Ant McPartlin says he's 'much more grateful' for career with Dec after year-long break

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Ant McPartlin and Declan Donnelly have been together on screen for 30 years. (David M. Benett/Getty Images)
Ant McPartlin and Declan Donnelly have been together on screen for 30 years. (David M. Benett/Getty Images)

Ant McPartlin says he is "much more grateful" for the longevity of his creative bond with Declan Donnelly after the duo took a year-long break.

McPartlin spent a year away from TV screens in 2018 in the wake of his conviction for drink-driving, which resulted in a 20-month ban from the road and an £86,000 fine — the highest ever issued for the offence in Britain.

Donnelly was joined by Holly Willoughby on I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here and hosted the 12th series of Britain's Got Talent solo.

Read more: Ant and Dec almost split over "indefensible" drink-driving

Ahead of tonight's Bafta TV Awards, McPartlin told the Sunday Times that it's a "miracle" he and Donnelly are still working together, more than 30 years after they met while starring in children's show Byker Grove.

"A lot of double acts only last for a certain amount of time and are very short-lived," McPartlin said.

Watch: Ant and Dec gatecrash Holly and Phil's This Morning anniversary

The 45-year-old added: "You know, we had a bit of a break in our career a couple of years ago and then got back together. We're so much more grateful for everything."

Read more: Ant and Dec admit they've never spent Christmas together

Donnelly suggested that there's a particular key to their bond, which has allowed them a longer shelf life than other telly double acts.

"I think the difference is ours is a professional relationship built on a friendship, not a friendship built on a professional relationship," he said. 

"It's friendship first and foremost. That's a solid foundation."

'Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway' has been a huge part of the ITV schedule since it first launched in 2002. (ITV)
'Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway' has been a huge part of the ITV schedule since it first launched in 2002. (ITV)

Donnelly also spoke about the challenges of continuing to air the pair's long-running variety show Saturday Night Takeaway during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 17th series aired from February to April 2021, with a virtual wall used for the audience rather than the usual packed studio.

Donnelly said it was "overwhelming" to walk out into the studio for the first episode and described the level of planning from the crew as "intense" to keep everybody safe.

Read more: Ant and Dec auctioning awards to raise money for NHS

Saturday Night Takeaway averaged an audience of 8.5 million viewers during the 2021 series.

The show is due to return for its 18th run in 2022.

Watch: Ant and Dec receive OBEs in 2017

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