Declan Donnelly failed to mention Ant McPartlin’s arrest but he joked he has ‘twice the work to do’ now he is without his partner.
He opened the show with: ‘Thank you for that very warm welcome Paloma. I’ve got twice the amount of work to do so we’re going to crack on.’
Dec was armed with a script penned by the Saturday Night Takeaway bosses to address the absence of his co-star and long-time friend, as fans at home were teased with a photograph of the sealed envelope ahead of the live programme.
To ensure Ant’s absence was handled with the care it needed, ITV bosses penned a script for Dec to read during the exciting opening of the British show rather than letting the personality ‘wing it’ on live television.
Saturday Night Takeaway insiders told MailOnline the final touches was added to the speech by bosses in the script meetings earlier in the day.
Ant’s absence is a big deal as the British nation’s favourite double act have been storming the stage together for the long-running entertainment show since the debut episode aired back in June 2002.
Although Ant has bowed out from appearing on the live show on Saturday following his subsequent drink-driving charge, Dec will join forces with Stephen Mulhern, 27, and Scarlett Moffatt, 40, in their supporting roles on the television series.
Showing their support: Declan Donnelly’s Saturday Night Takeaway co-stars have expressed their excitement ahead of tonight’s show, which will see the TV presenter host the programme for the first time without co-host Ant McPartlin
Quirky singer Paloma Faith is expected to make a guest appearance during the hotly-anticipated episode of Saturday Night Takeaway.
While Dec is on stage, 42-year-old Ant has entered rehab for the second time in a year following his arrest and subsequent charge for drink-driving after he crashed his car on March 18.
The troubled presenter stepped down from his TV commitments following the incident, leaving Dec to present solo for the first time in their double-act career together on Saturday Night Takeaway.
Flying solo: Declan Donnelly took to Twitter on Friday to tell fans he was busy rehearsing the upcoming show in the ITV studios
Ant’s current stay in residential rehab will reportedly cost him £3.3million in lost earnings on hit shows including Britain’s Got Talent but Saturday Night Takeaway will continue to pay him despite his absence from the show.
As the funnyman takes time away from his television duties, the embattled TV personality will make an appearance in court on the drink-driving charge on April 4.
Dec, Ant’s best friend of 29 years, will be flying solo on their ITV television series for the last two episodes of the show including the series finale.
Posting a photo of the show’s script on Twitter ahead of tonight’s programme, The Saturday Night Takeaway team wrote: ‘Just a little photo to prove that we don’t just wing it, there is actually a script’
Ahead of the show on Saturday, a television insider told The Sun: ‘Explaining Ant’s absence has been the hardest part of planning. The bosses are torn in regards to how they can hit the right tone.
‘They want to be respectful to people involved in Ant’s car accident, while not bringing down the mood of the show.
‘Takeaway is all about having fun and they fear a sombre start may seriously effect the quality of the output.’
Working hard! The trailer followed reports both Scarlett and co-star Stephen will be given ‘expanded’ roles on Saturday Night Takeaway this weekend, as Dec prepares to host solo for the first time
Earlier on Saturday, award-winning presenter Dec teased his legion of loyal fans from the official Ant & Dec Twitter social media page ahead of his solo presenting stint on Saturday Night Takeaway.
On Friday, Dec wrote on the social media site: ‘Back in studio today preparing your #SaturdayNightTakeaway for tomorrow night. Have a great Good Friday! D x.’ (sic)
Dec will then make his solo journey to Florida to wrap up the long-running series in the explosive grand finale, with impressive pictures already capturing the site under construction ahead of his touchdown in the sunny spot.
An eye-catching blue, red and gold archway has been set up at the site, among camera equipment, ahead of the show’s grande finale at the Universal Resort in Orlando, Florida outside of the iconic Hard Rock café.
Eye-opening: Impressive pictures reveal the stage under construction at the Universal Resort in Orlando, Florida outside of the iconic Hard Rock café