Len Goodman, one of the three original judges on “Dancing With the Stars” since its debut in 2005, is hanging up his paddle.
“Whilst we’re all getting excited and looking forward so much to the finale next week,” Goodman said on the show Monday night, “it will also be with a touch of sadness, as this will be my last season judging on ‘Dancing With the Stars.’”
The veteran dancer and judge said he wants to spend more time with his grandchildren and family back in Britain, but called his time with “DWTS” “a huge pleasure to be part of” and “such a wonderful experience.”
Host Tyra Banks referred to Goodman as “a living legend,” while his fellow judges and the entire studio audience gave him a standing ovation.
Goodman was less formal in an interview with People.
“Doing a live show, you have to be at the top of your game and quick to react. And as one gets older, then things start to get more challenging,” said Goodman, 78. “I haven’t fallen asleep or started dribbling yet on the show, so I thought it’s best to go before I start to do so!”
On the list of things he’ll miss: the camaraderie with his judges and with everyone on the show and, of course, the California sunshine. “I will miss being part of one of the most successful shows on TV,” he added.
The finale next week wraps up the show’s 31st season, during which time Goodman has been flanked by judges Carrie Ann Inaba and Bruno Tonioli. Over the years, others were added to the panel, and Goodman took leaves of absence during the 21st and 29th seasons. But he’s always been known as the toughest judge on the panel, never holding back in his critiques.
If a contestant was going to notch 10s across the board with only one holdout dropping an eight or nine , that holdout was likely to be Len.
The professional ballroom dancer previously had been head judge on “Strictly Come Dancing,” the British equivalent of “DWTS,” but joined the American version of the dance competition showcase when it debuted in the U.S. The show ran on ABC for 30 seasons before moving this season to Disney+.
Goodman, also known as an occasional sourpuss, put meeting some of his “sporting heroes,” whether they were in the audience or competing, near the top of his list of memories.
“American footballers have always impressed me too as to how good they are — it’s a mystery given the size of them,” he told People. “Whereas boxers, who are light on their feet and very agile, have historically been quite poor dancers in comparison.”
The “DWTS” finale — and Goodman’s final episode — will stream Monday at 8 p.m. on Disney+.