Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway was brill but now it has died behind The Wheel | The Sun

OVER at Saturday Night Takeaway the grasping and insincere tone for an entire series was set when Dec asked guest announcer Toni Collette: “What’s coming up?”

“Thanks for asking,” replied the actress, who’d given the impression she was happy just to be invited, up until that point.


“I’ve got a new show on Amazon called The Power. So let’s take a look at this.”

The clip ran, Ant & Dec’s studio audience cheered dementedly, while I groaned inwardly and switched channels quickly.

I probably wasn’t alone either. The once mighty SNT has lost a third of its audience since 2021 with all sorts of reasons touted for the mass exodus ranging from a run of slightly tasteless and unconvincing stunts to the weekly grind of the Murder At Bigwig Manor segment, where the deaths of ITV regulars Dermot O’Leary, Judi Love, Keith Lemon and Ainsley Harriott only go to prove the truth would be so much better than fiction.

Both these elements may have contributed to the ratings fall but there are two far more likely and significant causes, the first of which is the ominous letter “P” sitting in the bottom right-hand corner of your screen during the opening credits.

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Some shows, of course, are skilful enough to insert Product Placement without you even noticing.

On SNT it’s about as subtle and welcome as a dildo on The Generation Game’s conveyor belt.

Which is not to say the show is completely without its moments of genius, like the hidden camera stunt at a hotel reception last week and the ding-dong doorbell challenge, but these joys are intermittent and now far from guaranteed.

The one absolute constant, however, is that bloody end-of-series plane trip to Florida, in association with a well-known airline, a prominent holiday resort in Orlando and some £2 phone lines.

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They’ve built the entire show around this feature in fact, although it’s meant to come to some sort of frenzied climax during part two’s “happiest minute of the week”, which is neither of those two things.

It’s a relentless, thumping arseache with dancing stewardesses and such an air of pleading, frantic desperation that “a place on the plane” feels more like the audience’s “last chopper out of Kabul” option than any sort of decent competition prize.

On a petty note, it also lasts exactly two minutes and 51 seconds, which is precious time no SNT viewer can ever get back.

The audience has clearly taken the hint, however, that SNT now seems to value corporate sponsorship and money more than them and deserted the show in large numbers.

Over 11million watched it at the turn of the decade. It’s just under five million now.

Believe it or not though, this is the good news.

Because no one doubts the well of affection for the two brilliant presenters, who could solve half of their problems just by ditching the worst excesses of product placement.

The bad news?

Against all expectations, including my own, BBC1 now has two great Saturday night light entertainment shows, Michael McIntyre’s Big Show and The Wheel with Michael McIntyre.

The common thread here is unavoidable but it must kill the Beeb a little to know that, despite all the worthiness and diversity, its family audience has been rescued by a middle-class comedian who has never once burdened us with his political views, presumably because he’s come to the staggering conclusion his job is to entertain and make us laugh.

A revolutionary idea, I know, but McIntyre has needed all his available wit to turn a format as glacially slow and unfair as The Wheel into a spectacle.

In this task on Saturday, he was enormously helped by a contestant called Toby, who was blind but utterly devoid of self-pity and playing it for laughs from the moment “expert” Chunkz said: “Mate, I’ve never watched any rugby.”

“Mate,” replied Toby, “I’ve never watched anything, so it’s all good.”

Insecure as they are, most comedians would’ve hated a contestant getting these sorts of laughs.

McIntyre was smart enough, though, to take a step back as, gradually and gloriously, Toby nailed £45,000 with a question about art, a subject: “Blind people hate”.

It was a rare and beautiful moment of happy, family television. And there’s absolutely nothing even Ant & Dec can do about that (The Wheel, Saturday, BBC1, 6:55pm).

Unexpected morons in the bagging area

THE Chase, Bradley Walsh: “Launched in 2021, the Roger Pro is a tennis shoe named after which player?”

The Vivienne: “Roger Moore.”

Celebrity Mastermind, Clive Myrie: “What six-letter word referring to the UK’s withdrawal from the EU was named by Collins as the word of the year in 2016?”

Amar Latif: “Last.”

Tipping Point, Ben Shephard: “A Spaniard is a native of which European country?”

Vani: “Pass.”

