ABC places ‘Bet’ on British hosts

Popular duo sign to new gameshow

Ant and Dec, arguably the U.K.’s most popular TV hosts, will next attempt to conquer the U.S., signing on to host the ABC pilot “Wanna Bet?”

The duo — Anthony McPartlin and Declan Donnelly — have become stars in their native country hosting top-rated reality fare including “Pop Idol,” “I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here!” and their signature “Ant & Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway.”

U.S. alternative execs have been aggressively courting the pair for some time; “Wanna Bet?” exec producer Phil Gurin said they were instantly attracted to the project.

“Less than 24 hours after I got on the phone with Ant and Dec, they said, ‘We love it, this is the one,’ ” Gurin said. “They like the tone of the show and what it can be. I was pinching myself, I can’t believe it.”

Alphabet net has ordered an airable pilot of “Wanna Bet” that could double as a special (Daily Variety, Dec. 8).

“Wanna Bet?” is a reworking of the hit German variety/gameshow hybrid “Wetten, dass…?,” in which celeb interviews and musical performances are mixed with segments featuring everyday people betting they can pull off bizarre or extraordinary stunts.

ZDF airs the show in Germany. The U.S. version, from the Gurin Co., will include more gambling features.

McPartlin and Donnelly first rose to fame in the U.K. as actors on the BBC kids show “Byker Grove.” They later recorded several pop hits under their character names, P.J. and Duncan. Moving to ITV in the late 1990s, the duo became presenters.

In the U.S., they’re best known for their brief cameo playing themselves in the feature “Love Actually.”

“They’ve got an instant chemistry that you can’t manufacture,” Gurin said. “The British people watched them grow up on TV. These are two people who really like each other.”

Gurin is no stranger to importing U.K. talent, having brought “Weakest Link” host Anne Robinson to host the U.S. version of that show.

Gurin and Marc Jansen exec produce “Wanna Bet?” while Glenn Weiss is directing.

Fox developed a variety-style program with McPartlin and Donnelly a few years back, but the project didn’t move forward.