Saturday, December 3, 2011

'I've been stitched up!' Jason Gardiner 'left furious' as he's replaced by Louie Spence in Dancing On Ice shake-up

By Sarah Bull

'I've been stitched up!' Jason Gardiner is said to be furious after being replaced by Louie Spence as a judge on Dancing On Ice

Jason Gardiner has been left furious after being axed as a judge on Dancing On ice by Louie Spence.

The acid-tongued presenter is said to have told friends he feels 'stitched up' by ITV bosses' decision to replace him with Pineapple Dance Studios' Louie Spence.

It is believed executives decided to get rid of Gardiner following his controversial comments on the show, including when he was accused of 'bullying' former judge Karen Barber after telling her: 'If your opinion still mattered, you'd be on the panel'.

A source told the Daily Mirror: 'There have been criticisms that Jason had got too harsh, with many viewers questioning whether he was qualified to criticise ice skating.

'Viewers don't mind fair criticism but there is a real feeling that last year things went too far. It's likely to leave Jason feeling more than a bit red-faced after what he said to Karen last year.'

However, a source close to Gardiner insisted it was his decision to leave the series, adding: 'Negotiations were ongoing. ITV did initially try to reach agreement but there were stumbling blocks over pay and the producers' lack of commitment to him.

Controversial: Jason hit the headlines last year when he was accused of 'bullying' former judge Karen Barber

'Jason was annoyed that they didn't immediately give him their becaing for another series, but he's worried that viewers will think he's been dropped over the row with Karen last year - that is absolutely not the case.'

As well as Gardiner leaving the show, his fellow judge Emma Bunton is also off, with Olympic figure skating champion Katarina Witt taking her place.

As they were: Emma Bunton is also off, but head judge Robin Cousins will return for the new series

Spence and Witt will be joining head judge Robin Cousins on the panel.

Spence - who has also hosted his own series Showbusiness - said: 'I'm looking forward to being part of such a challenging and spectacular show and can't wait to give my encouragement and critique on the contestants' dance and performance on the ice.'

New judge Witt dominated figure skating for more than a decade winning Olympic golds in 1984 and 1988, before going on to win an Emmy for the 1990 film Carmen on Ice.

New faces: Former Olympic figure skating champion Katarina Witt will be taking the place left by Emma Bunton

Expertise: Katarina took home Olympic golds for figure skating in 1984 and 1988

She said: 'I can't wait to join the Dancing On Ice judging panel. As well as offering support and constructive advice to this year's celebrity skaters I'm also looking forward to working alongside my close friends Torvill and Dean.'

Talking of the new arrivals, ITV's controller of entertainment Layla Smith said: 'The pair have a wealth of experience which they will be bringing to the new series.

'Their unique flare and passion for their professions will doubtless make for some interesting debates.'

She added: 'We'd like to thank Emma Bunton and Jason Gardiner for their valued contribution during previous series and wish them both all the best with their future projects.'

Mother-of-two Bunton is leaving the series after two years as a judge. She said she wanted to concentrate on other things, including her Heart FM radio show and the launch of a children's clothing range.

She will also be involved with the launch of the musical Viva Forever! - based on the songs of The Spice Girls and written by Jennifer Saunders - in the West End next year.

Bunton - known for many years as Baby Spice - said: 'I loved working on Dancing On Ice; it was so much fun and I love the team.

'I made this decision as I have to prioritise all the exciting projects lined up for me next year, as well as my Heart FM radio show, and juggle these with being a busy mum.

'I wish everyone on the show the best of luck.'

The new series will see the return of head coach Karen Barber, to offer her expertise to the show's celebrity skaters, while former host Holly Willoughby will be replaced by Christine Bleakley.



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