Len Goodman, who has been the “Dancing with the Stars” head judge for 29 of the dance competition show’s 31 seasons, stunned viewers on Monday’s episode by announcing next week’s finale would be his last.
The live audience responded with a standing ovation.
“It’s been a huge pleasure to be a huge part of such a wonderful show,” said Goodman, 78, who said he wanted to spend more time with his grandchildren, per Deadline. “I cannot thank you enough, the ‘DWTS’ family. It has been such a wonderful experience for me.”
Goodman was a professional ballroom dancer in England, according to People, and was a judge on Britain’s “Strictly Come Dancing” from 2004 to 2016. He joined “Dancing with the Stars” in 2005 and stuck with it, except for two seasons.
“Doing a live show you have to be at the top of your game and quick to react,” Goodman told People. “And as one gets older, the things start to get more challenging. 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!”
Goodman said “DWTS” defied predictions that “nobody would be interested” in ballroom dance competition, airing on ABC for 30 seasons before the Disney+ streaming service picked it up for a 31st.
“How wrong they were!” Goodman told People of the naysayers.
Goodman’s co-hosts, Carrie Ann Inaba and Bruno Tonioli, who’ve been by his side through the show’s run, were recently joined by Derek and Julianne Hough.
Goodman told People he delighted in working with superstars like Neil Diamond, Barry Manilow, Stevie Wonder, Etta James, Rod Stewart and Gladys Knight, and reflected on some memorable moments.
“George Hamilton doing the pasodoble as ‘Zorro, the Gay Blade,’ and Jerry Springer hoping to stay in long enough so he could learn to waltz and dance it at his daughter’s wedding,” he said. “The time also when I danced the twist with Chubby Checker … He was my rock and roll hero.”
Goodman also praised the contestants who overcame physical disabilities to get to the coveted dance stage and credited the professional dancers as “unsung heroes” for turning amateurs into “show-worthy” talents.
He said he regretted not being able to judge two particular people before retiring.
“Simon Cowell, because we the judges could have given him a dose of his own medicine!” Goodman told People. “Or Donald Trump, as I would love to see him in Lycra.”
The Season 31 finale of “Dancing with the Stars” airs Nov. 21 on Disney+.