TV Presenter Anthony McPartlin is spotted Christmas shopping and walking Labrador Hurley in London this week
Flying home this week from an I’m A Celebrity series that broke all ratings records, Declan Donnelly and
Spotted walking the dog, Hurley, he shares with estranged wife Lisa, he looked better than of late; that hollow-eyed, haunted demeanour lifted.
And come mid-January he will be back filming Britain’s Got Talent, once again attempting the cheeky chappie TV persona which has helped him earn a £63 million fortune. But whether the public is ready to forgive and forget his travails remains to be seen.
For while his initial declaration of drug addiction, followed by rehab in June last year, didn’t stop him presenting the 2017 I’m A Celebrity, his drink-driving offence in March — when he crashed his Mini into two other cars, including one carrying a young child — stopped his career in its tracks.
To return to the spotlight a second time is quite a different matter.
Fined a record £86,000 and given a 20-month driving ban, Ant said: ‘I let myself down, I let a lot of people down. For that I’m truly sorry.’ He added that he was ‘ashamed and mortified’.
Ant and girlfriend Anne-Marie Corbett are pictured at the Ivy Club in London in September. He is dating Anne-Marie Corbett, 44, his former assistant, who has left her husband and two children to be with the star
So what has Ant, 43, done to regain his sobriety? What impact has his divorce and new love affair had on his state of mind? And, perhaps most crucially, what are we to make of rumours that Dec — now a father and growing in confidence as a solo performer — is happy to continue without Ant?
Just five weeks ago, Ant’s comeback looked unlikely. Sources at Syco, Simon Cowell’s entertainment company that produces BGT, said Ant had not been in touch about returning to the show even though that target had been set at a ‘tearful’ meeting with Dec in August.
They went ahead and planned to film the next BGT with Dec flying solo.
Anthony McPartlin and his girlfriend Anne Marie Corbett are seen Christmas shopping this week
But Ant has now let Syco know he will be there after all. He is taking Cowell up on his promise ‘you stand by the people you work with over the years.’
Friends of Ant acknowledge this really is his last chance. One said: ‘He is desperate to get back to work and it was hard to watch I’m A Celebrity being such a big success without him.’
One senior TV source adds: ‘The problem is I’m A Celebrity was a big triumph with Dec and Holly and a lot of people now think that viewers have sort of moved on. I still think drink-driving with a child involved in the crash is a big thing to overcome.’
Another friend of Ant’s says: ‘He likes Holly, but it was difficult to see her doing his show. It was such a big success that it brought it home to him everyone can be replaced.’
Perhaps it’s just as well that Ant is returning to work, as his personal life is a mess. He is dating Anne-Marie Corbett, 44, his former assistant, who has left her husband and two children to be with the star. Both he and Anne-Marie are in the process of divorcing.
Dec and Holly Willoughby presented this year’s I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out Of Here this month. Another friend of Ant’s says: ‘He likes Holly, but it was difficult to see her doing his show. It was such a big success that it brought it home to him everyone can be replaced’
The couple have taken trips to Florence and Dubai, and look happy together, but feel obliged to be as low-key as possible.
We already know how hard Ant’s wife Lisa is taking the romance — she makes regular heartbroken forays on social media and there have been reports that she liked tweets referencing a ‘gold digger’ and a ‘leech’. ‘The divorce has been a nightmare for Ant,’ says one pal.
Make-up artist Lisa, married to Ant since 2006, will no doubt be bracing herself for the possibility he will propose to Anne-Marie over Christmas, as both hope their decrees absolute will have come through by then.
Ant is seen presenting the show last year with co-host Dec. One senior TV source adds: ‘The problem is I’m A Celebrity was a big triumph with Dec and Holly and a lot of people now think that viewers have sort of moved on. I still think drink-driving with a child involved in the crash is a big thing to overcome’
Anne-Marie’s husband Scott has also been through hell.
Sources say he felt ‘devastated’ when he found out that his wife’s professional relationship with Ant had become a romance.
He and Anne-Marie split up in October last year. Her romance with Ant was announced in June.
A friend said: ‘Anne-Marie has been a genuine help to Ant with his recovery, but it’s hard because her husband is devastated. He’s a normal bloke who feels that Ant was pursuing his wife for years. And they have kids together, which is why Ant and Anne-Marie can’t formally move in together.’
Anne-Marie and her two daughters by Scott still live in the marital home in New Malden, Surrey. Ant has now bought a large house in South-West London which needs renovation.
The feeling is it will do him good to have a project — he previously rebuilt his house in Chiswick.
Meanwhile Lisa is said to be refusing to let Ant have sole custody of their Labrador, on which he dotes. Sources say she won’t budge and they are having to share him a week at a time.
A friend said: ‘He has offered her a big settlement but nothing seems enough. The dog has been a huge support for him. He has been the only thing getting Ant out of the house.’
A friend said he had heard Lisa has sought to make friends with Anne-Marie’s husband.
I’m told that Lisa has signed up to present a TV make-over show, and plans to become a celebrity in her own right. After so long in the shadow of her husband, Lisa — a fame school graduate who was in a pop band — is going to have a second bite at the cherry.
It must have been a blow for her to not be asked to return as a make-up artist on BGT. Officially, it was ‘untenable’ for her to work with her estranged husband.
Lisa fought like a tiger for the marriage, refusing to put her name to a statement in January that it was over. It is said she hoped they might reconcile — until the romance with Anne-Marie came out.
Fined a record £86,000 and given a 20-month driving ban, Ant said: ‘I let myself down, I let a lot of people down. For that I’m truly sorry.’ He added that he was ‘ashamed and mortified’ [File photo]
It was then agreed Ant would admit adultery as he was still married when the liaison began.
So far, there is no agreement on a financial settlement which would allow a decree absolute to be issued. In all, Ant is mired in a stressful situation which can’t be helping his recovery.
He has been spotted sporting the Alcoholics Anonymous symbol tattooed on his wrist.
His friend and publicist Simon Hargreaves congratulated him on Twitter on September 23 for being six months sober, observing that Ant was ‘happier than I’ve seen him in years’.
A source said: ‘A lot of us haven’t seen much of Ant since he came out of rehab, which can be the case as patients do get advised to drop their old friends. I think he has been leaning a lot on Anne-Marie and not seeing so much of Dec.’
Ant went to see Dec for his birthday and was one of the first visitors after the arrival of baby Isla in September.
They are still best friends, however their paths are diverging.
They no longer live one door from each other and their old habit of meeting in the pub three times a week is over.
So can they re-ignite their on-screen chemistry? Ant will very much hope so.