Scarlett Moffatt has led tributes to the “grandfather of Gogglebox” Leon Bernicoff who has died aged 83.
The retired teacher and his wife June were one of the first couples to join the show’s cast when it launched in 2013.
He died in hospital on Saturday after a short illness, a statement from Channel 4 and the show’s production company Studio Lambert confirmed on behalf of his family.
Moffatt – whose own rise to fame was sparked by her appearance on Gogglebox – said “words can’t explain” what Bernicoff meant to so many people.
She wrote on Twitter: “From your words of encouragement to me to the little DMs.
“Leon you were loved by so many. Sending my love to you and all of your family.”
The creator of the hit Channel 4 show, Tania Alexander, also paid tribute, writing on Twitter: “So deeply saddened at the passing of our dear, dear Leon.
“He was and always will be the grandfather of #gogglebox – an absolute star who always made me laugh with his sharp wit and unshakable opinions.
“Much love and strength to June and the Bernicoff family.”
A devoted Everton fan, Bernicoff met June in 1955 with the couple marrying five years later.
During his run on the programme – which shows families across Britain watching television – he once described Nigel Farage as a “dickhead” and would often be shown affectionately bickering with his wife.
A keen bridge player away from the screen, the couple were even honoured at the 2016 Oldie Of The Year Awards.
The Loose Women team also paid tribute, writing: “So sad to hear Gogglebox legend Leon has died after a short illness. Our thoughts are with his wife June & family at this sad time.”
Announcing the news, Channel 4 said in a statement to the Press Association: “It is with a heavy heart that we announce the sad news that after a short illness Gogglebox’s Leon Bernicoff passed away in hospital earlier today.
“Leon and his wife June were the first members of the public to be cast for Gogglebox back in early 2013, and they soon grew to become much-loved voices during the course of the show’s 10 series to date.
“Leon’s unique personality and sharp wit endeared him to fans of the show, as he contributed fully to Gogglebox’s reputation as a programme full of warm humour and unvarnished opinion.
“To those of us that knew him personally, Leon was a man of unwavering principles who exerted a distinct paternal presence both on and off screen. He will be dearly missed by the entire Gogglebox family; cast and crew.”
Bernicoff was born on October 27 1934. He is survived by wife June, two daughters, sons-in-law and grandchildren.