Why Ant’s big meltdown re­ally hurt Dec: he never asked for help

Scottish Daily Mail - - Television - CHRISTOPHE­R STEVENS

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 . . .

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