I’m A Celeb | The cinematic journey of Ant and Dec, from Byker Grove to Alien Autopsy and I’m A Celeb
With Ant and Dec returning to our screens this weekend with ‘I’m A Celeb,’ NationalWorld looks back at the on-screen history of the beloved duo.
It’s been an enduring partnership, nae friendship, that has passed through the annuls of entertainment time, which included a foray into the music industry and what at times felt like the stop-start of their presenting career. However, Ant and Dec are still going strong since their days on ‘Byker Grove,’ and are about to present the latest edition of ‘I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here,’ which kicks off once more for 2023 this weekend.
But it hasn’t always been an instant success for the pair, and at times the duo look to have found themselves finding their feet, transitioning from tween stars on BBC to adopting a more ‘mature’ approach to their style when joining Channel 4 in the late ‘90s. Even at times when they were in their element, circumstances such as viewing figures and scheduling changes, particularly with the BBC, have probably led some producers on the broadcaster ‘what if?’
But it has been their long-standing work with ITV that has led to the pair being crowned the Kings of Light Entertainment, cutting their teeth initially with Saturday morning television and children's television shows, through to the success of ‘Saturday Night Takeaway’ and even taking a punt in a big-screen outing at the height of their Primetime television success.
Did you catch any of Ant and Dec’s work prior to ‘I’m A Celeb,’ and did you expect the pair to evolve into the Kings of Light Entertainment that they have become, with their array of National Television Awards throughout the years to boot?
A cinematic timeline of Ant and Dec as a duo
Byker Grove (BBC)
Ant and Dec first gained recognition through their roles as PJ and Duncan in the popular children's drama series ‘Byker Grove.’ The show, set in a youth club in Newcastle, featured the duo in their early acting careers, and their characters became well-loved among the audience - and launched their music career with the immortal “Let’s Get Ready to Rhumble”, leading to their increased appeal with tween audiences.
The Ant and Dec Show (BBC)
Following their success in ‘Byker Grove’, Ant and Dec starred in their own show, ‘The Ant and Dec Show’ for CBBC. This variety show, aimed at a family audience, showcased the duo's comedic talents, including sketches, pranks, and guest appearances. It contributed significantly to establishing them as a popular TV duo.
Ant and Dec Unzipped (Channel 4)
Considered the more ‘mature’ follow-up to their CBBC show, ‘Ant and Dec Unzipped’ on Channel 4 continued to highlight the comedic chemistry between Ant and Dec. The show featured a mix of humour, sketches, and audience participation, displaying their versatility as entertainers for an older audience.
SMTV Live/CD:UK (ITV)
Ant and Dec hosted the immensely popular Saturday morning children's show ‘SMTV Live’ on ITV. The show featured comedy sketches, interactive games, and celebrity interviews. Following SMTV Live, they also hosted the music chart show ‘CD:UK,’ which aired immediately after and showcased top music acts.
Friends Like These (BBC)
‘Friends Like These’ was a British television game show that aired on the BBC from 1999 to 2003. The show was hosted by Ant and Dec and involved two teams of friends competing in various challenges to win prizes. The format of the show featured both physical and mental challenges, with a focus on team cooperation.
The show gained popularity during its run and was well-received by audiences. However, after its fifth series in 2003, ‘Friends Like These’ came to an end, and no further episodes were produced. The decision to conclude the show was influenced by viewership trends, scheduling considerations, and the evolving landscape of television programming.
Slap Bang with Ant and Dec (ITV)
That didn’t stop the pair from attempting another game show though - with "Slap Bang with ‘Ant and Dec,’ a game show where contestants engaged in various challenges for the opportunity to win cash prizes The show aired for a short period in 2001 but didn't achieve the same long-term success as some of their other ventures. After its run, Ant and Dec moved on to host other successful shows, including…
Pop Idol (ITV)
‘Pop Idol’ was highly successful and considered to be the pair heading into the prime presenting period of their careers. The UK version ran from 2001 to 2003. The show later evolved into "The X Factor." Ant and Dec, while not hosting, served as executive producers for "Pop Idol," demonstrating their aptitude for Saturday evening primetime programming, which would become their forte in the years to come.
Engie Benjy (CITV)
‘Engie Benjy’ was an animated children's television series featuring Engie Benjy, a blue mechanic, and his friends solving problems in their town. Ant and Dec provided voices for characters in the show. The show aired from 2002 to 2004. It was generally well-received for its educational content and engaging storytelling for young audiences.
I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here! (ITV)
What more can be said about Ant and Dec and their roles in ‘I’m A Celeb,’ which have become almost as synonymous with the location in the jungle itself? The show has been highly successful and continues to be a popular annual event, running since 2002, with Ant and Dec consistently hosting. The format has been adapted in various countries globally, making it one of the enduring reality TV franchises.
Alien Autopsy (Film)
Yeah, admittedly the pair appeared as themselves in the Christmas film ‘Love Actually,’ but who in the world of primetime UK television and film didn’t? Instead, how about the pair’s rare outing playing characters in the 2006 film ‘Alien Autopsy,’ a fictionalized and comedic account of the infamous "Alien Autopsy" footage that surfaced in the 1990s, purportedly showing the dissection of an extraterrestrial being from the Roswell UFO incident.
Dec played Ray Santilli and Ant portrayed Gary Shoefield, two small-time hustlers who claim to have discovered the lost footage, aiming for fame and fortune. The film cleverly blends fact and fiction, acknowledging the real controversy around the alien autopsy footage while adding a humorous twist to the events. Although "Alien Autopsy" received mixed reviews and had limited box office success, it remains a notable entry in Ant and Dec's entertainment careers.
Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway (ITV)
With its lively and entertaining format, the show has become a flagship program for the duo, showcasing their versatility and ability to engage audiences. ‘Saturday Night Takeaway’ typically runs in seasons, and its enduring success has solidified Ant and Dec's status as prominent figures in the British entertainment scene.
The show's impact extends beyond its television run, as it consistently draws viewers for its engaging content and serves as a testament to Ant and Dec's enduring popularity as the premiere presenters for light entertainment programming.
When is ‘I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here’ back on our TV screens?
‘I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here!” begins on Sunday November 19 2023 on ITV1 and ITVX.