Ant and Dec . . . three little words which, for some inexplicable reason, seem to passionately polarise British TV viewers writes Carl Jones.
The Geordie duo are the undisputed kings of the small screen, hopping happily from the jungle chaos of I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here, to the game show mischief of Saturday Night Takeaway, and their current stint as the anchormen on Britain’s Got Talent.
The last time these likely lads failed to win a National TV Award for presenting duties, the World Trade Center was still standing, Renee Zellweger was top of the box office with Bridget Jones’ Diary, and David Cameron hadn’t even been elected as an MP. They are absolutely adored by the majority, yet passionately and vehemently loathed by large swathes of the rest.
With just a few seconds of surfing, you’ll stumble across some pretty uncompromising internet forums on the subject.
“They’re totally over-rated, smug, and over-exposed,” says one. “Their jokes are just so scripted,” says another. “Lots of young-ish lads could do what they do, if they were given the chance,” bemoans a third. And those are just the negative comments suitable for a family newspaper!
But these killjoys are surely missing the point. The beauty of Ant and Dec is that they make it look so scripted, so effortlessly under control, that it appears easy-peasy.
And yet they’re at their very best when it’s live; when anything can happen, and often does. (Gillian McKeith, anyone?)
Maybe it’s a generational thing. The older people are, the less they seem to appreciate them. Perhaps these folk stubbornly refuse to remove the rose-tinted spectacles worn during TV’s dazzling golden age, when Morecambe and Wise reigned supreme.
Ant and Dec are without doubt their modern-day successors, with that same knack of tapping into current, popular culture, and presenting themselves as humble, ordinary everymen.
Cast your mind back 12 months, and they were dabbling with old TV game shows, bringing bite-sized chunks back to Saturday nights, clearly sensing our appetite for a recipe of retro.
And look what’s happened. Family Fortunes is now going stronger than ever, Catchphrase is rejuvenated, and it can surely only be a matter of time before Pope Francis lookalike Jim Bowen makes a pitch to give Bullseye another run. Bring it on . . . it’s been far too long since we’ve seen people winning speedboats!
Be under no illusion, every move that Ant and Dec make is carefully considered and choreographed.
I’m not buying the idea that they didn’t foresee the success of Let’s Get Ready To Rhumble, given that it blends the powerful double-whammy of their huge fan base, with our love of all things 1990s. They’re just too self-deprecating to admit it. It would damage their image.
And so, one last thing. On the off-chance that Ant and Dec’s agents might cut out and paste this glowing tribute on their dressing room wall one day, it would be remiss of me not to make an opportunist request.
Please, boys, can you have a word in Simon Cowell’s shell-like about the next series of X Factor. Tell him to ditch Gary, Louis and Tulisa, and bring in three fresh, feisty companions for the irresistible Nicole Scherzinger.
Because pantomime season is well and truly over. Audiences are sick of manufactured infighting and fake fisticuffs in a pathetically transparent bid to boost ratings.
If I want make-believe indignation or simulated strife, I’ll switch over to Sky Sports to catch a premier league football match...
Read Carl Jones first in the new Weekend Express & Star, every Saturday.