The Ant And Dec Show (CBBC, 1995-1996)
Ant and Dec don’t need much of an introduction really, but here’s where they were in their career when this show launched. They had recently left Byker Grove where they became good friends and launched a pop music career. They would go on to have 15 hit singles which is more than most of the boy bands around at the time could achieve, but the majority of them reached No. 12.
So in 1995, around the time they turned 20, Mr McPartlin and Mr Donnelly were given a show of their own, one of their earliest TV presenting jobs. This was a comedy show to some extent with some sketches, but it was also going to feature a lot of music, games, and general silliness. A lot of celebrities took part, and it seemed to be a bizarre mix of old-school comedians and pop stars of the moment, so you’d be as likely to see Frank Carson turn up as you would Let Loose.
When watching again recently, I noticed that among the writers’ credits was David Walliams (who also appeared in a sketch or two), who had recently hosted CBBC’s Incredible Games, and of course went on to Little Britain, which might explain some of the quirkiness. The Pet Shop Boys also appeared in one edition. Walliams is one of their best buddies (including appearing in one of their music videos), maybe he pulled a few strings and they agreed to take part (having a single out at the time probably helped too).
Also among those taking part were cuddly astrologer Russell Grant, Andi Peters, and of course, the award-winning Peter Simon. Features included Hollywood Hospital, a parody of a badly-acted American soap, and Ring Of Truth, where if you gave the wrong answer you met a hideous fate. A year later, Ant and Dec returned for a second series which caused something of a stir.
There was the usual mix of sketches, but there was a running gag where Dec seemed to be rather in love with Blue Peter presenter Katy Hill and didn’t mind telling everyone about it, and of course there was Beat The Barber, a game where if someone got some questions right, they would win a PlayStation, but it they got them wrong, they would lose their hair.
There were rather a lot of complaints about this, so in 1997 Ant and Dec decided to move on to Channel 4 with a similar show, which was shown in a later timeslot and aimed at an older audience so they could get away with a little more. After this, they then went on to Saturday Morning TV with further success. It’s a shame that they didn’t do a little more comic acting or appear in a sitcom as I feel they had the potential, but then I remember that The Likely Lads revival.
They then went on to host other shows including Slap Bang, and they finally found a successful and long-running format with Saturday Night Takeaway, and have gone on to become and remain Britain’s most popular TV presenters ever (and that’s not that much of an exaggeration really). It was clear from this show that “the cheeky Geordie duo” (as newspapers always call them) were talents destined for bigger things.