Strictly stars fight back tears in moving tribute to Len Goodman as show returns
Strictly Come Dancing aired an emotional tribute to late show star Len Goodman on Saturday night, leaving viewers moved.
Stars of the show including Shirley Ballas, Craig Revel Horwood and Anton Du Beke were seen fighting back tears, as they paid tribute to their friend. Len passed away from bone cancer in April this year aged 78. The show's return on Saturday night was the first series since Len's death, while Len left the show in 2016.
Host Claudia Winkleman spoke of Len's passing, before sharing a montage of his time on the show. She said: "In April this year the undisputed king of ballroom Len Goodman sadly passed away. He was a part of Strictly Come Dancing from the very beginning and was crucial to the survival of the show. He meant so much to all of us, we'd like to share some of our favourite memories of Len with you."
In the clip, the judges, hosts and professional dancers all shared their memories of Len from his one liners to his funniest moments. Tess called Len "a true gentleman" as Claudia called him "perfect in every way". As Shirley remembered her good pal, Craig became teary as he remembered his "best friend".
Anton said he "missed him every day", before adding he thought of him daily. Craig went on to say: "I just absolutely adored our little arguments, and that is sort of what bonded us and gave us a really fantastic friendship. I would love to say goodbye to him." As the moment ended, the audience were shown giving Len a standing ovation and applause as the judges appeared emotional.
Viewers tuning in at home praised the "emotional" moment, with one tweeting: "Lovely and poignant tribute to the legend Len Goodman." Another said: "The Len Goodman tribute. Tears, tears, tears," while a third wrote: "Lovely tributes to Len."
The show kicked off its latest series on Saturday night. The stars on the line-up this year include Zara McDermott, Amanda Abbington, Angela Rippon, Layton Williams, Krishnan Guru-Murthy, Eddie Kadi and Angela Scanlon. Also competing are Adam Thomas, Nikita Kanda, Ellie Leach, Jody Cundy CBE, Bobby Brazier, Nigel Harman, Annabel Croft and Les Dennis.
Meanwhile, the pro dancers taking to the stage this year will be Dianne Buswell, Nadiya Bychkova, Graziano Di Prima, Karen Hauer, Katya Jones, Neil Jones, Nikita Kuzmin, Gorka Marquez, Luba Mushtuk, Giovanni Pernice, Jowita Przystal, Johannes Radebe, Kai Widdrington, Nancy Xu, Carlos Gu, Lauren Oakley, Michelle Tsiakkas and Vita Coppola. Some of them will be performing solo routines and group performances only, while the rest are paired with a celebrity.
Show favourite Amy Dowden will not be on the series this year, after sharing she had been diagnosed with breast cancer earlier this year. Amy had hoped to feature on the show but after treatment, she learned she had another type of cancer after more tests. Amy recently updated fans on how her treatment was going, and on having to miss the series - something viewers were gutted by. The show favourite recently reunited with her fellow pros, for a special pre-recorded group dance with her featuring in the photoshoot.
Strictly Come Dancing kicks off next Saturday and Sunday on BBC One and BBC iPlayer.