It was ground-breaking, informative, friendly and – crucially – fun
Some years ago Judy and I were having lunch with fellow presenter Chris Tarrant when talk fell on to “gut instinct” about new television programmes we’d all been involved with over the years and whether they would fly or flop.
We agreed that gut instinct is unreliable. Shows everyone is certain will triumph are invariably dismal failures. Others that look doomed from the outset turn out to be surprise hits. But both we and Tarrant could recall our own solitary exceptions to that rule.
In Chris’s case it was the phenomenon that was Who Wants To Be A Millionaire.
Chris told us: “Every new game show I hosted, I’d have family and friends into my dressing room before the launch show.
“I was always very relaxed but Millionaire was different.
“I felt very strange and shooed everyone out. Needed to think.
“And I just had the overwhelming sense that this one was going to be HUGE. And it was.”
It was the same with us as the launch of This Morning drew close – at 10.40am on October 3, 1988.
British television had never seen a daytime show like it. It would be closely modelled on US mid-morning television – relaxed, live, and offering the widest range of content possible: health, lifestyle, celebrity news and a daily phone-in.
We assembled a “family” of experts: our own GP, Dr Chris Steele, veteran magazine agony aunt Denise Robertson (both northerners like Judy), hunky gardener Monty Don and an assortment of cooks, fashion experts and astrologers including Russell Grant.
It might have all been a bit “soft” but Judy and I are journalists and we were determined to bring that to the table, too. And somehow, despite a handful of scratchy, semi-disastrous technical rehearsals in late September, we were both completely confident this was going to work.
Neither of us can explain why, even today. We just knew. We had years of experience presenting together in what was known as “Granadaland”, ITV’s regional stronghold in the Northwest.
We were married with four kids. We had a shared sense of what made a good story; what was intrinsically interesting and what was plain worthy and dull.
You couldn’t fake that kind of three-dimensional relationship. Granada gave us our heads, along with our launch editor (Dianne Nelmes) and suddenly, on a sunny early October morning in Liverpool’s beautifully restored Albert Dock, we were off.
Or, rather, we were ON. The dock was, in many ways, the show’s third presenter.
On sunny mornings it looked like a Canaletto painting.
The dock – and Liverpool behind it – gave the programme a unique visual personality.
Phillip Schofield and Holly Willoughby have become national treasures
We scored many scoops in the 13 years before we transferred to Channel 4 and an evening slot.
The week Princess Diana died, programme running orders were ripped up and we broadcast on our feet.
The phone-ins that week were some of the most emotionally powerful we’d ever had. We road-tested the then new Viagra, live on air, with three married couples reporting back on its effects, live, at the end of the show.
“The tackiest two hours in TV history,” thundered one newspaper. Rubbish. It was ground-breaking, informative, friendly and – crucially – fun.
Pretty much the blueprint for a This Morning item to this day.
Three times this morning served up tv gold
When former Big Brother contestant Alison Hammond interviewed co-stars Harrison Ford and Ryan Gosling about Blade Runner 2049, their chaotic chat went down in TV history.
Alison admitted she had not seen the film, before insulting Ryan’s jumper. She and the stars then drank some whisky and the entire segment has been viewed online by nearly nine million people.
IN 2011, cheeky Italian chef Gino D’Acampo kept his promise to cook naked if the show won a National Television Award. It did, so he dished up gammon, mushy peas and sauteed potatoes – with only an apron to cover his modesty. With their giggly asides and full-scale hysterical meltdowns, current presenters Phillip Schofield and Holly Willoughby have become national treasures.
And their hungover appearances the morning after the National TV Awards are now legendary- most famously in 2016.