Dermot O’Leary is worried - he’s presenting the National Television Awards and there is a surprise in store for him on the night.

The glitzy ceremony will mark the TV host’s 10th year at its helm with something under wraps, but the former Colchester schoolboy isn’t too keen.

“Oh no”, he groans. “When you do live TV you want the unpredictable, you want stuff to go wrong, but not at your expense. If it’s to do with you, it’s a right pain in the arse.”

This year’s event, screened on ITV, sees Ant and Dec, Holly Willoughby, Doctor Who actress Jodie Whittaker and Bodyguard star Richard Madden up for some of the top prizes.

Ant and Dec have scooped the best presenter award for an astonishing 17 consecutive years, but if they do it again this month, it will be despite the fact that Ant took a break for much of 2018.

“If they win it this year, we should just not do it anymore!,” Dermot laughs.

“If they win it, having not been on television, then we may as well just chuck in the towel!”

Bradley Walsh, chat show host Graham Norton, and This Morning’s Willoughby and Phillip Schofield are also up for best presenter.

“With the greatest respect to the boys, I think Holly has had such a great year, and Graham,” he says of the competition.

“Graham needs to win one of these because he’s an incredible host. Holly, over the last couple of years, has done so, so well.

“Holly and Phil should have entered together. If they’d done that, I think they would stand a really good chance,” he says of the pair.

There is one glaring omission from the presenter list and that’s Dermot himself.

Does that take the pressure off him on the night?

“It sort of does,” the X Factor presenter says, but adds, candidly: “I’d rather be on there than not.”


He is in regular contact with Dec, whose presenting partner has been off-screen since he was arrested for drink driving.

“You want to win an award, of course you do when you are nominated for it,” he says of the pair’s inclusion on the shortlist.

“But most people just want to see Ant get better and then come back.

“I’ve got mates who have been through what Ant’s going through and quite often you need to let them (work through it). It’s up to them.”

Dermot has just finished presenting another series of The X Factor.

Viewing figures are not what they used to be, despite the show unveiling a new judging line-up, including married couple Robbie Williams and Ayda Field last year.

Stories about the show’s declining viewing figures make its presenter feel like “we’re the Arsene Wenger of telly,” he says, referring to the former Arsenal manager, “because we did so well earlier now we are getting stick for it.

“But six or seven million for a third of the year, isn’t bad”, he maintains, adding that millions also watch on catch-up.

THE SOUNDTRACK TO MY LIFE by Dermot O'Leary. Hodder & Stoughton Publishers 2014. (12383836)THE SOUNDTRACK TO MY LIFE by Dermot O'Leary. Hodder & Stoughton Publishers 2014. (12383836)

He will be back on the ITV singing contest next year.

Simon Cowell had to ask him to return to the show in 2016, following a disastrous spell with Dermot says that hasn’t changed his relationship with the TV mogul.

“Simon has always let me get on with my bit. I feel happy to be there and listened to and empowered but I don’t feel that’s changed particularly,” he says.

And he defends Cheryl, whose raunchy performance of Love Made Me Do It on the show sparked headlines that she had been panned by viewers.

“She’s mesmeric. She’s a brilliant pop star and she’s a strong woman,” he says.

He does not feel bad for the former X Factor judge “because she’s a tough cookie. But I felt it’s a nonsense,” he says of stories that she was slammed.

Journalists ignored the positive and focused only on the negative reaction on social media, he says.

He also sticks up for Little Mix, who found fame on the X Factor, after the girlband were slammed by presenter Piers Morgan for posing naked.

Good Morning Britain host Morgan accused the group of using sex to sell records and mocked their “feminist empowerment”.

“I think the girls are terrific,” he says.

“They are young empowered women. They’re smart. I know the girls very well” and they send a “positive message”.

The X Factor is up against rival Strictly Come Dancing, as well as Britain’s Got Talent, The Voice and Dancing On Ice for best talent show at this year’s National Television Awards.


“It feels good,” he says of X Factor’s inclusion on the shortlist but he does not hold out much hope of his show actually winning.

“Strictly has just done so well in the last couple of years that it would take some to overturn that,” he adds.

There is usually some form of chaos at the awards - last year Dermot was confronted with a stage invader.

“The protester came up when (Sir Bruce Forsyth’s widow) Wilnelia was giving her speech, which is probably one of the reasons why my regard for my own safety didn’t kick in, which it normally would,” he says of his actions on the night.

But he points out that the celebrities themselves are a little less buttoned up at the ceremony than they usually are.


“It’s the first awards show of the year so that adds to the carnage because people are coming off a dry January,” he says.

Always unruffled, he makes presenting look easy.

“That’s because I prepare a lot,” he says.

l The 2019 National Television Awards will broadcast live on ITV from 7.30pm on Tuesday, January 22.