Ricky Gervais' three-word response to For The Love of Dogs gig is salt in the wound - and ITV is in the dog house for it, analysis by Alex Davies

Ricky Gervais' three-word response to For The Love of Dogs gig is salt in the wound - and ITV is in the dog house for it, analysis by Alex Davies

WATCH HERE: Ricky Gervais on his love for dogs and why he prefers them to humans in a May 2022 interview

Alex Davies

By Alex Davies

Published: 02/02/2024

- 05:00

Updated: 02/02/2024

- 17:47

By employing Alison Hammond ITV has well and truly s**t the bed, says GB News' Entertainment Editor

ITV could not have been sent a clearer message that it's barking up the wrong tree after channel bosses unveiled Alison Hammond as Paul O'Grady's successor on For The Love of Dogs this week.

It's been almost a year since the one-of-a-kind comic's untimely death after he'd spent his final decades doing what he loved best - being in the company of canines.

His For The Love of Dogs series was a unique gem for ITV, somehow managing to appeal to a broader audience than just dog lovers and drawing tears and smiles from even the sternest of pet-loather.

Replacing him was an unenviable task - and there definitely is an argument that ITV should've let the For The Love of Dogs name end out of respect for O'Grady and seek a new way to help out at Battersea.

However, finding a successor wasn't an impossible task and this has been proven by the outpouring of disgruntled suggestions from fans across social media after news of Hammond's appointment broke.

Julian Clary, Martin Clunes and Peter Egan have all been suggested by fans who've since vowed to boycott the show in protest at Hammond landing the gig and while all worthy O'Grady replacements, ITV bosses initially had their sights set on one man: Ricky Gervais.

Alison Hammond

Alison Hammond: The This Morning host poses outside Battersea after landing For The Love of Dogs role


Before I delve into why Gervais would've been a perfect For The Love of Dogs host and why ITV shouldn't have taken no for an answer, I think it's only fair to provide a pivotal bit of information... I actually quite like Hammond.

One of the arguments against her appointment is that she's "everywhere" on TV at the moment and it's simply not true - she co-hosts Bake Off for a dozen episodes a year and is one of 24,357 rotating This Morning presenters.

And when it comes to light entertainment, she's great - she's personable, louder than life, and susceptible to the odd innuendo or slip-up that results in raucous laughter and the rubbing of a social media intern’s hands as they pre-empt the viral clicks.

But that's also exactly why she doesn't fit the mould set by O'Grady on For The Love of Dogs.

Paul O'Grady

For The Love of Dogs ITV: Paul O'Grady spent over a decade making the show a success


The ITV series from the outside may look like a piece of fluffy light-hearted entertainment, but O'Grady made it so much more.

He had a quick and dry wit, a sympathetic disposition, and most importantly, a genuine and unwavering love for animals that just cannot be faked on-screen.

All three could also be said of Gervais who revealed in October 2023 that he had been approached to bag the role - but had to turn it down.

When asked on X, formerly Twitter, about taking on the role, Gervais admitted: "It's true that I was asked but I said no I'm afraid.

"Just too busy," his three-word explanation read.

Inevitably, Twitter became a sea of yellow and blue pixels as fans flooded the thread with countless crying emojis.

And while Gervais appeared to take responsibility for turning down the opportunity, I just can't fathom how ITV couldn't have pulled strings to work around him.

After all, the upcoming series consists of just six half-hour episodes. The idea that ITV couldn’t have adjusted its scheduling commitments to bag a name like Gervais for three hours of film seems a major missed opportunity.

One argument may be that ITV had pre-empted some sort of public outcry at Gervais' appointment if they'd gone above and beyond for him - and they would've been right given the cries and moans at his latest Netflix special which included jokes about immigration, the trans agenda, cancer patients and many more topics.

And to an extent, I agree with criticism of Gervais' career trajectory. Not that he deserves to be cancelled but as someone who still listens to his early Noughties XFM shows with Karl Pilkington and Stephen Merchant, it's hard to argue, to me, that the quality of his material hasn't slowly deteriorated in recent years.

For the Love of Dogs: Ricky Gervais and Alison Hammond

For the Love of Dogs: Ricky Gervais and Alison Hammond have sparked debate among fans after the latter's appointment


But one thing that has been consistent throughout Gervais' time in the spotlight is his love and passion for animal rights.

He's a man who's often said he prefers dogs to humans, gave canines leading - and heartbreaking - roles in sitcoms Derek and After Life, and even donated almost £2 million to worldwide animal charities from the profits of his stand-up tour Armageddon.

Gervais may not fit the mould of light primetime entertainment but as I said earlier, O'Grady and For The Love of Dogs managed to transcend that.

And that fact is what ITV appears not to realise and means it has gotten it so wrong by giving the role to Hammond, although it's no fault of her own.

All in all, replacing Paul O'Grady on For The Love of Dogs was always going to be as hard as housetraining a disobedient Great Dane with IBS, but by employing Alison Hammond ITV has well and truly s**t the bed.

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