SMTV Live (an abbreviation of Saturday Morning Television Live also written SM:TV Live and in early promotional material SMTV://live) was a British Saturday morning children's television programme, first broadcast on ITV on 29 August 1998 and last broadcast on 27 December 2003.
On the surface, the programme did not seem to stray away from the format of other Saturday morning output, featuring an audience of children, competitions and cartoons, though it constantly won in ratings battles with the BBC's Live & Kicking and became ITV's most successful children's programme since Tiswas. At the height of its popularity, the show regularly attracted 2.5 million viewers.
SMTV Live featured many sketches, many of which parodying popular TV shows of the time, some of which became staple to SMTV itself.
Ant and Duck
A short-lived sketch with "Farmer Ant" presenting a pseudo-preschool show teaching children about the countryside and Dec as the aggressively misanthropic Duck. The sketch would feature a song where Dec would twist the lyrics to lambast the countryside and eventually, be forced by Ant into line with singing threats of calling the Chinese takeaway. Much of the humour came from Dec's attempts to twist the lessons about the countryside; for example, when Ant was talking about (in examples of people living in the country) the aristocrat who owned an estate, Dec replied Big Tony runs the estate! (meaning a council estate).
Duck was done by having Dec sitting on a stool in a duck costume, with fake duck legs on a haystack so it would look like Duck was short and sitting on the haystack.
The Further Adventures of Cat the Dog
Cat the Dog first appeared in the Dec Says/The Secret of My Success run of sketches (see below) before starring in her own series of skits upon Ant and Dec's departure. Each episode would begin & end with Cat writing in her diary. Joined by her bestest ever ever friend pop star Louise Redknapp, Cat the Dog was dressed as a goofy brummy teenager with huge false teeth & big wild hair and spoke with a Birmingham accent (it's ever so different from Bir-ming-ham!).
An recurring joke involved Cat mentioning that she had measured herself again and nothing was growing (implying that she was measuring her breasts). Towards the end of the series, she said that they were growing and she would soon be able to fit into a larger shoe size.
A parody of the American sitcom Friends. Many recurring themes and plot lines appeared in Chums, such as the romance between Dec and Cat and their attempts at kissing being continuously interrupted. Ant and Dec's final episode saw Dec pulling out of marrying Cat, but leaving her with an uninterrupted kiss before leaving with Ant to travel the world. The series ended shortly afterwards with a final farewell episode airing during the final show, seeing the trio returning to a deserted flat.
Episodes nearly always ended with the "freeze-frame", where everyone would freeze exactly where they were (a homage to the closing sequences of Police Squad). The celebrity guests present always took part in Chums, usually appearing as new flatmates or visitors. Amongst the best remembered episodes were their parodies of Big Brother (Big Idiot and Big Bother) and Band Aid (Ant Aid).
Episodes usually opened with either a joke based on the line ... is filmed in front of a live studio audience such as Chums is filmed in front of a bribed/jive/hive studio audience or a spoof sponsor plug. Chums later spawned a VHS compilation and weekday repeats as part of CITV.
A parody of Heartbeat, featuring very little plot and mostly revolving around breaking wind.
A parody of Star Trek, and of science fiction as a whole, featuirng Dec as a Captain Kirk-type captain of a spaceship, Cat as an Uhura-esque communications officer (in a silvery wig), and Ant as a bizarre character that, upon pressing his badge, could transform from 'Interior Designer Mode' to 'Warrior Mode' and back (the only difference being in 'Warrior Mode', he wore a Geordi La Forge-type visor, though on many occasions he would actually forget to put the visor on when in Warrior Mode, and had to be reminded by someone else to do so).
An infamous gag repeated every week involved one of the characters (usually a female celebrity guest on the show) claiming to draw "a pair of orbits around twin planets" (or something similar) upon a transparent gridscreen, although it was obvious they were drawing breasts aligned to their body. Brian Dowling and Tess Daly later took part in a revised series of sketches entitled SMTV 2099: The Next Generation.
The Vicar of Dribbley
A parody of The Vicar of Dibley, with the humour based on dribbling water over the characters.
