Stewart Lee

Stewart Lee

Date of birth: 05-04-1968
© Steve Ullathorne

How Stewart Lee almost wrote a sitcom for Ant & Dec

A Samuel Beckett style premise with the duo as isolated lighthouse-keepers

comedyStewart Lee once worked on a surreal sitcom for Ant & Dec, in which they would have played isolated lighthouse-keepers.

The comic said the scripts would have evoked the desolation of a Samuel Beckett play and featured ‘weird’ plot devices.

But although the wrote up a pitch for the Geordie duo, they turned it down – and instead set on the path that led them to dominate mainstream commercial TV.

Lee spoke about the plan in an interview with Blackmore Vale magazine 

He said: ‘Twenty years ago I knew Ant and Dec a little bit. When I was in a double act with Richard Herring, we had them on our show. I can’t remember exactly why but they were in a kind of crate and jumped out of it – they were really good sports.

‘At the turn of the century, they decided they wanted to do a sitcom and I wrote a proposal. The idea was they were Lighthouse Keepers and lived together, it was going to be a kind of Samuel Beckett thing.  Really weird things would be washed up on the shore and once a week Cat Deeley [their SMTV co-presenter] would arrive in a rowing boat.

‘They really wanted to do it but in the end they did a remake of The Likely Lads (below), which was a classic 70s sitcom about Geordie blokes that liked football. And I think that’s the dilemma they always had; art or commerce.

Ant and Dec do the Likely Lads

‘They probably wanted to do a sitcom where they lived in a lighthouse but management were going "No, you should do a remake of The Likely Lads".’

The topic came up as Lee had slated Ant and Dec as ‘perma-grinning apologist pricks’ in his Observer column about Nigel Farage being booked on I’m A Celebrity, condemning ITV for providing ‘an uncritical platform for a dangerous demagogue to present himself as a man of the people without being held to account in any meaningful way, paving his way to power.’ 

Farage on I'm a Celebrity

In the new interview, Lee added: ‘ I think they’ve been a mouthpiece for this awful thing, and they must know that it’s terrible what happened there. They were basically forced to endorse fascism. 

‘I think in the future, if the country gets back on its feet and we kick this lot out, and we stop having such obviously racist policies to inflame passions and we manage to disentangle the privately-funded think tanks from policy making, then we’re going to look back on the fact ITV reality television had Nigel Farage on it with utter disgust, and they’ll be caught up in it.’

Lee had previously mentioned the lighthouse-keeper sitcom he pitched for the duo in a 2012 newspaper column about avant-garde composer John Cage.

Here are Lee and Herring appearing on the Channel 4 programme Ant & Dec Unzipped in 1997 – a return favour for the Geordie duo guesting on Lee and Herring's Fist Of Fun:

• Read the full interview here

• Stewart ​Lee tour dates

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Published: 18 Jan 2024

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Past Shows

Edinburgh Fringe 2000

Stewart Lee's Badly Mapped World

Edinburgh Fringe 2002

Stewart Lee: Pea Green Boat

Edinburgh Fringe 2004

Stewart Lee

Edinburgh Fringe 2008

Stewart Lee: Scrambled Egg

Edinburgh Fringe 2012

Stewart Lee: Carpet Remnant World

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

Stewart Lee: A Room With a Stew

Edinburgh Fringe 2015

Stewart Lee: A Room With a Stew

Edinburgh Fringe 2016

Stewart Lee: Content Provider

Edinburgh Fringe 2019

Stewart Lee: Wok In Progress

Edinburgh Fringe 2023

Stewart Lee: Basic Lee

Montreal 2006

Britcom 2006


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