They have always vowed to return as a double act, but now it seems that Ant and Dec may be going their separate ways.
I can reveal that early promotional material for Britain’s Got Talent – the show Ant was aiming at for his TV comeback – appears to confirm that he will not be co-hosting when it returns for its 13th series next year.
And, in what is even more of a tell-tale sign that the partnership may well be over, Dec has rebranded himself using his full name, Declan.
Declan Donnelly (pictured) had to present Ant & Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway alone earlier this year, following Ant McPartlin’s drink driving arrest
Ant, 42, has had well-documented troubles with alcohol and prescription pills, as well as a messy divorce which played out in public. He was said by BGT host Simon Cowell to be preparing for a triumphant return to the TV business with Dec, 43, next year.
But an official advertisement aimed at enticing potential contestants to attend auditions for the TV talent contest asks them to join Cowell, fellow judges Alesha Dixon, David Walliams and Amanda Holden, ‘and Declan’ – a sure sign that Ant won’t be ready to go back to work.
The first audition for the show is due to take place in January.
Fans of the pair – full names Anthony McPartlin and Declan Donnelly – will know that ever since they launched their showbusiness careers after finding fame on the BBC’s teenage soap Byker Grove 30 years ago, they’ve used the shortened versions of their names.
Ant McPartlin, 42, was arrested after crashing his car on Lower Richmond Road in London. It was found he had been under the influence of alcohol
Ant McPartlin appears at Wimbledon Magistrates Court on April 16 charged with drink-driving following his much-publicised crash
The pair have won TV awards for ‘Best Presenter’ several times for their various shows over the past 18 years.
Now it looks like Dec, who has continued to enjoy enormous success as a solo presenter since Ant’s troubles, winning rave reviews on both Saturday Night Takeaway and BGT this year, will continue his career as a one-man band.
McPartlin was convicted of drink driving, fined £86,000 and given a 20-month driving ban in April after being involved in a collision with two other cars in Richmond, West London, on a Sunday afternoon.
In a statement issued after the ban, he said: ‘My recovery is going very well and, for that to continue, having spoken to Dec and ITV, I have made the decision to take the rest of the year off.’
Ant and Dec (pictured left to right) began this year’s Saturday Night Takeaway presenting together. But after Mr McPartlin’s drink driving arrest, Dec presented alone
McPartlin first checked himself into rehab last summer, citing an addiction to prescription drugs.
He then cancelled all work commitments, including I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here! which starts tonight with his friend Holly Willoughby taking his place alongside Dec.
Ant and Dec also cancelled the 2019 series of their Saturday Night Takeaway show, which was due to be broadcast in February.
There was talk of bringing back the show in 2020.
Earlier this month, before Dec jetted out to Australia for I’m A Celebrity, he and Ant were reunited at the offices of their agent James Grant looking somewhat strained.
All eyes on Rochelle after Phil ‘rejected’ Amanda
I hear Holly Willoughby’s temporary departure from ITV’s This Morning has caused chaos behind the scenes.
Her sidekick Phillip Schofield, refused to have producers’ favourite Amanda Holden as Holly’s stand in, fearing she might be ‘overbearing’. But his choice, Christine Lampard, turned down the show as she is on maternity leave.
Rochelle Humes (pictured), a former singer with The Saturdays, is standing in for Holly Willoughby on This Morning
After much deliberation, they opted for Rochelle Humes, right, former singer with girlband The Saturdays. However, now some in the ITV camp aren’t happy with her, describing her daily performances as ‘lacklustre’.
I’m told: ‘All the happy, smiley faces on screen are to be taken with a pinch of salt. Holly is being hugely missed and the view is that Amanda would have been a total star – but Phil didn’t want her.’