The absence of sickly Bruce Forsyth left Strictly a pale shadow of its usual self, according to Arlene Phillips.
Veteran host Brucie, 81, pulled out of presenting the dance-off for the first time in its five-year history because of a bout of flu.
And ex-judge Arlene admitted last night she was not prepared for how much she missed his patter.
She said his absence proved the show will suffer if the moustachioed showman ever decides to hang up his bow tie for good.
She told TV Biz: “Bizarrely, I thought the show missed him.
“It’s not until you haven’t got Bruce there that you realise how he really is so woven into the programme. I think it proved he’s pivotal to the series.
“And I was very surprised to realise that, because you don’t realise it when he’s on.
“You listen to his jokes and go, ‘Oh another Brucie joke’ – but suddenly there is a big hole to fill without him.”
She added of Bruce’s co-host Tess Daly: “Tess did really well in his absence but it makes you realise bosses got the line-up right in the first place.”
Bruce has faced criticism for being too “doddery” to keep up his duties on the show.
But Arlene, 66, reckons even legendary comic Ronnie Corbett, 78, wasn’t a match for the master when he stood in alongside regular co-host Tess.
The choreographer said: “Ronnie being there felt very last minute. I wasn’t sure about him and felt he should have done more presenting.” She wasn’t the only one keeping an eager eye on Saturday’s show – Bruce tuned in at his home in Virginia Water, Surrey.
Yesterday he admitted: “It was very strange to watch instead of being there.
“I was so grateful to Ronnie for filling in and doing the bits he did. He was very funny, as always. Thankfully I am starting to feel better and look forward to getting back at the weekend.”
Despite Brucie’s absence, viewing figures peaked at 10.9million – the highest ratings for the show so far this year.