Great Moments In Pop – The 90s Part 9.

Having enjoyed watching Ant and Dec on TV over the years, I thought I’d take a look back at their pop music career. Although their songs weren’t exactly aimed at me, and maybe not everything they did was exactly terrific, they always did it with charisma, and they seem to be mildly embarrassed about it all now, when they shouldn’t be really. I’ll pick out some of their highlights.

Ant and Dec went on to have 15 hit singles, and here’s how it all started. In the early-90s, they were best known as PJ and Duncan in CBBC’s drama series Byker Grove. One day, PJ’s eyes memorably exploded which was rather nasty (and for a long time after I had to remind myself that Ant wasn’t blind for real). In one episode in 1993, they performed “Tonight I’m Free”. This was released as a single, and reached only no. 62.

This wasn’t an indication of what was to come though. They tried out lots of ideas, and well, their commitment to having all of their singles peak at no. 12 or thereabouts over the next four years really was very admirable. In 1994 they appeared on the cover of Lookin (a lot of people seem to think that magazine closed in the 80s, but it didn’t), although it is odd to think that those eras overlapped.

In the summer of 1994 they had their first Top Ten hit with “Let’s Get Ready To Rhumble” (there is a reason for why there is a rogue “H” in the title, but it’s a long story), and this is arguably their most famous single. Later in 1994 their first album “Psyche” made the Top Ten. 1995 brought us “Our Radio Rocks”, by which point they were appearing on the cover of Smash Hits.

I remember “U Krazy Katz” caused something of a stir, because it was at this point that Ant stopped wearing a hat all the time. Really, Ant was never seen without a hat before this, so this was a big moment in pop culture. In 1995 second album “Top Katz” was released, but this didn’t make the Top 40. Into 1996, and their cover of “Stepping Stone”, a song made famous by The Monkees, was their final hit to be credited to PJ And Duncan, even though they had left Byker Grove years ago by this point.

Their first single credited as Ant And Dec was “Better Watch Out”, which featured an image change (Ant had slightly shorter hair). They finished off 1997 with more hits including “Shout”, and third and final album “The Cult Of Ant And Dec”. After this, they went off to concentrate on their TV presenting careers, that were quickly on the up, leading to SM:TV and the like. And yet, their biggest hit singles were yet to come. Wait, really?

By the early-2000s, Ant and Dec were hosting shows including Pop Idol, featuring the search for the next generation of singing stars, and began to win several high-profile awards. They were persuaded back on to the pop scene in 2002 for “We’re On The Ball”, the official song of the England team at the World Cup. This reached no. 3, outperforming all of their 90s hits.

And after they were encouraged on Saturday Night Takeaway to roll back the years and perform “Let’s Get Ready To Rhumble” (and Ant even got his hat out again!), this was rereleased in 2013 and became a chart-topper! So almost two decades after their first hit, they finally reached the top, and many people felt that a pop music injustice had finally been righted. Well, probably. And of course, they’re still on TV regularly together.

More TV Memories – Saturday Night Takeaway.

Saturday Night Takeaway (ITV1, 2002-2009, ITV, 2013-present)

This is another show that does feature a game show element, although again I do feel that it is more of a general entertainment show. Ant and Dec had already hosted some Saturday Night TV shows, including BBC1’s Friends Like These. They then moved to ITV and hosted Slap Bang which was something of a flop. But they went off and regrouped and came back with something that was much better… and this time it was a hit!

In the early-2000s Ant and Dec had hosted various other successful shows including Pop Idol, but critics often said that these formats were popular enough that they would’ve done well in the ratings whoever hosted them, so they had to prove that they did have the ability to be a success with their own show. It turned out to be something in the familiar Noel’s House Party/Don’t Forget Your Toothbrush style.

Saturday Night Takeaway was a live show that contained lots of features. I only really watched the first few series regularly, and these are some of the highlights from that era. One memorable feature was Make Ant Laugh. Ant is supposedly rather grumpy, and needs cheering up (“laugh? Don’t make me laugh!”). A rather bad variety act would come on and had to make Ant laugh within 60 seconds. If they succeeded, they won a prize, and I remember Ant did end up giggling a lot. vlcsnap-00408

There was also What’s Next, where Ant and Dec didn’t know what the next feature they were taking part in was until a curtain was raised (eventually), so it was always a surprise. Other features over the series have included Ant Vs Dec, The Jiggy Bank, Home Run and Little Ant And Dec. It’s fair to say by this point that our cheeky hosts had left their pop music careers (which they weren’t embarrassed about at all, oh no) behind. vlcsnap-00435

One of the more interesting features in the first series was Banged Up With Beadle. TV presenter Jeremy Beadle has been locked away in a dungeon “for his services to light entertainment”. Every week he would be paired with a contestant and they would have to practice a task, which they would then have to perform live on the show. If they succeeded, the contestant won a prize, and Jeremy was given something extra to make his time a little more enjoyable, like some books. There was also a spin-off show on ITV2 which looked at some of the highlights of the week, along with the contestant talking about their experience. Jeremy always came across as very kind and did anything he could to help out the contestants, which was great. vlcsnap-00411

The centrepiece of the show was Grab The Ads, leading to the show’s main catchphrase “don’t just watch the ads… win them!”. Some adverts were picked from a show that had been on ITV1 during the week, and one rather overexcited contestant was chosen to play. There were 60 seconds, and for every correct answer, one of the 25 items was randomly highlighted. The twist here was that this meant that they could win a car and a holiday, or a toilet roll and a chocolate bar. However, they could gamble to answer one more question and if they got it right they would win everything on the board. vlcsnap-00377

Overall, Saturday Night Takeaway was a big success with viewers, Ant and Dec had finally done it! In 2009 the show ended and they went off to other things including game show Push The Button, but this was a flop by comparison. In 2013 the format was revived, and seemed to have a fresh energy, including more new features such as In For A Penny. There has also been a tour, along with a book and a board game being released, and the show’s success is one of the factors leading to Ant and Dec winning the Most Popular TV Presenter award for about 43 consecutive years.