SMTV: The Golden Days of Saturday Morning Television

This morning saw a strange occurrence in my life. I was awake before 11am on a Saturday morning.

I got up to watch the Olympics, like pretty much half the world’s population did, but I was up before the gymnastics started so I turned on some of the kids TV channels to see what they had to offer me

Big mistake. All it did was bring me to tears, and make me reminisce about the glory days of my childhood. When I would run down the stairs at exactly 9.25am and turn on CITV to watch Ant, Dec, Cat and SMTV.

SMTV Live (or, if you had the time, Saturday Morning Television Live) ran from 1998 to 2003, when it was replaced by a new show, the Ministry of Mayhem, and a new set of presenters.

But SMTV was something special. Many young adults today will fondly remember camping out on the couch for two hours every Saturday morning watching the hilarity and unpredictable nature of live television broadcast before their very eyes.

One of ITV’s most successful children’s shows, the winning formulae were the natural close companionship between the three presenters; Ant McPartlin, Dec Donnelly and Cat Deeley, and the thinly-veiled innuendo to keep older viewers on their toes. At its peak, SMTV drew in a 2.5million strong audience.

One of the best parts of the show was undoubtedly the weekly segments.

Challenge Ant

A weekly quiz show, young children were given the opportunity to come in and, as the name suggested, challenge Ant. The kids asked the cape-wearing presenter a series of ten questions with the aim of winning a number of prizes, usually the top 10 games in the official chart. At the end of the round, they were given the chance to ask a ‘Killer Question’ to win the entire booty, including those which Ant had won, as well as the star prize. In true fashionable style, there were hats for the occasion; if Ant won, he was given a crown. If he lost, he was given a dunce’s hat.

Wonkey Donkey

Ah, poor Wonkey Donkey. A donkey teddy with one leg missing (a ‘wonkey donkey’) was the mascot for this Catchphrase-like game. Viewer’s rang in to the show to guess what they were shown. The only rule, as Dec pointed out several times, was that it had to rhyme. This concept seemed to confuse many of the callers, much to the chagrin of Dec, who regularly screamed in frustration at the camera. If none of the callers guessed right, then the clue was rolled over to the next week. Only once in the history of Wonkey Donkey was the clue dismissed, when after three weeks fifteen callers couldn’t identify a ‘Twee Bee.’


SMTV’s parody of Friends, Chums focused on the lives of three friends, and played on the phrase ”filmed in front of a live studio audience’. One of the main themes in the sketch was the romance between Dec and Cat, with their attempts to get the shift interrupted every single time. This romance culminated in their star-studded wedding (with Mariah Carey as maid of honour, as you do) where Dec and Cat finally got it on before Dec headed around the world with his best mate, Ant.

SMTV was axed at the end of 2003 due to a fall in viewers. But the faithful followers will always remember how it used to be. Back when it was worth getting up early on Saturdays.


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