To a generation of Kiss FM listeners, Rickie & Melvin are the kings of breakfast. To viewers of The Xtra Factor, Melvin Odoom was the perfect replacement for Olly Murs on the last series.
But to most ITV viewers, they’ll be “these new cats” when their gameshow Bang On The Money becomes the pair’s first primetime show on Saturday nights.
Friends since they met on a media course at the University of Bedfordshire 15 years ago, their cheeky charm has drawn inevitable comparisons to Ant & Dec. Are they ready to take the Geordies’ crown?
“We’ve been called the Ant & Dec who’ve just got back from holiday in Barbados”
“We’ve been called the new Ant & Dec, the black Ant & Dec…” recites Melvin, as Rickie Haywood-Williams chips in: “Mate, we’ve been called the Ant & Dec who’ve just got back from holiday in Barbados.”
“We’re not anything like them,” insists shaven-headed and beaded Melvin. “The only real similarity is that we’re friends and a duo. But if we can do a third of what they have, we’ll be over the moon. Thing is, I worked with Dick & Dom on kids’ TV years ago, and they were getting the same comparisons way back when. So it’s an honour to be compared to them.”
Bang On The Money is the perfect vehicle for the duo’s friendship. We could bore you with details of the show’s rules, but basically it’s an excuse for R&M to muck about.
Chalenges include unwrapping presents while wearing boxing gloves, having sumo wrestling fights, dressing up as chickens and playing football against an under-11 team.
“Granny Audrey in Sheffield won’t understand the stuff we talk about on Kiss FM”
“There’s one that involves our mums,” explains Rickie, the quieter of the duo – which means he’s still twice as talkative as 90% of the population. “They mirrored how me and Melvin are with the challenges: his mum was all about humour, but my mum just wanted to win.”
Melvin claims his mum has been stopping strangers in Sainsbury’s, telling them: “My son is doing a new television show with his friend and I actually feature in it… Mum’s gong to get her own agent.”
Having been groomed by ITV for the past couple of years by appearing on the BRITs and Celebrity Squares (“When we aren’t even celebrities,” Melvin points out), they’re well aware they need to adapt their raucous presenting style from Kiss.
“Granny Audrey in Sheffield won’t understand the stuff we talk about on Kiss,” admits Rickie. “A wider audience is going to be watching us, thinking ‘Who are these new cats?’ But we feel ready. And the show is definitely ready.”
Melvin has already had mainstream exposure after presenting The Xtra Factor last year. He says it would be “amazing” to host this year’s series again, but admits: “I haven’t heard anything yet. The Xtra Factor is the last thing they think about, as they sort the main show first.
“But fingers crossed. We get to have most of the fun, because the main show is being serious about the singers. Then we get to dress up as Sinitta in pink tracksuits and waste the judges’ time.”
“I fell on the floor and started screaming like a little bitch”
Although Rickie is more competitive, the pair – both 35 – insist they’re split 50/50 in their ability for Bang On The Money’s challenges. But Melvin admits he’s most likely to be the victim in the pair’s pranks.
When they first met sharing student digs in Luton, Rickie dressed up in a Scream mask and hid in Melvin’s bedroom. “I saw a silhouette in a green mask running towards me,” he recalls. “I fell on the floor and started screaming my head off like a little bitch.”
“You were terrified,” nods Rickie as Melvin admits: “You were going ‘Are you alright?’ You felt so bad about it.
“Every time my 4:30am alarm goes off, a single tear rolls down my cheek”
“When Rickie and his cousins go snowboarding, they take pranks too far, painting each other’s faces, each other’s nails… Too much.”
Having presented Kiss’ breakfast show since 2007, they insist they’ll carry on at the station, despite the 4:30am alarm call. “Those early starts are never easy,” sighs Melvin. “I’ve never woken up and gone ‘Yeah, I feel fresh today!’” Adds Rickie: “Every time my alarm goes off, a single tear rolls down my cheek. I might get that tear tattooed like Lil Wayne.”
So, not the new Ant & Dec, as the pair were more influenced in their pre-Kiss days at MTV by the likes of Trevor Nelson and Richard Blackwood.
Would they ever follow Blackwood into EastEnders? “Never say never,” beams Melvin.
Watch out Albert Square…
See our exclusive video interview with Rickie & Melvin for their favourite gameshow, how to impress women, why they cry at Liverpool and Melvin’s future singing career. (Video editing by Luke Remon.)
Bang On The Money starts on Saturday on ITV1 at 7pm.
Loaded’s deputy editor John Earls has covered entertainment and sport across a range of national newspapers, plus several football and music magazines, since 1990. Follow him on Twitter at @EarlsJohn