Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway

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Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway

February 26, 2017 - 19:26
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Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway burst back onto our screens for its 14th series this weekend. The Geordie duo’s popular Saturday night extravaganza seems to get bigger every year, and, remarkably, for the most part, still feels fresh.

Ant and Dec

By Matthew Gormley @MatthewPGormley

Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway burst back onto our screens for its 14th series this weekend. The Geordie duo’s popular Saturday night extravaganza seems to get bigger every year, and, remarkably, for the most part, still feels fresh.

I’m never quite sure how to describe Saturday Night Takeaway. It feels wrong to brand it a ‘variety show’, given that it’s not an all-singing, all-dancing, magicians popping up with rabbits in their hats, end-of-the-pier sort of thing. It’s more just a series of random games and stunts thrown together, but it makes a welcome change to the usual talent or reality shows that hog the majority of the Saturday night schedules.

A lot of it isn’t exactly very original. Many of its features pay homage to light entertainment shows of old, taking inspiration from the likes of Noel’s House Party and Don’t Forget Your Toothbrush. Crammed full of features with gallons of audience participation, celebrity stitch-ups and game show elements, it makes for an entertaining night in.

This weekend’s mammoth ninety minute series opener was so jam packed it could barely breathe. Reigning Queen of the Jungle Scarlett Moffatt was the show’s newest recruit, taking over the role of hostess for ‘The Best Seats In The House’ segment from Ashley Roberts. It seems I’m A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here now serves as an audition tape for Ant and Dec’s other vehicle. Note to any other semi-famous reality show stars out there: if you fancy being a part of the next series, you know what you’ve got to do. Munch on some kangaroo bits and a couple of crocodile toes and the job could be yours. To give Scarlett her due, she seemed quite natural in front of the cameras, especially as the slot involved her knocking on the front door of an unsuspecting viewer live on air. There were moments when it was stressful to watch, so, no doubt, to Scarlett, those seconds felt much longer. It’s a shame that, by the time nervous punters had taken a helicopter ride to the studio to claim ‘The Best Seats In The House’, the show was almost over. They’d have seen more of it had they stayed on their sofa.

Ant vs Dec returned, this time with a ‘Through Time’ theme. The first challenge involved the lads dressing up in large, inflatable dinosaur costumes and completing a supposedly prehistoric themed obstacle course, which in fact was just an obstacle course laden with a few leaves. It was basically Ninja Warrior meets Jurassic Park. The dinosaur bit, well, that was unnecessary. Alas, in the ten years of the head-to-head competition, they’ve done just about everything else.

‘Undercover’, one of the programme’s most popular segments, made a welcome return, with Jamie Oliver falling victim to the first prank, as Ant and Dec posed as electricians, chefs and paramedics in a chaotic and very well executed sabotage of the opening of his new restaurant in Harrogate. The sheer scale of the pranks is outstanding, and they’re so perfectly executed, it’s little wonder all the celebs fall for them hook, line and sinker.

It’s the incredible amount of planning and preparation that makes the surprises on Saturday Night Takeaway so impressive. We’ve seen this throughout the years in the audience participation element at the beginning of the show, where a member of the public is plucked from their seat, before having secrets revealed in front of the nation, or discovering that members of their family have been setting them up for the past few weeks. This format was tweaked slightly for the new series, with Ant and Dec returning throughout the evening to newlyweds Jack and Megan Robinson, who, little did they know, had been followed by cameras on their honeymoon.

Last year, the finale was broadcast live from the deck of the P&O cruise ship Britannia, in Barcelona. Always wanting to go one step further, this final show of this run will be held at Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World, Florida, with 200 lucky winners across the series joining Ant and Dec in the most magical place on Earth. Quite where this gargantuan budget comes from I dread to think. Last year’s cruise ship al fresco edition of Takeaway wasn’t the slickest operation, so I think the five-hour time difference may prove to be a challenge too large, even for the undisputed kings of live Saturday night telly.

Last year’s parody crime drama ‘Who Shot Simon Cowell?’ was so popular that it’s spawned another silly spoof. I enjoyed the Cowell mystery much more than I expected to, as it wasn’t over-the-top ridiculous, as parodies often are. The opener to this year’s story, ‘The Missing Crown Jewels’, featured Ant and Dec tasked with guarding the Royal Family’s Crown Jewels following their inauguration into the British Empire as OBEs, becoming distracted and inevitably leading to the jewels being stolen. There was plenty of tongue-in-cheek humour and innuendos, plus a star-studded cast, featuring appearances from Dame Shirley Bassey and Joanna Lumley. It’s looking like it’ll be another enjoyable mini-series, by the end of which we’ll genuinely be intrigued by the unfolding mystery.

As expected, there were a couple of weak spots. Michelle Keegan, the Star Guest Announcer, looked bored stiff and struggled to grasp reading aloud, which is surprising given the calibre of her acting and her already stellar post-Coronation Street career. You’d think she could have at least, convincingly, pretended as though she wanted to be there. Meanwhile, Jennifer Hudson screeched her way through her 2008 hit Spotlight in the End of the Show Show, while Ant, Dec, their mini counterparts and the rest of the ensemble cast performed silly dances under, erm, spotlights. Not exactly NTA worthy stuff (certainly not 16 of the things anyway!), and it gave the impression this particular slot is coming to the End of the Road Road.

Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway continues on Saturday nights at 7.00pm on ITV.