No one could ever “replace” Dancing With the Stars head judge Len Goodman, his dance shoes are too big to fill. But someone may end up permanently borrowing Len’s seat if the 70-year-old judge decides it’s time to cut back to one judging job, with the UK’s Strictly Come Dancing. We’d heard rumors that he might be ready to drop the London-to-L.A. commute in the fall, and Len himself brought up his potential end with DWTS on the Season 18 finale.
We’re 100 percent with the fans who hope Len decides to stick with us, but everyone has the right to a comfortable semi-retirement. If he does elect to bow out, who could take his spot?
If Season 18 showed us nothing else, it’s how much we appreciate the consistency and constructive criticism of good judges. Past DWTS pros are the ideal judge replacement options, since they have the best perspective on what makes a powerful, entertaining, technically strong routine; what is realistic for celebrities to do in the time period; and what to say to encourage not discourage the exhausted, hopeful, and vulnerable competing couples.
It would be nice for Season 19 to have a core panel of judges, but here are some options for either permanent judges or recurring guest judges.
1. Maksim Chmerkovskiy
Maks just said he’d accept a job as a DWTS judge. He’s also talked about how exhausting it is to be a pro for a full season, marveling at how Derek Hough has gone through it enough to win five times. He seems to love the show, but not the marathon of it. He guest judged last season and surprised a lot of people by being “nicer” than maybe they suspected. If anything, Julianne Hough ended up the Simon Cowell of guest judges, and Maks was the Paula Abdul. He found something positive to say about every star and pro, while reiterating that Derek knows the formula to win (he does love to bring that up). But that was one night. Maks is Maks, and on a weekly basis, you know he’d end up dropping a few soundbites, and probably sparring with Carrie Ann Inaba, since that’s what they did across the table for years. Or he could just be the source of Bruno Tonioli’s constant flirting. Either way, we’re in.
2. Julianne Hough
Julianne ruffled a lot of feathers two seasons in a row by singling out Mark Ballas, then Maks, for criticism. But let’s be honest — it’s reality TV. The producers love a good feather-ruffling, and Julianne successfully turned her appearances into talking points. That’s what a show wants after 18 seasons. Even Derek, who said he’d be a super-nice judge, said Julianne definitely knows how to leave her mark. Can you imagine if Julianne and Maks judged together? How many times would Maks drop a “With all due respect…” line at her on the way to some serious shade? Then she could play her phone-it-in card again. Seriously, though, Julianne certainly has the ballroom and DWTS expertise it takes to be a constructive judge, and the two-time pro champ is also savvy enough to know what makes for good TV.
3. Derek Hough
Derek has won five times, he’s been in the Finals of every season in a row since Season 15. This season, he added Macy’s Stars of Dance to his plate, and rehearsals for his summer tour with Julianne, and still got Amy Purdy — DWTS’s first Paralympian — to the Finals. What challenges are left for him as a pro? He’s hugely popular with DWTS fans so it would be awful to lose him completely, but what if he followed his sister and Maks and transitioned to the other side of the table? He already told Access Hollywood he’d be one of those “you’re all amazing!” judges, which isn’t quite what we’d need from him. We know he’d always be positive — never Abby Lee Miller or in even Julianne territory — but if he was a judge it would be good to hear constructive criticism from him, not cheerleading. Real tips, specific technical tips, from Derek would go a long way to help couples. Because Maks is right — he does have the formula to win this show. Who better to tell others how to do it, and in his encouraging way?
4. Anna Trebunskaya
We’ve been missing our favorite fiery red Russian for the past few seasons. Anna is a gorgeous dancer but also a real straight-shooter with her opinions. She doesn’t seem like she’d be a pure cheerleader judge. She offers specific constructive criticism in her blogs and also in the AfterBuzz TV recap videos. It would be great to at least have her on the show as a guest judge, to hear her perspective on the couples. Of course, we’d love to see her back as a competing pro, and maybe that will happen this fall, but she’s also a new mom and a judging gig would be less grueling than a competitive gig. But Tony Dovolani has kids and he does it, so Anna could too. We’ll see.
If Len leaves, who would you like to see replace him? Would you prefer one permanent judge, a series of guest judges, or maybe a mix — one perma-judge with more guest judges in the fourth seat? And would you like the judges to be past pros or do you think they aren’t objective enough? Sound off in the comments!