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 latest shot at game show fame.
For national treasures Ant McPartlin and Declan Donnelly, anything they touch usually turns into 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 guys have the Midas touch when it comes to TV hits.
As they prepare to debut their brand new show Limitless Win this weekend, the pair are hoping for another smash hit.
But despite a string of hits under their belt, there’s one show in their back catalog that Ant and Dec would probably rather forget about.
In 2011, the pair launched their brand new game show to much fanfare, with the show set to dish out the biggest cash prize ever handed out on the UK small screen in a show orchestrated by their former boss Simon Cowell.
Despite the huge hype, Ant and Dec later revealed that they knew either Red or Black would be a flop on night one.
“We were wrong and we’re holding on to that. We knew that after the first night,” 46-year-old Dec would later admit.
As the double act prepares to try their hand at trivia again, we take a look at where things went last time…
Red or black proved controversial from the start.
The show has been accused of glorifying gambling with the Gambling Commission speaking out to slam the poker game style format.
Wonga’s sponsorship deal did not allay concerns from critics pointing to the irony of using a loan company to plug a show that offered a huge prize based purely on luck.
Things didn’t get much better when the show aired.
Viewers were left bewildered by the format which saw contestants go head-to-head in numerous challenges only to have their fate decided in the final minutes when they bet their prize on “red or black”.
Ant, 46, revealed that the tension had grown so high in the studio that he almost passed out during filming, although he joked that it may have been due to a late publicity session in the night the day before.
In a rarity for the Geordie duo, the ratings hit rock bottom 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 return his winnings after a past assault conviction resurfaced.
David Venni Photography Ltd)
Addressing the backlash, Ant told The Sun: “We kind of thought it was a Saturday night show. We were all wrong and are holding our hands on that.
“When we had a winner on the first night, we all went back to our locker room and said, ‘We shouldn’t start again tomorrow, it should be weekly.
“And we had 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 £3.5 million, but episodes would only air once a week in prime time on Saturday evenings rather than on consecutive days.
The number of contestants was reduced to eight per show, and the show only aired on Saturday evenings.
But despite the adjustments, viewing figures plunged from 7 million to 3.9 million in just one week.
The show ended after its commissioned run and never returned.
Ant and Dec steered clear of the game show format for nearly a decade, until it was announced last year that they were launching a new Limitless Win series.
The five parts see the contestants answer increasingly difficult questions and climb a financial ladder that never ends with each correct answer.
As they move up the ladder, participants will have to decide whether to continue or risk losing it all.
Prior to launch, Ant and Dec admitted they endured sleepless nights wondering if contestants might end up with an obscene amount of money on the endless scale.
“When you turn off the light at night, there’s this little thing going on in your head that says, ‘And if somebody keeps winning – what are you going to do? I don’t know what would happen,” Dec said.
“We should cancel Tipping Point and The Chase. Take all their prize money, put it in a jar,” he laughed.
“Talk to Andi Peters, get her some money…” Ant suggested.
Ant and Dec’s Limitless Win premieres on ITV Saturday night at 8.30pm