In a touching tribute on Tuesday night, the season 32 premiere of the ABC dance competition series, Dancing With the Stars, commemorated the late Len Goodman, the respected head judge who dedicated nearly all of his illustrious career to the show before retiring at the end of the 31st season and subsequently passing away in April.
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The show honored Goodman’s enduring legacy by introducing a significant change – the much-coveted top prize is now renamed the Len Goodman Mirrorball Trophy. The new cohost and former pro dancer, Julianne Hough, highlighted Goodman’s longstanding association with the show, stating, “That’s why as a tribute to him, we redesigned and renamed our prize.” Cohost Alfonso Ribeiro introduced viewers to a first glimpse of the trophy, adorned with a small bowtie above the placard – a subtle yet heartfelt homage to Goodman’s signature style.
Julianne Hough concluded the segment expressing, “It’s so fantastic that Len will always be going forward with us,” signifying his everlasting impact on the show.
Starting from the show’s inception in 2005 until his retirement in 2022, Goodman played a pivotal role as the head judge. Even before this, he served in a similar capacity on BBC One’s equivalent series, Strictly Come Dancing, emphasizing his deep-rooted connection and contribution to the dance competition genre.
Earlier this fall, executive producer Conrad Green disclosed plans to memorialize Goodman by renaming the trophy in his honor, and further shared that the show intends to celebrate Goodman’s memory throughout the season, possibly including a performance tribute in future episodes.
There are currently no plans to fill Goodman’s irreplaceable spot on the judging panel, leaving Carrie Ann Inaba, Bruno Tonioli, and Derek Hough to continue in their roles. “I’ve always felt Len is irreplaceable, he’s such an important part of the history of the show and such an important part of the reason the show is successful [with] his honesty, his specialist ballroom knowledge, and him coming genuinely from that world. His legacy of what he’s brought to the show is amazing. He’s always been that guy who’s protected ballroom dancing on the show. He will be missed terribly.”