Host Declan Donnelly left viewers in tears of laughter on tonight’s Saturday Night Takeaway, the first time he’s presented the show alone, following Ant McPartlin’s withdrawal due to personal issues.
The show opened with Dec addressing the ‘elephant in the room’, a monologue to his friend and colleague of 20 years who is receiving treatment in rehab.
However, it wasn’t as anybody expected as he opened with a joke and an exchange with Stephen Merchant that left everybody in tears.
Dec kept a brave face opening the show alone after Ant’s public breakdown following his divorce with Lisa Armstrong in January, a result of self-confessed drink and drug dependency. In March McPartlin had a car crash which he was arrested and charged with drink-driving.
He said, after Paloma Faith started with her new song:
Thank you for that very warm welcome. Welcome to your Saturday Night Takeaway.
Thank you for the warm welcome but we must get on.
I have twice the amount of work to do.
— Dani (@ohitsdani_) March 31, 2018
Public support for the presenters has been overwhelming on social media. Ant and Dec have been a TV staple since their debut on the CBBC show Byker Grove in the 1990s. They are considered the most loved TV duo since Morecambe and Wise.
Fans were quick to take to Twitter to support Dec:
I have so much love and respect for Dec ☺️ I can’t imagine how difficult this must be for him but he’s doing SO well ❤️✨#SaturdayNightTakeaway
— Zabrina (@zabrina89x) March 31, 2018
dec is smashing it and i'm so proud it can't be easy doing such a big show without you're bestfriend #SaturdayNightTakeaway
— katie JB5 ♡ (@katielbuchan) March 31, 2018
Good on Dec for doing the show alone today! @antanddec A true professional
— Ryan Ledwith (@ledders14) March 31, 2018
— ??Charlie✨ (@charliehamster2) March 31, 2018
Well done Dec so proud to see you smash it tonight, you have done urself proud and Ant will be proud of you too. Wish you both well x
— aimee hughes (@aimeehu87214493) March 31, 2018
— Sharon (@see75) March 31, 2018
On Good Friday, Dec informed fans he was back in the studio preparing some Easter weekend telly treats:
Back in studio today preparing your #SaturdayNightTakeaway for tomorrow night. Have a great Good Friday! D x
— antanddec (@antanddec) March 30, 2018
In a statement, Dec spoke about the difficult decision to present without his best mate at his side:
Whilst I never thought I’d be in this position, after much discussion and careful consideration we’ve decided that the remaining two shows of this series of Saturday Night Takeaway will go ahead.
We made a promise to take hundreds of deserving winners to Florida to watch the series finale, and we will honour that. Everyone at ITV and the Takeaway team feels we owe it to the audience to complete the series.
Ant will appear before magistrates on Wednesday April 4 on charges of drink-driving.
After failing a roadside breathalyser test, police officers took him away for questioning. A witness told The Sun how the 42-year-old presenter appeared to be ‘agitated and argumentative.’
Ant’s mum Christine Woodhall had been in the car with him at the time of the crash, which took place at a roundabout in Mortlake, south-west London.
A source told the Mirror how Ant had a tearful heart-to-heart with Christine after being questioned by officers.
According to the source, Ant admitted to being ‘burnt out:’
Ant spoke to his mum soon after. He was in a complete state. It was a very emotional conversation.
An emotional Ant reportedly told Christine, ‘I’ve really messed up this time.’
If you want to discuss any issues relating to alcohol in confidence contact Drinkline on 0300 123 1110 for advice and support.
Tim Horner is a sub-editor at UNILAD. He graduated with a BA Journalism from University College Falmouth before most his colleagues were born. A previous editor of adult mags, he now enjoys bringing the tone down in the viral news sector.