Strictly Come Dancing: Tess Daly speaks out on co-star's absence 'Will be missed'

BBC’s star-studded dance competition returned last weekend with the iconic episode where each of the contestants was given their dance and song to kick off their Strictly journey. Despite the excitement surrounding the series this year, Bruno Tonioli was the only member of the judging panel missing.

Strictly Come Dancing returned to BBC last Saturday with its 19th series and a star-studded lineup.

McFly’s Tom Fletcher, Comedian Judi Love, presenter AJ Odudu and actress Rose Ayling-Ellis are among the celebrities dancing for their place in the final.

The experienced dancers returning to the judging panel are Motsi Mabuse, Craig Revel Horton and Shirley Ballas.

However long-standing judge Bruno Tonioli who has had a seat on the panel since 2004 was replaced by Strictly alumni and professional dancer Anton Du Beke.

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Unfortunately, when the pre-recorded episodes were being filmed Bruno wasn’t able to appear on the hit BBC series, due to the uncertainty surrounding international travel.

As he had spent the majority of his time in the United States, where he was on the judging panel for Dancing With The Stars.

Joining him on the stateside panel was Len Goodman, Carrie Ann Inaba and Derek Hough.

The American programme is in its 30th season and nearly the same format as Strictly Come Dancing.

While Bruno is judging the likes of Spice Girls’ Mel C, Influencer Jojo Siwa and Reality Star Kenya Moore, his British co-star Tess Daly opened up about his absence.

“Bruno will be missed of course, but he is staying in America as he can’t travel due to restrictions,” the host concluded.

However, Bruno was able to give Anton his blessing and full support in a statement, when he discovered he was being replaced.

In classic form, he joked: “Whilst I am gutted to not be on the show this year there is one person and one person only that could take my place – it’s just a shame they weren’t available…haha!”

Bruno added: “Darlings I’m kidding, I’m kidding! Seriously though, I have to tell you, Anton IS Mr Strictly and if anybody is filling in for me, it has to be him.

“I honestly wouldn’t have it any other way and I am so excited to see him waggle his paddle,” he concluded.

Anton himself was thrilled to become a judge and shared his excitement: “My loves I cannot tell you how thrilled I am to be stepping into Bruno’s brogues for the next series of Strictly.

He disclosed: “It’s a dream come true to be judging alongside the best of the best and I promise to be kinder to all the couples than any of them have ever been to me.”

As well as watching to see how Anton will judge the contestants, viewers will have to stay tuned to see who will take home the highly desired glitterball trophy.

Strictly Come Dancing continues Saturday at 7pm on BBC One.

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