Based on consumer affairs programming, a studio audience of the day's guests with children sitting by them were given the chance to ask questions to Captain Justice (Ant in a superhero costume), but Dec would rephrase the question before the children had a chance to speak. The Captain would, in a booming echoing voice, give an explanation of how he'd do a superhero-esque revenge in answer to the problems, such as dealing with a store by unleashing the Horsemen of the Apocalypse to lay waste to it and leaving horse manure everywhere. Then, presenter Dec would say "or..." and, in a small voice, Captain Justice would give a more realistic answer, such as simply asking for their money back.
The sketch often had homoerotic overtones, playing up to the Captain's attempts to strike up a romance with Dec by trying to impress him or asking him out on date between the two male presenters. When Dec gave a confused reply, the Captain would exit through dry ice after saying "Sorry, misread the signs!". Dec would sometimes add to the joke by saying "There goes Captain Justice, always disappears with a puff!".
The Beautiful Corrs
Ant, Dec and Cat were dressed up as the female members of the band The Corrs, wearing long black wigs while affecting Irish accents. There was little story in each sketch with the trio just asserting how beautiful they were. Often, there was a man with a brown paper bag over his head, labeled 'Jim'. He was not considered beautiful enough by the three "female" members of the group to show his face - a reference to the fact that the real Corrs' brother, Jim, is usually pushed to the background in the videos, and very rarely sings.
The last sketch received mention as being 13th in Channel 4's Best TV Moments of 2001. While the presenters were performing, the real Corrs appeared, reprimanding them for being so shallow and saying that they were not all about beauty. When Ant, Dec and Cat left the stage, deflated, the three girls turned to camera, and bragged about how beautiful they were. "Jim" then took the paper bag off his head to reveal the real Jim Corr, only to be told to put it back on because he wasn't beautiful enough.
PokéRap and Pokéfight sketches
Pokémon was one of a number of featured cartoons regularly broadcast during SMTV Live.
This gave inspiration to the show's writers, who dressed Ant and Dec up as Pokémon characters and had them 'battle' each other (in the traditional sense of the word rather than Pokémon's connotations) in a weekly segment called "Pokéfights".
Dec frequently appeared as either Ash or Misty and Ant usually played 'G-G-G-Gary' (and one time 'J-J-J-Jessie') with Cat once making a guest appearance as Jessie of Team Rocket. As opposed to being separate beings, the cast's 'pokémon' were more like a 'move' they would do upon another. For example, 'Embarrassmon' involved one dueller telling a secret about the other, who would turn red and their health would diminish; or Ant unleashing HeWhoSmeltItDealtIt - "HeWhoSmeltItDealtIt is an Air Pokémon, and the first person to smell its pungent aroma shall be blamed for its origins!".
The show once had Ant attack as Britney Spears (dressing up in a schoolgirl outfit over his Gary costume) and Dec retaliating as Christina Aguilera, ending the sketch by making up "thus showing how far removed from reality Pokémon is". As a recurring gag, whenever Gary hit Misty with a particularly 'bruising' attack, Misty would shout "I'll never have kids now!".
Another common Pokémon-based sketch was the PokéRap.Ant and Dec would dress up as rappers and perform a rap featuring the names of various Pokémon. They did this in knitted Pokémon jumpers, with Pikachu and their name on. This developed into a weekly letters' segment whereby viewers would send in their own pokeraps (and later, home videos) followed by the rap itself (with seemingly little rehearsal).
This led on to later sketches featuring a Pokémon-themed activity, which featured that week's guests in their own Pokémon wear, such as "Miss Poké-World". Later in the series, the sketches began with Dec refusing to do any more PokéRaps, because Ant and Cat were fed up with them and always teased him about them, and instead concentrate on another task, such as working in a mock fast food restaurant. It wasn't long before the urge to perform the rap got the better of him, egged on by further taunts from Ant and Cat, and he eventually let himself go, trashing the set, before launching into the rap.
The last sketch featured Ant ranting to Dec and begging him to stop. Dec brushed it off, and prepared to start but was hit by a large "10-ton weight", leading to celebrations in the studio.
Dec Says/The Secret of My Success
Dec Says involved Dec would present reading a supposed viewer's letter about a personal problem from a viewer before launching into how he was once in a similar situation but was able to get out of his because of his excellence. However, Ant, who was always standing nearby at the phone desk, would remember things differently, leading into a flashback sketch set during Dec's childhood. The flashback would always show Dec as an inconsiderate, cheeky schoolboy who would always get himself into trouble, usually involving the show's guests playing various characters.
