PA­TRICK FREYNE

Like some crazed monarch, Ant and Dec could prob­a­bly cover up a live-on-air killing if they wished

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - FRONT PAGE -

“I’m blind!” screamed PJ on teen-soap Byker Grove in 1992 and a gen­er­a­tion was warned for­ever of the dan­gers of paint­balling with­out gog­gles.

Seem­ingly a huge is­sue at the time (half the world’s tweens were stum­bling about like in Day

of the Trif­fids), to this day, thanks to Byker Grove, I’ve never been blinded in a paint­balling ac­ci­dent (I’m usu­ally too busy try­ing heroin, which Zammo on

Grange Hill warned about. Sadly, I didn’t watch Grange Hill).

PJ and his chum Dun­can, aka Ant McPartlin and De­clan Donnelly, went on to have a pop hit, Let’s get Ready to Rum­ble, about their days as hard­core street brawlers. Then they left the mean streets en­tirely and evolved into dual-headed light-en­ter­tain­ment hy­dra Ant-and-Dec – a par­tially split amoeba, which sleeps coiled around it­self like the Yin and Yang sym­bol, suck­ling on the mar­row of Vic and Bob, and grip­ping the fu­ture of light en­ter­tain­ment in its ten­drils.

Ant-and-Dec are in com­plete con­trol of their medium and, by ex­ten­sion, Bri­tain, which they chuckle over despot­i­cally ev­ery Satur­day. They also ap­pear on two Ir­ish tele­vi­sion sta­tions si­mul­ta­ne­ously, bilo­cat­ing like St An­thony of Padua. UTV Ire­land runs the 2015 ver­sion of Ant-and-Dec’s Satur­day Night

Take­away, while TV3 has the 2013 se­ries which they cheek­ily air 20 min­utes ear­lier.

Ban­ter­ing guest

It takes Ant-and-Dec to take on Ant-and-Dec. And it’s hard to tell Olden Days 2013 Ant-and-Dec from mod­ern 2015 Ant-and-Dec, for they are age­less, their faces no doubt etched in the stone of Stone­henge. Both shows begin with a ban­ter­ing guest an­nouncer – Neil Pa­trick Har­ris in this week’s 2015 episode (Har­ris is to host the US ver­sion of this show, al­beit with just one body) and Terry Wo­gan in 2013 (he also started in broad­cast­ing as two sep­a­rate peo­ple, Terry and Wo­gan, be­fore they melded to­gether com­pletely in 1976).

Then there’s a show-trial. Ant-and-Dec alight on au­di­ence mem­bers and re­veal that they’ve been in their houses and know their pec­ca­dil­loes. In the UTV Ire­land ver­sion, there’s a public trial ad­ju­di­cated by ITV’s Judge Rin­der. On TV3, Olden Days Ant-and-Dec re­lo­cate a woman’s en­tire sit­ting room to the stu­dio, dis­patch a be­suited troll doll ( Deal or No

Deal’s David Dickinson) to ri­fle through her draw­ers and send her be­long­ings to the set of

Neigh­bours. They’re like a crazed monarch, re­ally.

Both Ant-and-Decs prank celebri­ties. In the newer episode they tor­ment Stephen Mul­h­ern, a light or­ange TV pre­sen­ter with just one head. They sab­o­tage his panto. He gets more and more up­set, even­tu­ally mur­der­ing a stage­hand out of frus­tra­tion. Ant-and-Dec re­veal them­selves, have a good laugh and con­vince ev­ery­one to keep sch­tum about the killing. I’m ex­ag­ger­at­ing. Yet I be­lieve Ant-and-Dec could cover up a live-on-air mur­der if they wished.

Wavy arms

What else can I say? They own a “su­per­com­puter” which in con­trast with, say, Google’s servers, has wavy arms that stick out at the sides. Both Ant-and-Decs do what any of us would with a ma­chine of such power – they send it to shop­ping cen­tres and force strangers to dance for it.

Ant-and-Dec have also cloned them­selves in the form of child-repli­cas Lit­tle Ant-and-Dec. And thus a 1,000-year reign is as­sured. In the newer show Lit­tle Ant-and-Dec romp de­light­fully in the park. On TV3 in the olden days, Lit­tle Ant-and-Dec in­ter­view a huge, self-sat­is­fied thumb in sun­glasses and a black T-shirt. This is Simon Cow­ell and

he peers at them hun­grily (his Bri­tain’s Got Tal­ent co-judge David Wal­liams in­ter­venes be­fore he feeds).

And they like mu­si­cal fi­nales. Con­tem­po­rary Ant-and-Dec per­form a bar­ber­shop med­ley of pop hits but Olden Days Ant-and-Dec’s make three en­slaved pop bands dance (Blue, Atomic Kit­ten and all four mem­bers of Five) and then nos­tal­gi­cally per­form Let’s Get

Ready to Rum­ble.

“Watch us wreck the mike!” they sing in joy­ful mimicry of youth­ful hu­man­ity. “Watch us wreck the mike! Psy­che!”

It’s great. It’s also a warn­ing from his­tory. What be­gins with PJ & Dun­can singing about the wil­ful de­struc­tion of au­dio equip­ment ends with show tri­als, celebrity hu­mil­i­a­tion, fickle games of fate, a tiny clone army, a judg­men­tal su­per­com­puter and boy­bands in chains.

In­deed, even Ant-and-Dec agree that things have gone too far. “Never again,” they say, as they come to their melodic con­clu­sion. “Never again.”

On TV3 in the olden days, Lit­tle Ant-and-Dec in­ter­view a huge, self-sat­is­fied thumb in sun­glasses and a black T-shirt. This is Simon Cow­ell and he peers at them hun­grily

Ant-and-Dec: a dual-headed light-en­ter­tain­ment hy­dra

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