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Simon Cowell Prank Helps ‘Ant And Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway’ To ITV’s Biggest Audience Of 2024

Ant and Dec returned to the UK’s Saturday evening TV schedule this weekend, drawing ITV’s biggest overnight audience of the year so far.

The veteran entertainment duo, who have already said this 20th series of Saturday Night Takeaway will be their last, attracted an average of 4.9million viewers for the launch show, with a peak of 5.6m, reports the Daily Mail.

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They brought a dose of nostalgia, with throwback pictures of themselves on the very first show back in 2002.

This weekend’s launch show was the customary mix of competitions, musical numbers and undercover pranks. Saturday evening’s target was Simon Cowell, who joined the hosts to review how he’d been successfully pranked during the filming of America’s Got Talent. The judge was invited onto stage by two masked magicians and locked into a steel box, before it appeared that the single key had been swallowed, and Cowell had to wait in the box on stage while various efforts to get him out were explored. Eventually, the two masked magicians revealed themselves to be Ant and Dec.

Additionally, during a bike ride near his home in Hollywood, Cowell was stopped by a pair of police officers – actually actors working to the instructions of Ant and Dec – and given a high-res vest to wear.

Cowell had previously been caught out by the pranksters, but swore it would never happen again – proving a challenge too good to resist for Ant and Dec.

ITV bosses will be pleased with the audience figures, after the show took a dip last year, with numbers down to an average of 4.1million, according to the Daily Mail. The show drew its biggest audience in 2020, with an impressive 11.1million viewers.

Ant and Dec are also the high-profile hosts of ITV entertainment juggernaut I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here! Alongside their presenting duties on Britain’s Got Talent. They have on their mantelpieces a record number of National Television Awards – currently boasting 44 prizes.

This includes their win for Best Presenter in 2018, when Ant was sidelined while in recovery for addiction problems, and Dec went solo for the best part of the year. They have also previously taken home special achievement awards, recognising their unique longevity in the UK’s entertainment industry. They are also Bafta winners.

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