Later sketches revolved around a badly-selling book by Dec called "The Secret of My Success". The last sketch on the last ever SMTV 'explained' how Ant & Dec came to be a double-act, and showed Dec and Cat auditioning for Pop Idol, hosted by Ant and Dick (Richard Whiteley), who Dec replaced after an unfortunate 'accident' during the sketch.
Ant also occasionally appeared as a schoolboy in these sketches, where he was an overweight boy who ate huge amounts of food and was referred to as Gi-Ant. This section also introduced the character of 'Cat the Dog' which was Cat as a schoolgirl with very messy hair, huge teeth and a strong Birmingham accent. Cat the Dog later appeared in her own run of sketches, The Further Adventures of Cat the Dog.
This sketch was a mix of popular BBC medical drama series Casualty and American soap operas, which mainly parodied melodrama. James Redmond was in this sketch during his brief tenure as a presenter. Ironically, in 2003, he landed the role of "Abs" Denham on the real Casualty.
The series ended on Cat Deeley's last show as presenter with the death of Deeley's character.
As the name suggests, a parody of Eminem and Emmerdale revolving around The Dingleberries family and their American cousin Eminem. A Christmas special was advertised for the final episode but never aired.
Anty and Decky the Garden Goblins
Parody of Bill & Ben: The Flowerpot Men with Ant and Dec as Anty and Decky respectively. Cat played 'Prozac the Giggle-Fairy', and a pre-recorded narrator. This recurring sketch, as with many in the series, incorporated a degree of more adult humour - in this case, Anty and Decky's love of the 'Dizzy Water' (alcohol) found at 'The Grown-Ups Shed' was often referenced.
Only Fools and Hogwash
Other features and competitions
There were many competitions on SMTV. Unlike many other Saturday morning children's programmes, SMTV did give away impressive prizes, such as holidays to America for the family, as well as the usual televisions, games consoles and CDs. (Ant famously gave away his own car in one of the earliest episodes.) Some of the competitions were phone-ins, though a few were more notable, and had a slot on the show every week. One competition, after four weeks of a Pokémon-themed Wonkey Donkey, had a live Who Wants to Be a Mew-Trainer quiz where the winner won a holiday to Japan to go to the Pokémon Center shop and receive a Mew for his Pokémon game.
The weekly reading of viewer mail began with the presenters and audience dancing to the song "Please Mr. Postman" by the Carpenters. While not strictly a sketch, there were several moments of humour and sketch-type gags in its run based around the mail they received, and sometimes the absence of it (which often was revealed to be a hoax).
One segment (during an April 1 edition) ended earlier than usual when Dec (appearing slightly ill) collapsed onto the floor unconscious during the Postman dance; after a few seconds, the programme immediately went into the second half of a Pokémon episode. The incident was later revealed to be an April Fool's joke.
Another famous incident occurred when Ant was asked to read out a rather crude anecdote, and started laughing uncontrollably, causing Dec to fall into hysterics as well. This clip has since been replayed numerous times since, due to it being considered an 'outtake'.
Later Postbag segments ended with studio performances of viewers' songs about the show.
Many episodes featured guest appearances by various magicians, performing both small tricks and larger illusions. Cat often acted as their assistant in the larger illusions, which included being made to vanish and reappear, impaled by spikes, divided into several pieces, or apparently beheaded by a guillotine. However, by far the most common illusion was for her to be sawed in half, an illusion she took part in many times during her time on the show.
On one of the occasions when she was sawed in half, she became the first British celebrity to take part in an illusion called Clearly Impossible, where she was sawed in half inside a completely clear-sided box. On another occasion, after she had been sawed in half and her halves separated, they were both "stolen" by Ant and Dec, and wheeled off stage in opposite directions.
"I really couldn't believe it when they did it. There I was, sawed in half and laying there in two pieces with solid steel blades going right through my waist, unable to move and nothing to do except wait to be put back together again. And then in they come and start wheeling my halves off in opposite directions. I was like 'hey, what are you guys doing?' At least they put me back together again afterwards - Although it was a while before I agreed to be sawed in half again."
