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No show without Punch? We examine the psychology behind TV’s Ant and Dec split

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Published on 23 March 2018

Examining the impact of separation on long-term friends
Examining the impact of separation on long-term friends

One half of television’s most famous duo will find himself in an unusual position next Saturday – by himself.

 Declan Donnelly will present Saturday Night Takeaway on his own for the rest of this series, ITV has confirmed.

 This Saturday's show was cancelled after the other half of the duo, Ant McPartlin, was arrested and charged on suspicion of drink driving.

 The following two episodes, which will air on 31 March and 7 April, will now be presented solo by Dec.

 Experts in male psychology from the University of Sunderland say this forced separation of the pair – career partners for decades – will have an impact on them.

 Dr Helen Driscoll, lecturer in psychology at the University, said: “When a really close friendship either breaks down or circumstances mean that the majority of time is spent apart, it may have an impact on identity.

 “Two friends who spend almost all of their time together are likely to have, to some extent, a shared identity.

 “In friendships and long-term relationships, people often become more similar in their beliefs, attitudes and interests as they get to know one another more and influence one another.

 “When one partner, whether a friend or intimate, is no longer around, this might result in questions about identity – who am I now, without them?

 “Following a major change to a long-term relationship, there may be a sense of loss. Even if two people remain friends, if they no longer spend much time together, or do the things they used to do together, the life they used to live is gone.

 “It can take a long time to re-adjust to such a change.”

Ant and Dec have been entertaining us ever since they appeared on Byker Grove as the loveable PJ and Duncan.

 During the 1990s, the duo went on to become pop stars before going on to host numerous TV shows like SMTV, I'm A Celebrity….  and Saturday Night Takeaway.

 Dr Rebecca Owens, a lecturer in psychology at the University, added: “The bond between Ant and Dec is clearly deep; it is enduring and long-term, and has developed in the public eye.

 “Together they have become some of the most successful presenters of all time, and it is debateable whether or not this would have happened to either of them separately.

 “As is the case in many animal species, this alliance has helped them to increase in dominance - they are some of the most sought after presenters - and ultimately increased their success.

 “In male alliances, a bond can become so deep and enduring that people may unconsciously perceive themselves in their friend, conflating their own sense of self and status with the other. This means that one’s self-concept and identity can also become affected by what is happening with the other.”

Following his arrest, Ant announced that he was stepping down from his TV commitments for the “foreseeable future” and would be going back to rehab.