Why Ant’s big meltdown really hurt Dec: he never asked for help
At the outbreak of World War II, Britain’s few thousand tV viewers were watching a Mickey Mouse cartoon. As the show ended, screens displayed a test signal and then went blank — until 1946.
When the BBC resumed broadcasts, presenter Jasmine Bligh announced: ‘Good afternoon, everybody . . . Well, here we are after a lapse of nearly seven years, ready to start again.’
Declan Donnelly had his own Jasmine Bligh moment in the middle of Ant & Dec’s DNA Journey (ItV). the Geordie duo, arguably Britain’s best-loved and most successful double act since Morecambe and Wise, had been exploring their family histories with the aid of genetic scientists.
Using DNA tests to find relatives they’d never met, Dec and his best mate Ant McPartlin discovered one of them had a texan billionaire cousin called Dixie and the other was related to half the inhabitants of a rural Irish village.
they were about to set off for more family revelations in New York in May 2018 when Ant was involved in a drunken car crash and took an extended break from showbiz, leaving his pal of 30 years suddenly contemplating a solo career.
half the fascination of this programme was in the portents of the disaster. Watching the pair of them chattering in the back of a taxi, on their way to meet an historian in a museum, I spent less time listening to their banter and more looking for signs.
Dec seemed wary and attentive, as if he was waiting to step in and cover a gaffe when his partner muffed a line — but he always was the tense, nervous one. Ant looked sweaty and hyper, fidgeting madly, saying whatever came into his head — just as he always did.
the two never made any secret of their fondness for a pint, so it was hardly a surprise when Ant announced he was buying a drink for everyone in that thirsty Irish backwater . . . and found himself €600 out of pocket.
It was when they talked fervently of their long friendship that the cracks appeared most obvious. Ant reckoned he would have become a star even if he had never met Dec.
his little chum gave thanks earnestly that they were such close buddies, and said their meeting was ‘written in the stars’.
Perhaps he already knew that they were spiralling apart. he just didn’t dare face it.
Later, Dec talked with quiet anger about the meltdown. ‘he didn’t ever come to me and say: “I need your help.” that hurt me a lot.’
Ant spouted cliches from therapy about the ‘impact’ of his actions on other people, and how ‘every day’s a bonus’. tonight, they’ll uncover more family links in America, but these are unlikely to be much different from any other genealogy show.
the real interest lies in a rare opportunity to study the workings of a showbiz friendship.
Despite the vividly realistic battle scenes, World On Fire (BBC1) has been all about the friendships and romances of its characters.
Writer Peter Bowker imposed 21st-century emotions on the cast: all the men were tearful, and the women hid their feelings under layers of ice.
It was baffling that new mother Lois (Julia Brown) hesitated to accept Squadron Leader hunter (Arthur Darvill) when he begged her to marry him. What girl would turn down a Spitfire pilot during the Battle of Britain?
But the series ended confidently with several cliffhangers. Will the resistance fighters escape? Will the gay doctor foil the Gestapo? We’ll find out in 1941 . . .