Some of the greatest minds of our generation have struggled to get to grips with the thorny conundrum of breakfast television. Should it be fluffy, should it be tough, should it do sofas or puppet rats or news? Back in the 1980s, many believed it shouldn’t do any of them, and shouldn’t exist at all. As Nick Ross, one of Frank Bough’s acolytes on the BBC’s pioneering Breakfast Time, put it, ‘television in the morning was outrageous – it was just decadence beyond belief.’
Judging by the opening salvo from Good Morning Britain, ITV’s latest revamp to the redeye slot kicking off this week, today’s state-of-the-art thinking is that it should be everything at once, presented with almost intimidating professionalism. The big news in the pre-launch build-up was ITV’s hiring of Susanna Reid on a £400,000 contract, spiriting her away from homely beekeeper Bill Turnbull and chums over on BBC One’s Breakfast, but nobody had prepared us for the new show’s four-anchor impact. The camera swooped in boldly across the floor to the big desk where Reid (in pole position) sat flanked by Ben Shephard, Sean Fletcher and Sky News escapee Charlotte Hawkins. It was like being frogmarched into the Dragon’s Den, or hauled before Lord Sugar and his judgmental henchpersons, and ordered to produce one’s credentials.
In the event it wasn’t as bad as that, but no way was Susanna (wearing a dress so intensely and not-at-all-demurely orange that it seemed to be giving my television a form of psychedelic migraine) going to let this priceless opportunity slip. All that commuting between London and the BBC in Salford in between elbowing her way up the Strictly rankings would not be allowed to go to waste. On minute one of day one this was already one tight ship – heaven help the luckless menial who put a misprint in Susanna’s script – and the quartet smoothly passed the ball between themselves as they flitted from news to sport to showbiz to, frankly, episodes of blithering nonsense from Andi Peters up in Leeds. They’d plonked Andi in Kirkgate Market where, sustaining a punishing regime of continuous jollity, he spun a cardboard wheel of fortune which determined how much cash he’d hand out to gurning bystanders.
You sort of feel Andi’s role may prove temporary, but in the studio everything was humming satisfactorily. The graphics were way too busy, but at least they’d been fanatically colour-coordinated. The clock is an agreeable shade of orange, the weather info is in beguiling aquamarine, and the programme ident is a big yellow blob on the left of the screen. The interview sofa is a neutral beige with orange and yellow cushions. The presenters too were carefully blended, with the guys in light and dark suits and Ms Hawkins (with new flicky hairdo) in dark blue. Very American, actually.
The unsolved question is one of relative values. In the seamless Good Morning Britain continuum you get headlines saying ‘FIRE DEATHS’ or ‘COMPENSATION FURY’, then suddenly it’s George Clooney’s engagement, Britain’s largest family (they’re about to have their 17th child) or One Direction making a promo video, and then a location report about looming war in Ukraine. All of human life is here, but nobody knows what any of it is worth. That’s TV, eh?