Across UK this morning, tens of millions of viewers tuned in (but not really though) to sample ITV’s last chance saloon at getting Breakfast television right before they eventually start showing ten-hour omnibuses of Jeremy Kyle instead.
Enter GOOD MORNING BRITAIN, Where ludicrously well paid BBC deserter Susanna Reid replaces ludicrously well paid BBC deserters Christine Bleakley and Adrian Chiles, and significantly less well paid Aled Jones and the under-rated Kate Garraway.
Joining Susanna is two Sky News deserters – Charlotte Hawkins, for the teenage male quota, and Sean Fletcher because he’s a bloke who reads the sports, innit. And finally good old Ben Shepherd, because ITV realized they couldn’t have an entire panel made up of talent they nicked from other channels.
The big revelation about all of this is that I did not actually hate it. I sort of quite liked it.
What was Bad
So best get that out of the way first.
Even Ben hated it.
The weather bug is super distracting. It honest to god rotates every 5 seconds to tell you weather all over the UK. There must have been some deliberation over at ITV on if that on-screen collateral could work.
The answer is a resounding FUCK NO and that it needs to leave quicker than Lilo leaves rehab. The overall graphics package feels too busy, too cluttered. American tv is typically a lot heavier on the graphics, but the British audience prefer the less is more ethos. SO LESS PLEASE THANK YOU.
THAT ONE DIRECTION EXCLUSIVEEEEEE.
ITV are still make the slightly loopy editorial choices of covering things that are frankly a little bit mundane and trying to pep them up to seem super exciting. For example, the behind the scenes of a One Direction music video that was released on the internet last week.
Yes, the unremarkable, dull video from 1D has already hit the net for days, but ITV decided they were important enough to show a retrospectively screened Making Of segment where the boyband had about as much insight into life, love and anything as you can imagine they would.
ITV clearly see entertainment news as a part of its offering and that’s fine. But give us real entertainment news exclusives, like music video premieres with behind the scenes packages as part of that, pop stars performing for thousands in Trafalgar Square, etc. Indeed, ITV is uniquely positioned as being able to go for extravagant pop performances in a way that BBC cannot justify spending taxpayer money on.
This is the sort of event morning television that GMA has down to a fine art, and so if ITV wants a piece of the pie for a UK audience, then it needs to accept that the cost of garnering and covering news generating entertainment exclusives is going to be high, and definitely much higher than VT packages of one direction’s already released music video.
The decision to bring on Paul O’ Grady as their first day sofa guest signifies that ITV once again care more about cross-pollination of talent and self promo than it does about actually catering to nailing top-line guests and launching in style. You would have thought they would have given the stable a break to bring in a big star for day one, but alas.
In the trail that the show used to promote Paul’s show returning to ITV, Chatty Man host Alan Carr appears as a guest. Suddenly I found myself wishing that Alan Carr had been an opening guest for the show instead. There were so many choices the show could have made for opening guest on day one, so this was particularly disappointing. O Grady is just too familiar at this stage to be relevant or exciting.
THE CROWDS. WHERE ART THOU, CROWDS?
What was missing, of course, is big crowds of happy Americans in Times Square staring in.
Because everything is filmed in a big ass studio at ITV tower, they are missing out the option of having people in vision looking in, effectively telling the viewer “Look, other people find this story about Paul o Grady interesting too!” or at the very least showing other people doing funny shit in the background if the piece gets dry. You really ache for a studio that is set somewhere overlooking Leicester or Trafalgar Square for a show like this. London is a big, exciting city, so why do none of the UK’s major studio shows take advantage of that? Property prices, one can only assume.
What Was Good
Something must be wrong with me because I didn’t immediately want to crawl inside my television and pull Susanna Reid off the screen by that glossy pony hair of hers.
I’m still pretty sure Susanna Reid is the kind of girl who keeps anti-bac wipes in her bag at all times incase she has to touch someone not from the home counties, but I will give the girl her dues -she took on the pressure of the new role with gusto and basically seemed frequently less annoying than she did on BBC Breakfast, possibility because she’s been watered down by four presenters.
The panel themselves are a nice spread. Sure, they are too white (Asian people exist too, ITV) but by and large they are affable, friendly and their banter is promising. I like that there’s four people at a round-table of sorts .
They did all have their game faces on, so hopefully that will drop and they will soften as the show evolves.
THE LAYOUT OF THE STUDIO
I don’t hate it.
I like the desk. Desks tell me people are serious about telling me information. Like my boss telling me im fired every day.Desks are a barrier I need. They are a formality which makes me trust news reporters, because I’m stupid and I need these visual cues. People who walk and talk with papers in their hands over virtual sets are not my friends, and people who lounge on a couch to tell me the news can’t be serious, because its a couch – I eat crispbread on a couch.
Of course for those informal moments the sofa is still there, because Katy Perry is not meant to sit behind a desk when she comes to sell her CD. She is meant to sit on a sofa so we can see her legs and analyse her belt choice.
And finally, no purple = good choice.
THE NEWSY FOCUS
This is the single biggest positive move ITV have made for the breakfast format. It recognises that the most widespread criticism of Daybreak was that it was based far too entirely on fluff, and as such they have moved strongly towards a more serious news presentation.
This is more in line with what BBC Breakfast do, though Breakfast do it so joylessly as of late that one hopes that the inherent soft touch approach of ITV will be able to bring a bit of laughter and humour inter-weaved into the reporting of serious issues. It is a tough one to master, but not an impossible one.
The news focus lacks international big story clout. It’s all very Brit-Centric which is wonderful, but also forgets that the British public generally do also care a great deal about major international affairs like Ukraine.
Ben injects a MUCH needed slice of humour to the piece, and his banter with the other male at the table feels like something that will grow with the show. You can already see a tendency for the males and females of the shows to pair up, and that is fine, because it reflects what happens in reality.
Susanna might be the star but Ben is definitely the driving force of the formative relationships on the set. He looked attentively at his co-presenters as they spoke, turning to the camera when it was his turn rather than waiting for his cut right down the barrel, all in all he came out the panel as the strongest presenter. He’s a pro and his presence turn out to be surprisingly vital.
LIVE HITS WITH ANDI PETERS
Andi Peters is totally a national treasure and him wandering around aimlessly in a Leeds market to interact with ‘the people’ who just wanted to say hi to their grand-kids was priceless and great.
This kind of stuff works and showing a nation waking up and starting work is what connects you, as a viewer, to Britain. Where crowds are indeed missing from the windows of the GMB set peering in, live waking up with XX hits every day from across the country could be a strong solution.
The lack of predictability of the characters live hits can produce makes for one of the most exciting prospects in the show.
It was never going to be The Big Breakfast, ITV don’t want that. But Good Morning Britain has achieved the unthinkable in lurching from the large shadow of Daybreak with an affable, likeable morning programme that needs work, as any new show does, but throws ITV back into the arena of morning breakfast shows as a serious contender.
It’ll take a few months to see how the show settles into this start, but hopefully they wont drop the ball, if only because I can’t take another round of news stories about ITV breakfast shows.
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