The show must go on: Why Dec can handle Britain’s Got Talent by himself

It’s a bold decision to take Dec further into the spotlight without his presenting partner Ant - but it’s undoubtedly the right one, says Frances Taylor

Declan Donnelly, Getty, SL

As recently as a month ago, the idea of Dec without Ant would have been utterly unthinkable.

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The universally-loved duo came firmly as a pair – and had done so for 30 years. But after Ant McPartlin’s arrest and subsequent charge for drink-driving on 18th March, a spanner was thrown in the works of their partnership.

It forced ITV to pull an episode of Saturday Night Takeaway and meant that Dec had step up and host the final two shows in the run by himself so as not to let down the fans (and the big-money sponsors) who were looking forward to the finale in Orlando.

At the time, I wrote that: “Dec hosting the final two episodes of Saturday Night Takeaway felt like a necessary sticking plaster” but that the prospect of Dec potentially hosting BGT by himself in two months’ time was a “different proposition. It would be a conscious, planned and thought-out decision that moves the pair further from what they wrote in their (joint) autobiography in 2010. ‘We made an agreement,’ said Ant at the time. ‘Whatever happens, we’ll be mates forever, and neither one of us would ever be on our own out there.’”

And now it’s been confirmed that one of them is most definitely going on his own – at least for now – and stepping further away from his right-hand man. ITV have confirmed that Dec will be the sole host of Britain’s Got Talent’s live semi-finals and live grand final at the end of May. This means that Dec will be taking on six near-continuous nights of live television by himself.

So far Dec has remained silent about the news on Twitter, but when it was announced he was going solo for Takeaway he hinted at how difficult the decision to go it alone had been: “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.”

No doubt ITV and Dec will have thought long and hard about what to do when it comes to the live BGT shows. But the problem is, unlike Takeaway which feasibly could have been dropped for a couple more weeks, there’s too much that’s gone into BGT up to this point; the nationwide auditions are filmed, the spot at the Royal Variety Performance for the winner awaits, the huge ratings (and money) the show brings ITV are already budgeted for. BGT has to go ahead no matter what. This show must, literally, go on.

David Williams, Ant McPartlin, Alesha Dixon, Stephen Mulhern, Declan Donnelly, Amanda Holden and Simon Cowell in Britain's Got Talent 2018(Syco / Thames, JG)
David Williams, Ant McPartlin, Alesha Dixon, Stephen Mulhern, Declan Donnelly, Amanda Holden and Simon Cowell in Britain’s Got Talent 2018
(Syco / Thames)

There were limited options for what to do with BGT’s live shows. If it wasn’t getting Dec to host by himself, enlisting a new co-host to present with him or taking him off the show completely and bringing in completely new hosts (Holly and Phil, anyone?) could have been alternatives.

Those latter options would’ve been a clear signal that ITV didn’t think Dec could cope on his own and that he didn’t perform well enough on Takeaway – which couldn’t be further from the truth. He more than proved himself (he might’ve got off to a slightly wobbly start on week one on Takeaway, but by week two he was positively shining) and with that in mind, having Dec take the reins of BGT by himself is the best of a bad situation.

In fact, the hardest bit for him is out of the way. Walking out onto that shiny floor on Takeaway without Ant for the very first time, Dec looked like he had the weight of the world on his shoulders. He was nervous, seemed quite emotional and had to catch his breath. He had no idea what the audience reaction would be, or probably how he would cope or feel about the whole scenario.

However, after proving to fans and to himself (and to the big bosses at the channel) that he’s more than capable of taking on a logistically complicated, varied, unpredictable and comedy-heavy show like Takeaway, BGT will surely be a walk in the park. Because by comparison, the live Britain’s Got Talent shows are far more strait-laced and formulaic than Takeaway. They will mainly involve introducing an act, asking what the judges thought, reading out phone numbers and smiling. A lot.

Somehow, we think Dec can handle that just fine.

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Britain’s Got Talent airs Saturdays on ITV