Ant and Dec on new game show - “We did worry that we were going to bankrupt ITV"

Not since Simon Cowell’s game show Red Or Black? has a TV show budget held the potential to bankrupt its broadcaster.

Ant and Dec’s new ITV programme is said to have shaken up the game show format. (Picture: PA).
Ant and Dec’s new ITV programme is said to have shaken up the game show format. (Picture: PA).

But it appears the short-lived, high-risk concept – reportedly costing in excess of £15m – now has some stiff competition in the form of Limitless Win.

Fronted by presenting duo Anthony McPartlin and Declan Donnelly, ITV’s latest sure-fire hit – the pair’s first new project in 10 years – offers up no jackpot total and the chance to increase contestants’ winnings exponentially.

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“It’s the world’s first limitless jackpot,” enthuses McPartlin, 46, who also hosted Red or Black? with Donnelly.

Ant and Dec are the kings of Saturday night telly. (Picture: PA).

“That was the selling point for us, that’s what hooked us in – the fact there’s no top prize and if you played this game right, you could win millions upon millions of pounds.”

“That did give us sleepless nights sometimes,” adds Donnelly, 46. “We did worry that we were going to bankrupt ITV,” agrees McPartlin.

But if anyone can make a show stand up, it’s this Bafta-winning duo.

The Geordie pair picked up their 20th consecutive award for Best TV Presenter at the National Television Awards last year.

Other accolades include three Bafta wins and eight nominations for their hit jungle series I’m A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here, primetime light entertainment show Ant & Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway and Simon Fuller’s now defunct reality series Pop Idol.

It’s little wonder then that they are set to add yet another primetime ITV show to their already extensive roster.

“We had a bit of time last year because there was no Britain’s Got Talent, so we weren’t necessarily actively looking for something,” recounts father-of-one, Donnelly.

“We haven’t done anything new for 10 years because our three shows work very well, we love them and they keep us busy. But partly it’s been because nothing has really tickled us, nothing’s really grabbed us. And the first time we played this, we were like, ‘Oh my God, I love it’.”

So how could a limitless win shake up the format? According to Donnelly, it was the opportunity to step into the shoes of the contestants that ultimately sold the concept to them.

“A lot of the time, questions get harder the more you go, because there’s more at stake – that’s not the case with this,” reasons Donnelly. “The answer to every question is a number; it doesn’t matter how long you stay in, they’re not getting harder. Questions might get a bit weirder or a bit more abstract, but they don’t get harder per se. It’s playable for everybody.”

The format, like many of the most successful game shows, hinges on a relatively simple premise. Contestants are posed a question with one numerical answer – McPartlin uses ‘how many slices in a large Domino’s pizza?’ as an example. Equipped with lifelines and extra lives, the player then has to guess the answer.

“You said 12? You’re out! If you’d have said 10, you would have banked the cash,” says McPartlin excitedly.

Correct answers allow contestants to bank the money they’ve accumulated and gain an extra five lives. Guess too high and you’re instantly eliminated.

Guess too low you’re still in with a chance of climbing the prize ladder and winning big – if your response is close enough to the correct answer.

“Most of the time, quiz masters have the question in front of them with the answer and they’re testing the contestants, whereas we’re on the journey with them, we’re going along for the ride,” explains Donnelly.

“Every show is unique, no two shows will be the same, so I think that’s what sets us apart from most of the quiz shows.”

Ant & Dec’s Limitless Win airs on Saturday nights on ITV.