Random irritations

SERIES five of ITV’s once-brilliant Unforgotten replacing credible plots with crass party political propaganda.

Charlotte Church “generously” donating her £1,000 Celebrity Lingo prize to her own charity.

Channel 4’s The Traitors rip-off Rise And Fall degenerating into a pet food-eating contest by day three.

And the malicious production sod who climaxed Challenge Anneka’s successful comeback refurb, at an animal rescue centre, with the host yelping: “It’s time for the happiest dog competition,” thereby begging an obvious question.

Who finished second?

WEIGH TO GO ANTON

OVER the centuries, the island of Sicily has suffered hostile invasions by everyone from the Ostrogoths, Normans and Vandals to Amanda Holden and Alan Carr.

Things were always likely to get worse before they got better though, so it’s now enduring a three-week occupation by Strictly’s Anton du Beke and Giovanni Pernice, who are togged up like the man from Del Monte and his playboy son for their Sicilian Adventure.

So slavishly does this one follow the earlier BBC1 blueprint, the pair of them even have a run-in with the local traffic police, just as Amanda and Alan did in episode seven of their Italian Job.

I should also warn viewers of a sensitive disposition, they don’t just fill in the gaps with dancing, they sing as well.

For someone as entirely self-absorbed and pleased with himself as Anton though, he wasn’t half slow on the uptake when it came to heaving a gigantic religious icon round the streets of Ortigia.

A task for eight brick s***-houses and two dancers that must have rung bells for everyone except du Beke, who couldn’t remember the last time he’d had to “concentrate so hard” on a dead weight.

So let me oblige: 2010, week ten, My Heart Will Go On rumba, with Ann Widdecombe.

TELLY quiz. What was Wild Isles narrator Sir David Attenborough talking about when he said: “This huge male is strutting around his area, the cock will perform like this for six hours every morning?”

A) The Highland Capercaillie?

B) Andi Peters?

GREAT TV lies and delusions of the month.

Starstruck, Olly Murs: “You know what, I think Robbie Williams would’ve absolutely loved that.”

Jonathan Ross: “We can’t wait to see Mel Giedroyc host Eurovision.”

Love Island: The Reunion, Maya Jama: “What a series we have had. Iconic, if you ask me.” Which I didn’t, and it wasn’t.

Lookalike of the week

THIS week’s winner is ho-hum comedian Rose Matafeo, from Celebrity Bake Off, and Mirabel from the Disney film Encanto.

Sent in by Connor David.

Great sporting insights

GLENN HODDLE: “Spurs haven’t got anyone who can go past their man. There’s no one out there who can. Son is the only one.”

Tim Sherwood: “We’ve all played the game, including you, Jeff, even if you haven’t.”

And Paul Merson: “Spurs were very lacksical daze.”

(Compiled by Graham Wray)

EASTENDERS’ monthly tact award goes to terminally ill Lola asking long-lost mum Emma, played by Patsy Kensit: “What about you? Got a fella? Married?”

Yeah, regularly.

TV Gold

CHANNEL 4’s 24 Hours In Police Custody quickly re-establishing itself as the most gripping show on television.

The return of Race Across The World after a three-year Covid hiatus, even if they are just bickering their way across Canada.

The brilliant Frank Sinatra impersonator, Andrew, on Starstruck. Blind Toby changing his life for ever, courtesy of The Wheel.

And Gogglebox’s Pete adopting brace positions for TLC’s Milf Manor: “This is going to be like an Ann Summers party at Pontefract Sports & Social Club.”

Which it was.

IN 2003, a record 11.74million watched Comic Relief, raising £61million for the charity. A total that had increased to £108million by 2011.

Then, in 2019, notoriously dim Labour MP David Lammy declared: “The world doesn’t need any more white saviours.”

Comic Relief subsequently stopped sending celebs on mercy missions to Africa.

With the result? On Friday, it got its lowest ever viewing figures (2.9million) and raised just £31million, its lowest total since 1997.

As for David Lammy, though? He’s now Shadow Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs.

So in all likelihood, about two years from now he’ll be telling taxpayers they haven’t been doing enough for Africa, hopefully, while wearing not just a red nose but also outsized shoes and the rest of his clown’s outfit as well.

AND incidentally, Comic Relief, Lenny Henry: “I feel funny.”

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