Ant McPartlin and Declan Donnelly once sparked complaints for shaving the head of a girl in a cruel game show stunt in the 1990s.
The 43-year-old TV hosts have been presenters for decades now after first finding fame as PJ and Duncan on Byker Grove in the late 80s and early 90s.
Their first taste of helming a show was their 1995 series The Ant & Dec Show – but the children’s TV series was not without controversy when show producers went to extreme lengths to boost ratings.
And in particular, the lads provoked outrage when a young girl named Laurie Slater had her head shaved in a game called Beat The Barber – with the consequence being a terrible haircut in the event of failure.
The stunt caused complaints and even saw the boys dropped by the BBC – however Ant and Dec and Laurie herself have all commented that they found the incident hilarious.
“A big deal was made of it at the time, a big deal I never really understood – it’s just hair after all, it’s not like they tattooed a swear word on my forehead! I thoroughly enjoyed the experience!” Laurie herself said in a lengthy blog post after she was contacted by The One Show to recreate the incident with Ant and Dec in 2014 (with her hair being donated to a wig making charity for cancer patients).
Speaking about the scandal surrounding the show, producer Conor McAnally seemed rather unapologetic when he discussed it in 2002.
“In the first show there was a fight between Ant and Dec, there was an unseen rude photo of Katy Hill and the show was ‘taken off the air’ by BBC bosses – and there was Beat the Barber. The gossip happened, the audience tuned in and the show became the number one children’s show at the time,” he said.
“The thinking behind Beat the Barber was this – the BBC is too nice to kids in kid shows. Television, especially BBC kids television was treating kids in a very patronising manner and one of the manifestations of that was the whole concept of the consolation prize. You don’t get consolation prizes in the playground or in life. So we wanted to create something that had real jeopardy but was safe and that had real consequence if you gambled,” he continued.
Defending the outrageous stunt – which would be unlikely to make it to air in today’s TV – he denied the stunt was cruel.
“I don’t accept that the item was cruel. Each kid knew the full story before taking part. It was about consequence, not cruelty,” he said.
“Interestingly we never had any complaints from kids – they loved it – the complaints were all from adults,” he added.
Earlier this month, Holly Willoughby surprised fans when she revealed she once flashed her boobs and threw up on live kids TV earlier in her career.
While Phillip – seemingly trying to one up his This Morning co-host – found himself in the headlines days later as he discussed drug taking and hanging out with hookers in his own children’s TV heyday.