Greg Dixon is deputy editor of Canvas.

Greg Dixon: I just wanted to Dec them

Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway variety-style show is a throwback to another era. Photo / Supplied
Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway variety-style show is a throwback to another era. Photo / Supplied

Is it wrong to hope that someone will die horribly on live television?

If it is, then I committed one hell of a sin last Saturday because I wanted not one but two people to die horribly on live television.

It had only been 45 minutes or so since I'd been introduced to two youngish Pommy fellows in sharp suits and stupid hair who call themselves "Ant and Dec" and who star in a show with possibly the longest title in television history: Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway (7.30pm, TV2). But within much less time than that I knew that I wanted them both to die, preferably horribly and on live TV while I watched.

There seemed a fighting chance this might happen 45 minutes in. Their variety show - it's actually more like playtime at a kindergarten for adults with a mental age of 4 - featured a segment called "Ant versus Dec", a sort of weekly challenge that last Saturday required them to don helmets and safety harnesses and slide out on poles to retrieve flags. The first to retrieve a flag, then slide back, and then run their flag up another pole was the winner.

My interest was piqued and my hopes raised by the news that this pathetic game was to happen 23 storeys up.

In the end no one died. Well, that's not strictly true; I am pretty sure a little bit of me expired as this tedious game, complete with commentary and aftermatch, comments dragged on and on.

But as DecAnt slide out on their poles 23 storeys up, resolutely refusing to fall to horrible deaths on live television, I couldn't help wondering why it was that TV2 had put this show in the 7.30 slot on a Saturday night.

I mean have you heard of CedTan? I take a passing interest in television, but I had no idea who they were. In mild desperation I turned to our old friend Google, which informed me they were, among other things, child stars, hosts of I'm a Celebrity ... Get Me Out of Here and that the TanDec's Saturday Night Takeaway isn't new at all: it went for nine series between 2002 and 2009. Who knew? Well, obviously rather a lot of Poms, but not me.

Google also suggested that in Britain people think they're amazing. Indeed the Telegraph newspaper, in an astonishing piece of bum-licking about how fantastic they are, made the case last week that they are the new Morecambe and Wise.

Now on account of my great age, I happen to remember Morecambe and Wise rather well - and I remember them and their show, a Saturday night sort of show, rather fondly. Morecambe and Wise were a magical mix of music hall, of song and dance, puns, one-liners, catchphrases and extremely silly sketches. And they made absolute sense in the mid-to-late 1970s when I was 11, lived in Invercargill, wore flares and had yet to develop an interest in girls.

Roughly 40 years after this heyday of British light entertainment involving song and dance, puns, one-liners etc etc, the sight of TanCed splashing about in a pool wearing yellow raincoats and Nor'westers while singing Singing in the Rain with Robbie Williams and the cast of a West End show called Singing in the Rain, felt more than a little - pun alert! - wet in 2013.

There were certainly concessions to the modern world in one or two of the games: "Right Up Your Tweet", for example, celebrates how Twitter is changing the world one banal hashtag at a time, and the "Win the Ads" section, where an audience member had a chance to win prizes by answering real posers such as "who designed this year's Brit Award statues?" was actually a sort of cunningly disguised 21st century advertising segment, mostly for a British supermarket chain called Morrisons. And then there was the "I'm a Celebrity ... Get Out of My Ear" bit involving another unknown celebrity being ordered to say and do stupid things in front of visitors to his home.

These few concessions to the post-1975 world aside however, this is a show that's so old fashioned I suspect AndTed are paid in pieces of eight or maybe sestertii.

But apparently passe is no longer passe, at least not in Britain where DeadAnt's show was watched by more than six million people every week, and the biggest comedy hit is another 1970s throwback, Mrs Brown's Boys. If the past is a foreign country then the present is full of its unwanted emigrants.

- TimeOut

- NZ Herald

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Greg Dixon is deputy editor of Canvas.

Canvas deputy editor Greg Dixon has spent more than 20 years working as a journalist for the New Zealand Herald and North & South and Metro magazines. He has been deputy editor of Canvas since 2008 and has won awards for his writing and editing, but would have preferred a pay rise.

Read more by Greg Dixon

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