As Ant McPartlin and Declan Donnelly prepare for their first new TV launch in a decade, Limitless Win, we take a look at the controversy surrounding their last stab at the game show glory
For national treasures Ant McPartlin and Declan Donnelly everything they touch usually turns to TV gold.
From launching their careers on Byker Grove to changing the face of children’s television on SM:TV Live to hosting pioneering reality shows Pop Idol and later I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here! the Geordie lads have the Midas touch when it comes to TV hits.
As they prepare to launch their brand new show Limitless Win this weekend, the pair will be hoping for another runaway success.
But despite having a string of hits under their belts, there is one show in their back catalogue that Ant and Dec would probably rather forget.
In 2011 the pair debuted their brand new game show to much fanfare, with the show set to give out the largest cash prize ever handed out on the UK small screen in a show masterminded by their old boss Simon Cowell.
Despite the huge hype, Ant and Dec later revealed they knew Red or Black would be a flop on the very first night.
“We got it wrong and we hold our hands up to that. We knew after the first night,” Dec, 46, would later admit.
As the double act prepare to try their hand at quiz shows once again, we take a look at where things went very one the last time…
Red or Black proved controversial from the start.
The show was accused of glamourising gambling with the Gambling Commission speaking out to slam the poker-game style format.
The Wonga sponsorship deal didn’t help the concern with critics pointing out the irony of using a loan company to plug a show that offered a huge prize pot based purely on luck.
Things didn’t get much better when the show went to air.
Viewers were baffled by the format which saw contestants compete in numerous challenges only for their fate to be decided in the final minutes when they gambled their prize on ‘red or black.’
Ant, 46, revealed that the tension got so bad in the studio that he almost fainted in the studio during filming, though he joked this may have been down to a late night pub session the night before.
In a rarity for the Geordie duo, ratings hit the floor with viewers accusing the show of being ‘baffling’ and worse ‘boring’.
Then there were calls for one of the show’s winners Nigel Hagerman to hand back his winnings after a past assault conviction resurfaced.
David Venni photography Ltd)
Instagram/Ant & Dec)
Addressing the backlash, Ant told The Sun: “We kind of figured it was a Saturday night show. We all got that wrong and hold our hands up to that.
“When we had a winner on the first night, we all got back to our dressing room and said, ‘We shouldn’t be doing this again tomorrow, it should be weekly.’
“And we had some unfortunate situations with some of the contestants, which overshadowed the show, probably disproportionately.”
Despite the controversy, the show was brought back a year later with some notable changes.
The prize pot was increased to a huge £3.5million but episodes would be broadcast only once a week in the prime time Saturday night slot rather than on consecutive days.
The number of contestants was whittled down to eight a show and the show was broadcast on Saturday nights only.
But despite the tweaks, viewing figures plunged from 7million to 3.9million in just a week.
The show ended after its commissioned run and never returned.
Ant and Dec gave the game show format a swerve for almost a decade, until it was announced last year they were launching new series Limitless Win.
The five-parter sees contestants answer increasingly challenging questions, and ascend a money ladder that never ends with each right answer.
As they progress up the ladder, those taking part will have to decide to keep going or risk losing it all.
Before the launch Ant and Dec admitted they’d endured sleepless nights wondering if the contestants might end up with an obscene amount of cash on the never-ending ladder.
“When you turn the light off at night there’s that little thing that goes off in your head that goes, ‘What if someone just keeps winning – what are you going to do?’ I don’t know what would happen,” mused Dec.
“We’d have to cancel Tipping Point and The Chase. Take all their prize money, put it in a pot,” he laughed.
“Speak to Andi Peters, get some money off him…” suggested Ant.
Ant and Dec’s Limitless Win launches on ITV Saturday night at 8.30pm