Saturday Night Takeaway
Ant vs Dec:
Host: Kirsty Gallacher (2005-9), Ashley Roberts (2013-)
Commentator: David Goldstrom (2005-09), Clive Tyldesley (2013-)
Beat the Boys:
Commentator: Stuart Hall
Guest Announcers (in order, but not including repeat performances, 2007-): Simon Pegg, Daniel Radcliffe, Quentin Tarantino, Christian Slater, Harry Hill, Jordan & Peter Andre, Will Ferrell, Uma Thurman, Jeff Goldblum, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, Jessica Alba, Kate Hudson, Paris Hilton, Ricky Gervais, Tom Jones, Al Murray, Paul O'Grady, Zac Efron, David Walliams, Alan Carr, Terry Wogan, Lewis Hamilton, Jonathan Ross
LWT for ITV1/2, 8 June to 13 July 2002 (6 episodes in 1 series)
Granada for ITV1, 11 January 2003 to 24 December 2005 (33 episodes in 4 series + 1 special)
ITV Productions for ITV1, 16 September to 21 October 2006 (6 episodes in 1 series)
ITV Productions and Gallowgate for ITV1, 8 September 2007 to 21 March 2009 (18 episodes in 3 series)
ITV Studios and Mitre Television for ITV, 23 February 2013 to present
You have to respect Ant and Dec really. After the abject failure in bringing the SM:TV Live humour to Saturday evenings with Slap Bang, they've bounced back with a vengeance. Rather than being SM:TV with added game elements, this is more Don't Forget Your Toothbrush/Noel's House Party game-based light entertainment with SM:TV elements. It also has a very novel idea of giving prizes away.
The set is very metallic and swish and blue, with the screen guarded by a pair of old Tesco security doors, the sort they used to employ before using those roundabout things. There doesn't seem to be any discernable reason for this.
Certain elements of the show crept up each week. These were (in no particular order):
Going out: Obviously Ant & Dec spend a hard week putting the show together so they're very upset when people, instead of watching them... go out! A hidden camera is placed in a popular place with a screen whilst someone who is guaranteed to be there is set up to win a prize. Ant and Dec cross over live to them in the style of NTV and they're told that outside one of their houses is a briefcase containing £3,000. BUT! They don't say which one. So they've got until the end of the show to run to their houses and promise never to go out on a Saturday night again. Of course, none of the people in the place know which house the cash is outside of but we do.
Jim Didn't Fix It: People who wrote into Jim'll Fix it all those years ago but didn't get fulfilled get a second chance. Except now they are grown up! Ha.
Make Ant Laugh: Ant is a bit of a miserable git so they've scoured the country to find some funny acts who must try to make Ant laugh within sixty seconds to win a trophy. If they fail then... they will die! [gives comedy evil look to camera]. No, not really.
Banged Up With Beadle [a.k.a. "Please Give Me My Career Back!"]: Ant and Dec's very own reality TV show which we thought would be the sleeper hit of the summer but in fact wasn't. Jeremy Beadle gets locked up in the dungeons of Spitbank Fort in the Solent with a member of the public as thanks for his "services" to "light entertainment". Each week they are set a task, and if they can perform the task live on Saturday night then the MOTP wins £5000 and Beadle wins a luxury to make his life a bit nicer. It's The Moment of Truth, basically. More interestingly, the follow up show on ITV2 every Saturday concentrates mainly on this aspect. Viewers can watch Big Brother-style updates on ITV2 during the week and on Saturday when A and D have finished on ITV1, Donna Air and Brendan Someoneorother take over for the live weekly Beadle update show where the old MOTP is released and someone else takes their place. Sadly, this follow up show was largely rubbish with hosts we couldn't give a damn about, technical problems, missing links... eugh. However Beadle does come across as likable and he didn't go mad which was what the producers seemed to be aiming for.
Grab the Ads: the main "bit". People in the audience had phoned up a week previously and answered a question correctly. All their names are fed into the computer and before each commercial break one of them was picked at random, the computer screen flashing batches of names with a a bar dancing round the screen. When Ant says "Computer, please STOP!" the names stop flashing and the bar stops moving. Whoever is selected (and three people are selected throughout the show) goes through to the What Product Am I? semi-final. Here, a list of various products comes up on screen and Going for Gold-style clues are read out (except that they're often quite leading, giving the impression that they mean one product when thenext clue will show it's a different product they want). The first person to buzz in with the correct answer gets to... Grab the Ads!
In the Grab the Ads final, five prime time programmes from ITV were selected at random and the 25 adverts contained therein would be the prizes in the game about to be played. What you saw was what you got (hence: Takeaway), so if there was an advert for a car, they would WIN! that car. And if there was an advert for some dog food, they would WIN! some dog food. And if there was an advert for the Cypriot Tourist Board they would WIN! the Cypriot Touri... a trip to Cyprus. Pictures of the five shows would go up on screen and a light would flash around the shows. The contestant presses the Show Stopper (a button) and wherever the light stops on determines the adverts that are going to be played for. Some programmes have good ad breaks with lots of cars and holidays and some are bad and have mostly adverts for toilet roll and pillows and the like.
The 25 prizes are flashed up with good prizes marked in gold (no product placement though, that would be illegal and the reason why they couldn't use the adverts during the show). The contestant is asked whether they can remember where the gold prizes are, then they're told it doesn't matter because all the prizes are going to be muddled up anyway, numbered from 1 to 25. For 90 seconds they get asked multiple choice questions about the weeks news and television. Every time they get an answer correct they can pick a number which gets 'marked'.