After Cat's departure from the show in 2002, her replacement presenter Tess Daly also took over the role of assisting in the illusions, and she too found herself being sawed in half, guillotined and otherwise divided or impaled on a regular basis. Cat returned to the show for its final episode, and joined Tess in a performance of the 'Double Sawing' illusion in which they were both sawed in half and then reassembled with their lower halves switched.
The premise of the game was very similar to that of Catchphrase. The example the presenters always gave to explain the game was 'Wonkey Donkey' (a small toy donkey with one leg missing). Every week, something similar was shown to the viewers who rang in to guess what it was - the golden rule was it had to rhyme. If none of the callers answered correctly, the competition would roll over to next week. After three weeks, it would be abandoned for a new one. This only happened once in the show's history, when after three weeks fifteen callers had failed to get "Twee Bee".
Dec found it very frustrating when the callers could not get the answer right, and would sometimes throw the toy and the stand it was placed on in (mock) anger, or ranting into the camera, which became a staple occurrence and sparked his catchphrase for the game, "It's Gotta Rhyme!". The hosts' continued frustration led to them filming a pre-recorded round of the game, with an answer of "Pat Cat" (the clue being host Cat Deeley rubbing her arms over her back). The fictional contestant made a number of unrelated guesses, including constantly repeating "Feely Deeley" even when informed it was incorrect numerous times.
The game was revived during the final months of the programme's run.
Another version of the game - "Partners in Rhyme" - was aired as part of "Britain's Got More Talent" where Ant and Dec would play against each other to guess as many picture clues as they could in one minute.
What's Ant Whistling?
This competition involved Ant whistling a popular tune from a TV series that the phoning-in contestants had to guess.
Splattoon/Men in Splat
Based on the title of Oliver Stone's film Platoon, the aim of the game was for a caller to direct a blindfolded celebrity to use a gun to 'splat' small model hot air balloons, filled with paint. For this game, Ant and Dec always dressed up as WWI fighter plane pilots, complete with fake moustaches and pipes and spoke with old-fashioned accents.
A running gag involved Ant and Dec not realising that Cat's character ('Private Deeley') was a woman in drag. After SM:TV started to air episodes of MIB: The Animated Series, the game was given a cosmetic makeover, replacing the hot air balloons with aliens and renaming it "Men in Splat".
Challenge Ant/Brian's Brain
Each week, a child would challenge Ant by asking him ten questions they had prepared (usually based on the week's showbiz news). For every one Ant did not answer correctly, the child won a prize, such as a DVD or video game.
At the end of the ten questions, the child would have the chance to gamble the prizes they had won for the 'star prize', which was usually a DVD player or games console. They then asked Ant a further question, called the "Killer Question", with an accompanying dramatic sound effect. If Ant answered incorrectly, the child and audience would chant, "you're thick, you're thick, you're thick, you're thick you are, you're thick, you're thick!" (to the tune of the opening lines of "Ole!" by The Bouncing Souls) and so on, and put a dunce cap on Ant's head. If, however, Ant answered the question correctly, the child would lose all their prizes, and Ant would be crowned "King of Common Knowledge", to the tune of Rockin' All Over The World, revelling in taunting the child, as he was crowned.
In later episodes, the child would get a 'consolation prize' of a handkerchief reading "I lost on Challenge Ant". Although most went forward with the Killer Question, only three challengers decided to go home with the prizes they had already won. Celebrity games were also played and the game was featured in the short-lived primetime show Slap Bang with Ant & Dec, (the forerunner to Saturday Night Takeaway) only this time played by elderly contestants.
A version involving Brian Dowling entitled Brian's Brain was introduced following Ant and Dec's departure.
Eat My Goal
Celebrity guests would take it in turns to take penalties, with Ant in goal. Callers would choose the celebrities they thought would win against Ant. After Ant & Dec left in 2001, Brian became the new goal keeper with Tess and later Stephen, replacing Cat as referee. In 2003, a different celebrity each week represented two teams taking it in turns to be goalkeeper.
Sabrina, the Teenage Witch episodes aired regularly during SMTV Live. As a recurring joke, Dec had often proclaimed his love for Sabrina and would regularly read a dreadful poem he'd written just for her, often to the dismay of everyone in the studio. In the early days, Ant would attempt to block this by claiming that Sabrina's lawyers had banned Dec from reading out the poem on the air.
