Saturday Night Takeaways biggest controversies from blackface to voting scandal

Ant and Dec issue update on Saturday Night Takeaway

Ant McPartlin and Declan Donnelly confirmed they will be stepping back from their hit ITV series Saturday Night Takeaway.

The series has been on air since 2002 and took a short break between 2009 and 2013.

In a video, Ant told fans: “We love making Saturday Night Takeaway but reaching the milestone of 20 series seemed like the perfect time to pause for a little while and catch our breath.”

Dec added: “We still have a momentous 20th series to look forward to first so we will do our best to go out (for now) with a bang in 2024.”

Over the years, the show hasn’t been without its controversies and looks back on some of the biggest controversies to hit the popular Saturday night show.

Impersonating people of colour

There have been several occasions when Ant and Dec have been criticised for impersonating people of different races on the Saturday night show.

One saw the duo dress up in blackface – where makeup was used to make them look like a black person – as two fictional Jamaican women called Patty and Bernice during an undercover segment.

They also dressed up as Japanese schoolgirls, complete with accents, to prank the cast of Coronation Street.

In another prank, they used exaggerated accents to prank the cast members of Emmerdale, while another saw them target former royal butler and I’m A Celeb star Paul Burrell, by dressing up as Arabian men. This particular skit saw them don traditional Arabic clothing.

In 2020, the presenting duo commented on the sketches, and said they would not do those types of sketches again and had requested that ITV remove the offending scenes from the ITV catch-up service and YouTube channel.

They said: “During past episodes of Saturday Night Takeaway we impersonated people of colour in the Undercover segment of the show. We realise that this was wrong and want to say that we are sincerely sorry to everyone that we offended.”

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Phone vote scandal

Another scandal, this time that took place off-screen, was when Saturday Night Takeaway and Ant & Dec’s Gameshow Marathon were investigated for defrauding viewers who had phoned in to enter their competitions.

The investigation revealed Saturday Night Takeaway had selected who would appear as finalists before the voting had even officially closed and based who they chose on how suitable they would be for TV.

Following this, Ant and Dec issued a public apology and donated all of the profits from that particular series to charity.

They also refunded viewers who had phoned in. It was reported this cost around £18 million to do so.

Award show error

Ant and Dec are known for routinely winning awards but in 2005 it turned out the pair had been incorrectly named as the People’s Choice winners at the British Comedy Awards.

The Catherine Tate Show received the highest number of votes, which led TV regulator Ofcom to impose a fine of £80,000 on ITV and have the award sent to the actual winner, Catherine Tate.

It was said that Ant and Dec were “completely appalled” by the error.

Dec hosting alone following Ant’s drink drive charge

Fans may remember how tough a year Ant had back in 2018 when he was charged with drink-driving and checked himself into rehab.

Because of this, Ant stepped down from hosting Saturday Night Takeaway midway through the series.

This meant Dec had to host on his own for the first time in their TV careers – and even had to co-host I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here! with Holly Willoughby instead of Ant that year.

The pair reunited on screen the following year for Britain’s Got Talent.

While they take a break from Saturday Night Takeaway – after the 20th series airs in 2024 – Ant and Dec will continue to work on I’m A Celeb, Britain’s Got Talent and Limitless Win.

Saturday Night Takeaway will return in 2024 on ITV.

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