It has been the toughest of years for Britain’s favourite TV presenting double act.
Dec had to shoulder the presenting duties on Britain’s Got Talent when troubled Ant took a break from showbiz to handle his drink demons and marital problems.
Taking to the stage without his great pal meant Dec had to work twice and has given him a new-found appreciation of solo presenters.
The 43-year-olds have not worked together for the past year yet they are still up for the National Television Awards’ top TV presenter gong.
It is an honour they have won 17 times, every year since 2001.
On Tuesday next week, X Factor host Dermot O’Leary, 45, will present his tenth NTAs live on ITV, which are voted for by the public.
He revealed how Dec had opened up to him about challenges he faced.
Dermot said: “After going it alone Dec said to me over dinner. I get it. I get how hard it is for you.
“Because whenever Ant’s talking I’m thinking. But I don’t have that time to think now.”
Ant’s world came crashing down in March last year when he got behind the wheel more than twice the drink-drive limit.
His Mini was in a three-car crash in South West London.
The £130,000- a-week star admitted drink driving and was fined £86,000 and banned for 20 months.
In October he was divorced from make-up artist Lisa Armstrong, 42, following 11 years of marriage.
Holly Willoughby, 37, who took Ant’s place in the I’m A Celebrity jungle, is also up for the presenting gong – along with her This Morning co-host Phillip Schofield, 56 and chat show king Graham Norton, 55.
Dermot said: “Ant’s a dear friend. I think he’s scheduled to come back to TV this year. As long as he’s happy. He just needs to be in a good place.
“Ant and Dec are such a staple that when I was doing a trail for I’m A Celeb I said their names instead of Holly.”
Ant is expected to start filming on BGT later this month.
He has also been working behind the scenes. In December, he and Dec attended a screening of ITV’s gameshow Re-Play 2018, which they were executive producers on.
But Dermot would like to see Holly walking away with the best TV presenter gong. He said: “She did such a good job.”
Despite, according to him, having a much harder job presenting the X Factor, Dermot is a notable omission from the presenting award shortlist.
But he still has the chance to walk away with an award because X Factor is up for best talent show against BGT, Dancing On Ice, Strictly Come Dancing and The Voice.
Dermot said: “Strictly dominated and beat us on ratings, we get that.
“Strictly’s like a nice bath. We’re like a hot and cold shower.”
Music mogul Simon Cowell, 59, has reportedly signed a three-year deal for X Factor.
Dermot said: “I’d love to come back. I’m loving it more than ever before. We can find stars like Dalton Harris, who was last year’s winner.”
He would like to see the same judges return with Cowell – Robbie Williams, 44, wife Ayda, 39, and ex One Direction singer Louis Tomlinson, 27.
Robbie missed a month on the show as he was touring. Dermot said: “It was a spectacular piece of contract negotiating from Robbie’s people. I’m going to try do the same.
“The reason the panel worked was because they were all entrenched with their acts. Louis was a revelation. With Ayda, I think we need to sell her better.
“No one on that panel knows how to fail. Success over a 20-year acting career like Ayda. That’s her skills set.”
In the NTA’s judge category Cowell is up against Williams and Tomlinson as well as his BGT tormentor-in-chief David Walliams, who beat the boss last year.
A real courtroom judge, Robert Rinder, 40, completes the shortlist.
BBC1’s Bodyguard has two nominations – for drama performance for Richard Madden, 32, and writer Jed Mercurio in the new drama section.
He faces stiff competition from the creators of Killing Eve, The Cry, Girlfriends and A Discovery of Witches.
The drama category sees Doctor Who, starring Jodie Whittaker, 36, as the 13th Doctor, pitted against Peaky Blinders, Our Girl, Casualty – which won last year – and Call the Midwife.
Bradley Walsh, 58, the Doctor’s latest companion and The Chase presenter, is up against last year’s winners Ant and Dec in the best presenter category.
Whittaker and Madden are nominated in the drama performance category against Jodie Comer, 25, from Killing Eve, Peaky Blinders’ Cillian Murphy, 42, and Our Girl and ex Corrie star Michelle Keegan, 31.
Last year the Bruce Forsyth Entertainment Award was won by Ant & Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway. This year ITV’s Love Island is up for the gong.
Two of last year’s contestants and on-off couple Dani Dyer, 22, and Jack Fincham, 27, will be presenting the awards’ backstage coverage.
No doubt they will root for her dad, Danny Dyer, 41, who’s up for a serial drama performance award for his role as Mick Carter who faced prison in EastEnders.
Soaps have had a huge year once again, pushing boundaries with gripping storylines.
The knife crime drama in Walford showed off the talents of EastEnders’ Bonnie Langford.
Jack P Shepherd, 30, was excellent on Coronation Street as David, who had to endure a rape.
Also up for serial drama performance are Emma Atkins, 43, who mined Charity’s past traumas on Emmerdale, while co-star Lucy Pargeter, 41, had the nation in tears as Chas lost her baby.
Showbiz and TV editor’s picks
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