At the end of the 90 seconds, our plucky player is told how many prizes they have and (in later episodes) whether there is a big prize in that prize package. They are then given the chance to gamble what they have on the Make or Break question. A fifty-fifty gamble, all or nothing, and obviously if they don't go for it they'll ask the question anyway to see what would have happened.
Now, many people believe it would have been a better idea not to muddle the prizes and make the end game a game of memory. However this is plainly silly, since it's really not difficult to remember five numbers is it? No-one would bother gambling if they knew they had all the top prizes. They made a concession later on to tell people if they've won a car or not but the jury's out as to whether this is a good thing or not.
The show happens to have a good atmosphere and Ant and Dec have mastered the art of acting silly but being in control rather than being just silly, which is entertaining. The SM:TV humour is there but it's now more focussed.
On the behind-the-scenes side, the producers have done a good job of tinkering, re-jigging or replacing items that don't work, and ensuring that no two programmes are the same (something that Slap Bang was certainly guilty of). There was always going to be the chance that people would get bored with the same items every week so it's wise that they changed some, such as introducing a man to his two secret admirers and asking him to pick one to go on a date with. Or letting a boy take his girlfriend on holiday but only if her parents said "yes", that sort of thing.
It took a while to get there, but Ant and Dec have their first primetime hit on ITV1.
Series 2 onwards
After the show's first series it became more confident, less of an obvious gameshow and more of a proper Saturday night light entertainment fest, clearly trying to get people to talk about the sights they'd seen. Elements have come and gone at a refreshing pace - Banged Up With Beadle and Make Ant Laugh never returned, and most episodes have featured a one-off element involving a member of the public.
In came fresh new features, such as the amusing What's Next?, where Ant and Dec have to improvise a situation the production team have secretly set up; and Undercover, in which our dynamic duo dress up and pretend to be someone they're not, such as German popstars. Little Ant and Dec was the bit that Big Ant and Dec couldn't find time to film and had kids to interview big name Hollywood celebrities and ask them cheeky questions that only kids can get away with. In later series, Beat the Boys was a crazy car-driving segment, with ITV celebrities driving such contraptions as an ice-cream van or a tank around an obstacle course.
By 2005, the Grab the Ads segment was becoming less and less important - the qualifying quiz had long been replaced by a random draw, giving little reason for the viewer to root for or against the player - and the producers introduced new elements involving the public. The Jiggy Bank was a giant pig containing 5000 one-pound coins, and the chosen member of the public jiggled it about, and won the money that dropped out. It was a spectacular idea, but lost something in the execution. The successor game Mouse Trap reminded us of something out of Double Dare: punter dressed as a mouse, ran around a perspex maze, pulling cords to release food. Some of it was valuable cheese, some of it was not-at-all valuable slop.
The longest-lasting element is Ant Versus Dec, a competition of various activities between the two hosts, refereed by Kirsty Gallacher, and usually featuring commentary by David Goldstrom. This element morphed into Ant vs Dec: The Teams in 2008.
Saturday Night Takeaway was heavily criticised for its abuse of premium-rate telephone lines. In particular, the Jiggy Bank segment had been pre-arranged well in advance of transmission, yet viewers were encouraged to ring the expensive phone line, even though they stood no chance of competing in the game. The show was also criticised for a dual-entry system for the studio-based Grab the Ads and home-caller Win the Ads segments. In the ensuing kerfuffle, ITV chairman Michael Grade said that the Executive Producer credits given to Ant and Dec were contractual obligations, and didn't represent the control they had (or, more precisely, didn't have) over the show.
In truth it's a show where the whole is equal to more than the sum of its parts (Undercover frequently lacked a decent punchline, Saturday Night Pub Olympics was a bit all over the place and rushed, the show turned into an obvious promotional vehicle for ITV's programmes) but Ant and Dec carry it off with aplomb and have gone a long way to making family entertainment cool again. It's very much the king of the Saturday night ratings, challenged only by such heavyweights as Dancing on Ice, The X Factor and Dr Who.
The curtain came down on Saturday Night Takeaway in April 2009, with Ant and Dec saying that they were beginning to run out of ideas. Replacement projects like Push the Button were markedly less successful, and a suitably-refreshed Takeaway returned in 2013.
"Don't just watch the ads... win them!"
Ant: "Make me laugh? Don't make me laugh!"
The announcers actually pre-record their lines during the week, as accidentally revealed in the episode where the What's Next curtain broke down. This forced the show to go to a break with the audience still not knowing what Ant & Dec were going to be doing, but Marc Silk telling the viewers that they were going to do a Wild West sketch.
Competitors on the first run of Ant vs Dec: The Teams (series 8, 2008) were:
- Team Ant: Jason Brown (of Five), Bonnie Langford, Lee Latchford-Evans (of Steps, replacing Lee Ryan of Blue, who left in the first week), Debbie McGee, Wayne Sleep.
- Team Dec: Chico (X-Factor loser), Paul Daniels, Melinda Messenger, Lee Sharpe (footballer), Sonia.
The teams for Ant vs Dec: The Teams in series 9 (2009) were:
- Team Ant: Brian Conley, Liz McClarnon (Atomic Kitten singer), Yvette Fielding, Lembit Öpik (MP), Jonathan Wilkes
- Team Dec: Nicky Clarke (hairdresser), Sinitta (singer), Bobby Davro, Edwina Curry (egg fan), Anthony Costa (Blue singer).
In August and September 2014, the show embarked on a 16-date arena tour, taking the programme to 11 cities around the UK.