Ex-Strictly judge Arlene Phillips can never forgive BBC for axing

Strictly judges Arlene Phillips, Bruno Tonioli, Len Goodman and Craig Revel Horwood
Arlene Phillips on the Strictly Come Dancing judging panel with Bruno Tonioli, Len Goodman, and Craig Revel Horwood (Image credit: BBC)

Ex-Strictly Come Dancing judge Arlene Phillips says she can never forgive the BBC for the way she was controversially axed from the show.

When the series launched in 2004, Arlene was appointed as a judge with Craig Revel-HorwoodBruno Tonioli, and Len Goodman. Over the next five series, she was much-loved by audiences in the way she critiqued celebrities competing to win that coveted glitterball trophy. 

However, Arlene's Strictly journey came to a hugely controversial end in 2008 when she was replaced by former champion Alesha Dixon. Now Arlene has said she can't forgive the BBC for the decision but she has been able to move on with her life.

Speaking to The Mirror, she said: "Accepted but not forgiven. Yes, I have moved on. I suppose it is something to rejoice, and I can always remind myself, I was there at the pilot, when nobody ever thought this show was going to be a show. And to be the first female judge, there's a lot of accolades I could give myself."

Dame Arlene Phillips attends The Olivier Awards 2024 at The Royal Albert Hall on April 14, 2024 in London, England

Dame Arlene Phillips (Image credit: Getty Images)

The decision to axe Arlene, now 81, and replace her with Alesha Dixon now 45, led to accusations that the Beeb was being ageist. It caused a huge media storm at the time.

Arlene also spoke about working with Andrew Lloyd Webber for the musical "Starlight Express", which is being shown in London. "This show is so of its time. It always was….musically it was driving so many musical genres and again there's more new ideas and it has always been a show that Andrew has never backed off from. He has always found new ways and new ideas to bring into this musical.”

Arlene has made a host of different TV appearances since leaving Strictly including appearing on I'm A Celebrity. She was on the 2021 edition becoming the oldest contestant on the ITV reality hit. She was a judge on the show So You Think You Can Dance? and was a guest judge on Dancing on Ice.

David Hollingsworth

David is the What To Watch Editor and has over 20 years of experience in television journalism. He is currently writing about the latest television and film news for What To Watch.

Before working for What To Watch, David spent many years working for TV Times magazine, interviewing some of television's most famous stars including Hollywood actor Kiefer Sutherland, singer Lionel Richie and wildlife legend Sir David Attenborough. 

David started out as a writer for TV Times before becoming the title's deputy features editor and then features editor. During his time on TV Times, David also helped run the annual TV Times Awards. David is a huge Death in Paradise fan, although he's still failed to solve a case before the show's detective! He also loves James Bond and controversially thinks that Timothy Dalton was an excellent 007.

Other than watching and writing about telly, David loves playing cricket, going to the cinema, trying to improve his tennis and chasing about after his kids!