Ant & Dec are back with the 20th season of Saturday Night Takeaway

Saturday:​ Ant & Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway (ITV1, 7pm)
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Over the decades, Saturday night TV has been a battleground. Not just for ratings, but for the title of top host.

Back in the day, the likes of Bruce Forsyth, Leslie Crowther, Larry Grayson and Martin Kelly reigned supreme thanks to their stints on such classic shows as The Generation Game, Play Your Cards Right, The Price is Right and Stars in Their Eyes.

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More recently, such big names as Paddy McGuinness and Danny Dyer have made a bid for glory, with women represented by Strictly Come Dancing’s dynamic duo, Claudia Winkleman and Tess Daly (we reckon Jane McDonald would make a smashing Saturday night presenter too, if Channel 5 ever wanted to launch a shiny floor show to compete with the Beeb and ITV).

Ant & Dec host Saturday Night TakeawayAnt & Dec host Saturday Night Takeaway
Ant & Dec host Saturday Night Takeaway

But ahead of them in the race to be King or Queen of the schedule is Michael McIntyre, who’s back on the box tonight with a more spins of The Wheel, just a week after the end of the most recent run of his Big Show.

However, leading the pack are Ant and Dec, and it’s hard to imagine anyone surpassing them any time soon.

They may now be closer to 50 than 15, but they’re still the same cheeky chappies we got to know and love way back when they were teenage actors in much-loved children’s drama Byker Grove.

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Even then, while playing PJ and Duncan, you could tell they had something special – they were stars-in-the-making; charismatic, with that extra special, oh-so-difficult to define ‘something’ that has allowed them to stand head and shoulders above the crowd, despite their diminutive height. Simon Cowell would probably call it the X factor.

“We met at 13,” says Ant, who recently revealed he’s about to become a first-time father. “We’ve grown like any friends do who have known each other that long. We know everything about each other. We know what makes the other laugh, what annoys the other one and, yeah, we love each other.”

Dec agrees: “We’re friends. That’s it. We’re friends first and foremost and the TV shows come after that, so I think at the heart of it when you watch it, you know it’s a true friendship.

“We’ve always said that ours is a career built on friendship, not a friendship built on a career, so I think our foundations are very, very strong in our friendship and we’ve known each other now for more than 30 years.”

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The spark between them has helped the duo win Best TV Presenter at the National Television Awards an astonishing 22 years on the trot – perhaps it’s time the trophy was renamed in their honour. It’s certainly hard to imagine anyone else beating them.

However, we have, apparently, reached the end of the road for the Saturday Night Takeaway. The new series – its 20th – is reportedly its last, at least for the foreseeable future. Here’s hoping it’s going out in a blaze of glory. One thing is for sure, even if the show is finished, its hosts certainly are not. Watch out Saturday nights, its Kings aren’t ready to abdicate yet.

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