Len Goodman, the head judge on British television dancing competition "Strictly Come Dancing" and its U.S. version "Dancing with the Stars", has died aged 78, the BBC said on Monday.
Goodman was a successful professional ballroom dancer, winning the British championships in his late twenties before retiring from the sport and opening a dance school. Much later in life, he chaired the judging panel on "Strictly" from its launch in 2004 until 2016, and on its U.S. counterpart for most of the period from 2005 until 2022.
He took a warm, supportive but critical approach as he watched celebrities taking on tangos and waltzes, adding a down-to-earth touch to the otherwise frequently flamboyant panel of judges.
"Len ... appealed to all ages and felt like a member of everyone's family. Len was at the very heart of Strictly's success. He will be hugely missed by the public and his many friends and family," BBC Director-General Tim Davie said.
Goodman was born and grew up in London, and said he only took up dancing reluctantly at the age of 19 after a doctor said it would help him recover from a foot injury. As a teacher, he said his priority was to make ballroom dancing "enjoyable and sociable".
Speaking in 2012, following treatment for prostate cancer, he said he most hoped to be remembered for being "genuinely nice". "I would like there to be people who can honestly say: 'Len! Oh yeah, there was more good than bad in him.'," he said.
"Strictly" was one of the BBC's most popular entertainment shows, attracting an average of more than 11 million viewers at its peak in 2010. As many as 27 million viewers watched some episodes of "Dancing with the Stars" in its early seasons.