Later sketches saw Dec write a story in which he would be the hero that saved Sabrina (played by a female guest from that week's show) from impending doom, but the 'cast' would always ruin it for him, for example, Cat and Ant would mishear words in his story (e.g. When he said the word eastward, a cowboy would come out, with Cat claiming she thought he said Eastwood)
When interviewing Sabrina actress Melissa Joan Hart for the programme, the gag was again employed. Dec asked Hart to be his 'lass'. Apparently not understanding him, she said yes. After this, Dec expressed his intention to share his knowledge and experience, giving rise to the Dec Says sketches.
Pick Your Knows
Each week, a child would come into the studio and pick a question category. The child was then asked to choose a celebrity to answer the question. If the celebrity got the answer wrong, the child won a point but if they got it right, the celebrities got a point and whoever had the most points would win.
15 to Fun
This was a one-off episode based on the Channel 4 gameshow 15 to 1 with a holiday for the winner.
The Sick Trick Show/Dirrty Tricks
A spin-off to CITV's The Quick Trick Show. Hosted by Stephen Mulhurn, it featured him performing a series of vile and disgusting tricks on the audience members, celebrity guests and even, his co-presenters. This feature was originally a one-off from around late-2002 and then it returned as a regular slot in the summer of 2003.
The segment was later replaced by Dirrty Tricks, where Stephen would try to catch children out with his card tricks to possibly win a prize or get covered in beans or mushy peas.
After each programme, CD:UK (an abbreviation of CountDown United Kingdom) was broadcast, with the same presenters as SMTV Live. This was also presented live, and featured bands in the charts, music videos, and interviews with famous music stars. Ant & Dec originally presented the show with Cat Deeley from 1998 to 2001. Deeley continued to present the show until 2004. CD:UK was axed in April 2006 due to budget cuts and fiancial difficulties.
Falling viewing figures during 2003 led to the programme's axing at the end of the year. The programme marked the end of its five-year run with a series of SMTV Gold specials featuring highlights from the show and cartoons, presented by Stephen Mulhern and Des Clarke with different celebrity co-hosts each week. The Gold series ended on 20 December 2003 with the very last SMTV Live programme airing on Saturday 27 December 2003.
At one point, the Gold episodes were broadcast on Saturday afternoons because of morning coverage of the 2003 Rugby World Cup.
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- Cow and Chicken (1998–1999)
- Men in Black: The Series (1998–1999)
- Sabrina The Teenage Witch (1998–2003)
- Pokémon (1999–2001)
- Digimon (2000)
- My Parents Are Aliens (2001)
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- The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius (2002)
- Sitting Ducks (2002)
- Spongebob Squarepants (2003)
- The Flintstones (2003)
- That's So Raven (2003)
- All Grown Up! (2003)
The series spawned two video releases - the first, Chums, was released in 2000 by Contender Home Entertainment and featured six full Chums episodes and a selection of other SMTV comedy segments. The VHS was released on DVD four years later.
A second release from Universal Pictures, The Best of SMTV Live So Far, went on sale in 2001, featuring specially-produced links recorded shortly before Ant & Dec's departure and an extended compilation of sketches and segments.
Writers and producers
The first few months of the show were produced by Ric Blaxhill, a former Top of the Pops producer. He was replaced later in the year by Steve Pinhay and Phil Mount, and then shortly afterwards by David Staite.
In September 1999, Ben Ward and Gez Foster, two writers from Men In Trousers were brought in from rival BBC show, Live and Kicking which SM:TV Live soon overtook in ratings. These two writers were also members of The Cheese Shop comedy group.
Multi award-winning writer Dean Wilkinson was with the show throughout most of its run with Blaze Television's director of programmes Conor McAnally as its executive producer.
SMTV Live was twice voted Best Entertainment Programme at the BAFTA Children's Film and Television Awards (2000 & 2002) and won BAFTA & British Comedy awards voted for by the public.
Anthony McPartlin and Declan Donnelly won the RTS award for best presenter in 2001 for their work on the programme while Cat Deeley won the BAFTA for best children's presenter in the same year.