Ant and Dec ‘nearly did Saturday Night Takeaway with the BBC’

Ant McPartlin and Declan Donnelly say they nearly made Saturday Night Takeaway with the BBC but went to ITV after growing impatient with the corporation.

The presenting pair, both 44, launched their flagship variety show in 2002 after a decade working together in TV and music.

As they were making children’s programmes with the BBC at the time, they proposed the concept to the corporation, who suggested a programme called Anything Goes.

However, the pair claim the BBC repeatedly delayed the idea, telling them “maybe next year”.

Speaking during an online Q&A to promote their new book, Once Upon A Tyne, Donnelly said: “We were doing Children’s BBC – we were doing the Ant And Dec Show and this was the show we always wanted to make. We nearly did it with the BBC.”

He added: “We had a relationship with the Beeb and they said, ‘what else do you want to do?’ and we said: ‘multi-format variety show’.

“We talked about doing it with the BBC and they had a show called Anything Goes and we talked about doing it with them, that we were going to pilot.

“We kept saying: ‘Any news about Anything Goes?’ and they said, ‘maybe next year’.

Ant and Dec new book
Ant and Dec new book

“And we got more and more impatient and then ITV said: ‘Well, we will do a pilot with you if you want to do a pilot series.’

McPartlin said ITV had told them it would be impossible to realise their concept at the BBC.

He said: “It was pitched to us as the show the BBC could never make. It could only be made on ITV – or Channel 4, I suppose.”

Asked whether they felt they had ownership of Saturday Night Takeaway from the start, Donnelly said: “Yes, it was the show we always wanted to make – multi-item.

“We just wanted to keep coming up with different ideas and have the ability to do something different every week.”

Donnelly also recalled the effect his on-screen partner’s struggles with addiction had on him.

McPartlin temporary stepped down from presenting Saturday Night Takeaway following his arrest for drink-driving in 2018 and return to rehab.

The Fashion Awards 2019 – London
The Fashion Awards 2019 – London

Donnelly later fronted I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here! with Holly Willoughby instead of McPartlin.

Asked whether he considered going solo at the time, Donnelly said: “That was the weird thing.

“For the first time our mindsets had to be, ‘what’s next for me?’ Not for us.

“Every decision we had made over 30 years was, ‘what are we going to do? What’s best for us?’

“For the first time I was thinking, ‘what do I want to do. What if he doesn’t want to do this anymore? What if he is in a completely different space? What am I going to do on my own?’

“I would be lying if I said there weren’t sleepless nights over it.

“I didn’t know what I would do. I had no idea.”

McPartlin and Donnelly spoke to Dermot O’Leary as part of the Fane Online series.