”
In fact, the long-standing Strictly judge suggested another option which involves a series of rotating guests in the chair.
“They might throw guest judges in for fun,” he told the Daily Star. “Then when everything’s back to normal, Bruno can make his triumphant return!”
Strictly has seen various celebrity guests take to the panel with Dancing With the Stars US winners Alfonso Ribeiro, Jennifer Grey and Donny Osmond filling in for absentee judges. Maybe we’ll see one of them return to take Bruno’s place this series?
Strictly Come Dancing returns to BBC One in Autumn. To find out what else is on in the meantime, check out our TV Guide.