It might be a scene from 2003 mush-fest Love Actually that best sums up much of the public's view of the Geordie presenting duo Ant and Dec. When Bill Nighy's rock star, Billy Mack, is asked a question by one of the pair, both playing themselves, Mack simply replies, "Yes, I have, Ant or Dec."
But having trouble determining which is which has hardly impeded on Ant and Dec's success. (Although word in the business is that when they're being filmed or photographed, it's always Ant on the left and Dec on the right – see for yourself in the pictures, right.) They are the undisputed kings of Saturday night entertainment and have made millions. What's quite remarkable, however, is that this week the public voted them Most Popular Entertainment Presenter at the National Television Awards for a staggering 12th consecutive year. Not bad for a couple of lads from Newcastle who rose to fame in a BBC children's show about a youth club and had a Top 10 hit with a song called "Let's Get Ready to Rhumble". Of course, now the 37-year-olds are a familiar fixture in living rooms every Saturday night, whether they're trying not to laugh at D-listers in I'm a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here!, or commiserating deluded singers on Britain's Got Talent. So how do you explain their enduring appeal?
"I think it's something to do with the fact that they're obviously best friends in real life," says Boyd Hilton, television and reviews editor at Heat magazine. "And it's unique to see two blokes have an incredible ease with one another. It transfers to TV without seeming in any way fake or contrived; it seems absolutely real that they are like that with each other. They have that incredible chemistry and understanding."
While some have suggested their popularity has arisen from their being spectacularly inoffensive, Hilton insists that's selling them short. "They can be quite sharp and witty; they're definitely not banal. I do think their off-the-cuff comments about stuff are really clever and funny and well-observed."
With a silent-comedy show inspired by Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton in the works, we will soon see the duo return to their acting roots. It might sound like an unusual step but fans shouldn't be concerned. As Hilton points out: "I think they'll probably be around for ever."