Len Goodman, who was the head judge on “Dancing With the Stars” for 29 of the dance show’s 31 seasons, stunned viewers on Monday’s episode by announcing that next week’s finale would be his last.
The live audience responded with a standing ovation.
“It’s been such a joy to be a huge part of such a great show,” Goodman, 78, who said he wants to spend more time with his grandkids, told Deadline. “I can’t thank you enough, the DWTS family. It’s been an amazing experience for me.”
Goodman was a professional ballroom dancer in England, according to People, and was a judge on Britain’s show Strictly Come Dancing from 2004 to 2016. He joined “Dancing with the Stars” in 2005 and stuck with it, except for two seasons.
“When doing a live show, you have to be on top of your game and react quickly,” Goodman told People. “And as one gets older, things start to get more difficult. I haven’t slept and started dribbling yet on the show, so I thought I’d better go before I start doing it!”
“DWTS” defied expectations that “no one would be interested” in the ballroom dance competition, Goodman said, as it aired on ABC for 30 seasons before being picked up by the Disney+ streaming service for the 31st ceremony.
“How wrong they were!” Goodman told the Naysayers.
Recently Derek and Julianne Hough joined forces with Goodman co-hosts Carrie Ann Inaba and Bruno Tonioli, who have been by his side throughout the show’s run.
Goodman told People he’s thrilled to work with stars like Neil Diamond, Barry Manilow, Stevie Wonder, Etta James, Rod Stewart, and Gladys Knight, and thought of some of his memorable moments.
“George Hamilton doing a pasodoble like ‘Zorro, the Gay Blade’ and Jerry Springer hoping to stick around long enough so he can learn the waltz and dance at his daughter’s wedding,” he said. “The time also when I danced on the roll with Chubby Checker…he was my rock ‘n’ roll hero.”
Goodman also praised the contestants, who have overcome physical disabilities to reach their desired dance stage, and praised the professional dancers as “unsung heroes” for turning amateurs into “show-worthy” talent.
He said he regretted not being able to judge two specific people before retiring.
“Simon Cowell, because we umpires might as well give him a dose of his medicine!” Goodman told People. Or Donald Trump, as I like to see him in Lycra.
The season 31 finale of “Dancing With the Stars” premieres November 21 on Disney+.