Len Goodman is a Strictly stalwart. The 72-year-old has been head judge since the show’s inception in 2004. We can’t imagine an instalment of the sparkly Saturday night show without his cheeky grin or celebratory cry of SEVEN!
Hold him upside down and smack his bottom, Len’s butter on a hot crumpet, a cup of tea in a world of lattes. He’s firm but fair. No nonsense, but a bit of a softie. A stickler for the rules of the ballroom, for correct hand placement, posture and poise. He’s determined to see each dance performed correctly, traditionally, and as it should be, by pro and novice alike.
Each week, Goodman dishes out fair scores and then steers the judging panel to a sensible decision about which celebrity should leave. But, after 12 bronzed and brilliant years, Goodman is hanging up his rhinestone-studded dancing shoes – and he’s hanging them up for good.
The hunt is already on for a replacement and a number of names are in the mix. Some Strictly fans are calling for Arlene Phillips, who was controversially replaced by series five winner Alesha Dixon in 2009, to return to the panel, while last year’s champion Jay McGuiness is currently top of our poll.
Former pros Ian Waite and Karen Hardy, who are still involved with It Takes Two years after they stepped off the dancefloor, are also favourites for the position, as is long-running professional Brendan Cole.
But, for me, Goodman’s replacement seems obvious.
It would make sense to introduce a familiar Strictly face, because there’s no denying Len’s departure will be a big and bewildering shift.
We need someone calm and sensible, knowledgable and well-liked. A personality, ready with a quip or a witty one-liner. We, the casual viewer to the Strictly superfan, also need someone to remind us when a lift is illegal and a performance less than technically perfect.
But most importantly, we need someone with years of dancing experience who will balance out the judging panel and be the voice of reason when Darcey flaps and blushes, Craig channels a pantomime villain and Bruno starts purring and falling off his chair.
We need Anton du Beke. The show’s longest-running pro (jointly, with Cole) and, at 49, the show’s oldest. He’s been the joke, the Bruce Forsyth wannabe, bottom of the leaderboard and a finalist. And 2017 should be the year he puts his feet up and swaps the dance floor for a judges chair.
Strictly Come Dancing returns to BBC1 later this year