Strictly Come Dancing 2021 might be roughly eight months away – but already it seems the series is in chaos.
Reports have suggested show bosses are hesitant to sign up Bruno Tonioli as a judge over fears he may again choose Dancing With The Stars over Strictly.
And rumours abound that Anton du Beke is being quietly lined up to replace him – after the professional dancer did a sterling job filling in for Motsi Mabuse when she was forced out of the Strictly studio due to Covid guidelines for two weeks during the 2020 series.
The judging line up for 2020 saw the usual four judges reduced to three after 65-year-old Bruno opted to continue his judging role on the USA version of Strictly, Dancing With The Stars – with Motsi, Shirley Ballas and Craig Revel Horwood soldiering on without him.
Ordinarily, the feisty Italian dance connoisseur would judge on both version of the show – jetting between London and LA to meet commitments on both series.
However, the Covid pandemic made such international travel impossible for the judge, so he chose Dancing With The Stars – for which he is rumoured to be paid £1 million per season – over Strictly – for which he earns a reported £250,000.
The Mail on Sunday claims that show bosses fear a repeat of 2020, with Bruno again choosing to reside in California as a global approach to defeating the Covid pandemic is unclear at this time – despite UK advancement in distributing vaccinations.
The report suggests Bruno had already been signed to appear on Strictly before he chose to relocate to California – meaning the BBC forked out a high sum ultimately in return for occasional video calls for the star.
With the BBC under fire from tax payers over a string of controversies – from axing free license fees for OAPs, to accusations of failing impartiality – it seems bosses are keen to avoid giving critics any more ammunition by “wasting” money on absent judges.
The publication reports: “BBC executives are uneasy about signing him in case they end up in the same situation they did this year – and spending licence fee payers money for just a few moments of television.”
While a source close to the show told the outlet: “This time last year Bruno had been signed up but things are so much less certain now. It is very unlikely the BBC will allow themselves to be in the same position they were this year and end up spending so much money for such little value.
“Bruno chose Dancing With The Stars over Strictly, that’s no secret. If he does the same again this year, things will be tricky. There is the perfect replacement waiting in the wings – Anton.”
Anton proved a hit with fans when he filled in for Mosti during the 2020 season, with one fan gushing on Twitter : “Definitely a 10 and if the BBC have half a brain they will make you permanent. Don’t change, best show in ages tonight, you bought a lovely atmosphere.”
Mirror Online have contacted a representative of Strictly for comment.