The Story of SM:TV Live review: Ant, Dec and Cat deliver nostalgic thrills in sweet and honest documentary

A look back on a classic show is just what 2020 needed, says Helen Daly.

SM:TV Live
5.0 out of 5 star rating

At precisely 9:25am every single Saturday morning throughout my entire childhood, my sister and I would perch ourselves in front of the telly, and we wouldn’t move for three hours. Why? SM:TV Live was on.

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As little cartoon versions of Ant McPartlin, Declan Donnelly and Cat Deeley bounced around a kitchen, excitement filled my tummy as I eagerly awaited the next instalment of Challenge Ant, Dec Says, Chums, and of course, Wonky Donkey. And they were just the sketches you knew you could expect. On top of those stalwarts, you’d get thrilling surprises in the form of the PokéRap and Fart Attack.

This wasn’t your average children’s TV show. Unlike others, it spoke to all ages equally, catching some parents out with unexpected gags. Never once did the hosts talk down to the audience – rather, they talked with us. They would make fun of themselves as much as they would make fun as the big celebrities they had as guests – and far from scaring off the big names, this approach saw A-listers lining up. You weren’t a credible pop star if you didn’t appear on Chums, which even managed to get the likes of Mariah Carey, Britney Spears and Victoria Beckham to guest. Imagine!

The Story of SM:TV Live takes us back to that famous colourful sofa 20 years on, and the only difference is that it looks a lot less comfortable than it used to. Ant, Dec and Cat peer over the props that brought me and so many others so much joy and reflect on the show that, let’s be honest, made them.

They tell the touch-and-go origins of the beloved show, which Ant and Dec turned down not once, but twice. SM:TV Live wasn’t successful at first, with the Geordie duo more interested in setting up a successful music show with CD:UK, but once they tuned into their audience, their audience tuned into them.

There really was something for everyone on SM:TV Live and it’s nice to see some of those highlights in 2020. I – a die-hard Pokémon fan – would get my slice of Ash’s adventures every week while my pop music lover of a sister devoured all the guest appearances from Westlife over the years. Notably, Brian McFadden’s infamous stint on Ash (Dec) and Gary’s (Ant) PokéFight tends to stick out in the memory as a highlight for both of us. And, according to The Story of SM:TV Live, it’s a personal favourite of Brian’s too.

It’s nice after a tough year to see Ant, Dec and Cat back on screens. Sure, it would have been a dream to see a special episode where the gang run through some classic sketches, but realistically, would it have worked?

I am very much of the generation who remembers the agony of the clock ticking down to the next instalment of SM:TV. I soon realised it didn’t matter how early I went to bed on a Friday night, Ant, Dec and Cat wouldn’t come any sooner the next day. I learned to be patient.

Today’s generation have everything in the palm of their hand – quite literally. With entertainment at their fingertips through phones and tablets, who needs to watch the clock? Not them, they’ll just load up Netflix and they’re on their way. And worst of all: it’s really not their fault, they don’t know any better.

The Story of SM:TV Live offers a sweet alternative to a full-blown new episode, looking back fondly over some very strong memories and reflecting on how the trio became the unlikely saviours of children’s TV. Ant, Dec and Cat still have the same charisma as a trio as they did in the early 2000s, laughing and giggling throughout while reminiscing on their best bits.

While it isn’t the true reunion some fans had hoped for, it’s without a doubt the next best thing. It’s been a tough year, but The Story of SM:TV Live brought up some pretty hilarious memories, while also revealing some honest truths about the inception of the series; it wasn’t as smooth-sailing as the trio made it look, which almost seems to enhance what a success the show went on to be.

Putting this reunion on at 9:25am on a Saturday – the show’s old slot – is a nice touch, so don’t be a Jigglypuff – in the true spirit of SM:TV, grab your bowl of Rice Krispies, park yiurself in front of the telly and get ready for a treat as we’ll never quite see TV like this ever again.

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If you’re looking for more to watch, check out our TV Guide or our guide to the best Christmas TV