More TV Memories – Slap Bang.

Slap Bang (ITV, 2001)

Ant and Dec have now been TV presenters for 25 years. After leaving Byker Grove, their earliest shows included CBBC’s The Ant And Dec Show and BBC1 game show Friends Like These (although I don’t plan to review either of those). In the 90s they also did Ant And Dec Unzipped, a comedy show on Channel 4. I did review this one a while back, but it wasn’t their biggest success.

Something that did much better was their CITV Saturday Morning show SM:TV Live, and after they left they had another attempt at hosting a primetime show. This was Slap Bang, an hour-long Saturday Night show that would include fun games and sketches which was “slap bang in the middle of your weekend”. There was a lot of effort put into the regular features, in the familiar “let’s throw lots of ideas at the viewers and hope that some of them will stick”-style that was also used by Noel’s House Partyvlcsnap-00112

But how many of these ideas would become popular? Indeed, how many of them would last to the end of the series? Would viewers become fond of the show and what was on offer? Features included Formula 6½, where children would go around a track in go-karts, that was presented in the style of ITV’s breathless coverage of Formula 1 racing at the time. cheeky0001

Loose Change Lottery was where before the show all of the studio audience members put their change into a pot and were given a number, and then there would be a draw, with the number pulled out winning all the money in the pot. Beers was a parody of corny American sitcoms that was set in a pub featuring some guest celebrity appearances and it was very similar to Chums from SM:TV Livevlcsnap-00665

Cher And Cher Alike was where contestants had to guess which hairstyle belonged to pop star Cher, although they ran out of these before the end of the series. At Home With The Stars was another celebrity feature. Donnelly was where Dec tried to interview a guest but he was always being hampered by Ant. And Challenge Ant was another recycled feature from SM:TV Live, although the difference was that Ant played against adult contestants instead of child ones and there were lots of prizes on offer. And who knows, a pop star could run on stage for no reason! vlcsnap-00664

Slap Bang was another lively entertainment show where the studio audience all seemed to be having a good time, but it was unclear whether viewers at home would feel the same way. Its performance was rather average, and surprisingly there was only one series. Had Ant and Dec blown their chance of hosting a long-running show on ITV? Well, no actually, because about a year later the similar Saturday Night Takeaway launched and they never looked back really, finally becoming primetime stars like many hoped they would.

One thought on “More TV Memories – Slap Bang.

  1. Des Elmes says:

    To be pedantic, A&D hadn’t actually left SM:TV yet – Slap Bang aired in May and June 2001, and they bade farewell to Saturday mornings in December of that year.

    They did, however, take six weeks off from SM:TV to make Slap Bang. (And SM:TV’s ratings didn’t plummet at this point, because everyone knew they’d be back and also there was the awful final incarnation of Live & Kicking on the other side.)

    Calling Slap Bang’s performance “average” is actually rather generous, because it was officially A Flop – none of the six episodes made ITV’s weekly top 30 ratings list; they were comfortably beaten by BBC1’s offerings (including Ulrika Jonsson’s Dog Eat Dog and, ironically, Friends Like These with new host Ian Wright Wright Wright); the final episode aired before 6pm; and the original slot was subsequently taken up by Bruce’s Price is Right. (Thanks here to the BARB archives and copies of The Guardian’s Guide.)

    Comparisons could be made with OTT, Chris Tarrant’s attempt to bring Tiswas to Saturday nights after he left Tiswas proper. Two big differences, however, are that OTT’s ratings weren’t all that bad (but then there *were* only three channels at the time), and that it would be almost another two decades before Tarrant firmly established himself on Saturday nights (and then with an existing show that was moving away from its golden age, instead of a new show like Takeaway).


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