I, a regular 'umble member of the public who what never done nuffin' wrong in 'is life and loves his mother, Mrs Peter Kay's Brown's Boys and fightin' in pubs, was delighted to read earlier this week that you had been approached to do a 20th anniversary edition of SM:TV Live, the much-loved Saturday morning kids show strand that ran under your stewardship from 1998 to 2001, along with Cat Deeley.
I think this would be a magnificent idea to do a big celebration of all things SM:TV and return to some of the old characters and running bits BUT there should be some ground rules in advance. I mean, every git covering this story for the entertainment sections has had a field day listing old stuff that should return, which I'm sure has nothing to do with the Wikipedia article for the show being surprisingly lengthy. But first my credentials for why you should listen to me:
1). I Have Big Muscles
2). I Have Trained To 'Pro' Level
3). I have been watching you on television since we were all pre-teens. Admittedly Byker Grove and its cheeky but 'VR SERIOUS MSG' scripts were never much my bag but the spin-off variety show you launched at 4:30pm on Thursday 6th April 1995 was. "The Ant and Dec Show" was funny, irreverent and a little bit actually dangerous, even if that was just playing up to the masses of frothing teenage girls in the audience. I was a 14 year old lad with no such desire to kiss you on the bottoms but I couldn't help be won over by the easy charm and comic partnership that is now pretty much the actual spine of England as we speak.
(SIDENOTE 1: If anyone remembers anything about "The Ant and Dec Show" (other than noted non-homosexualist David Walliams being one of its main writers) these days however it would be series 2's big innovation "Beat The Barber" in which a child put their hair up as collateral in order to try win top prizes, presumably assuming that if they lost, they wouldn't ACTUALLY have a professional hairdresser shave off all their manes. But as many angry red-penned writers to Points of View learnt, they did. And took huge delight in it too.)
After that, I followed you to Channel 4 where you continued your attempts to be an actually successful version of Lee and Herring for 1997's "Unzipped", which being broadcast at a staggeringly late 6:25pm meant an increase in the naughtiness and winks to the camera, plus slightly more interesting guests like Eddie Izzard, Neil Hannon, Jo Brand and um...Lee and Herring...
(SIDENOTE 2: Stew and Rich were actually paying back the favour after the Geordie twosome appeared in an episode of their "Fist Of Fun" back in 1995 around the same time as series one of "The Ant and Dec Show".)
Sadly only running to one series (and the odd one-off, out of character but on a boat TFI-lite "Geordie Christmas" featuring blog-favourites Kenickie as house band), I'm not sure it whether it was bad ratings, boredom from wither party or the desire only to show "Friends" repeats and "Hollyoaks" in that slot for the next 400 years but the move of McPartlin and Donnelly to Saturday mornings in August 1998 definitely felt like a bit of a demotion at the time. Indeed those first few shows, which I tuned in out of curiosity for, were a bit dull and well, I may have accidentally stopped bothering watching after a few weeks in favour of popular teenage past-time Not Being Awake Before Afternoon.
It seemed somewhat inevitable the axe would fall like most other ITV Saturday shows, especially as Zoe Ball and Jamie Theakston had proved to be a magnificent pairing on Live And Kicking over the channel. I still checked in though when L&K was showing a rubbish cartoon or doing something about ISSUES and SM:TV was definitely getting slicker and looser. Gone were the original million "stages" and that grating theme tune with lots more sketches and fannying about. By this point there was "Chums", the thin Friends pastiche that allowed the show to basically become a Morecambe and Wise flat sketch for fifteen minutes a week and would eventually spawn a sell-through best of video and repeats on CITV long after SM:TV had left the building.
We all know what happened next: fame, money, prime time...Alien Autopsy. Truly, these were the greatest days oh masters of cheeky banter and Geordie noises mentioned in order to keep up the pretence of this being a letter. And I was watching it all, although admittedly not that much in the past decade or so, but - I ASK YOU - did anybody else tape the full run of forgotten "Takeaway" precursor "Slap Bang" onto one 240 VHS in fast play? EH? SO YOU CAN BLOODY WELL KISS ME AND LIKE IT. I mean, erm, listen to my points for how the "SM:TV" revival should happen...
1. Yes it'd be nice to see it in its original slot but realistically no commissioners are going to want to put it there, especially reminding people of all the kids shows ITV cant be bothered showing anymore. So do it at night but between a similar sort of running time e.g. 7:25pm to 9:30pm.
2. Remember the roles. Dec is the angry, over-confident idiot whilst Ant is the long suffering friend. And Cat is smarter than both of them.
3. Please don't involve Cowell whatsoever. He may have his grubby fingers over the acts in the pop sections but this was pre-Pop Idol and any need to nods to the Satan of Saturday night should be stepped upon heavily.
4. In fact, no celebrities full stop unless they're prepared to dress up like idiots, do the postbag dance and get into the actual spirit of things.
5. Please remember that the low key nature was why people liked it. So just crew members and some baffled schoolchildren chuckling is instantly preferable rather than industry wankers at the front of the 02.
6. My personal favourites of the old bits were "Dec Says" (the flashbacks to the team's fake school years with Cat The Dog and a exceptionally high voiced pervy teen Declan), the Pokeraps (just edges the Pokefights and not for the raps themselves but the increasingly contrived reasons for the feature being cancelled. Oh and the Pikachu jumpers, obvs), "Challenge Ant" (well, you have to. Preferably a win with a real child please), "F'Art Attack" (because farts are funny) and Wonkey Donkey (because nothing is funnier than grown men shouting "ITS GOT TO RHYME" at bewildered children.)
7. We don’t need the cartoons. But if its that or unrelated celebrities telling us why it was BEST GRATE SHOW, badly dubbed Pokemon - I choose you!
8. Make sure Cat Deeley has plenty to do. Her story has moved away from the UK so its easy to forget how good she is and really funny she became as the shows progressed, getting better with the years and filling in with Louise Redknapp and Tess Daly very respectably. It was only after she left it went to shite.
9. We don’t really need an hour of CD:UK after though. It was the death of The Chart Show and inevitably pleased no-one. Unless you can find this bloke again...
10. Have fun!
But seriously, don’t jeff it up. You know what happened to those blokes who replaced Trev and Simon on Going Live that one series? Exactly.
Ben Baker (Ms.)
(SIDENOTE 3: Alien Autopsy is rubbish.)