Last Friday early morning classic GMTV was laid to rest in favour of a dire new concept called Daybreak, and like so many things (Opal Fruits, Woolworths, my youth), I just didn’t realise how much I’d miss it until it was gone. It’s a good thing of course, lifestyle-wise; I used to chop and change between BBC Breakfast and GMTV during my toast-munching time, thus missing out on valuable current affairs snippets in favour of red carpet gossip and stories about heroic pets. It’s a new dawn, and that dawn will be filled entirely with disheartening news about house prices and graduate jobs. But I forced myself to watch a good six minutes of the first Daybreak this morning, just to see if it had any of GMTV’s trashy warmth, silliness or unintentional hilarity.
Reader, it did not. Even if you can stomach the toxic combination of Bleakley and Chiles (really?), they are wedged in far too close to the camera in an uncomfortable ‘we get on great!’ proximity. Her rubbery spitting-image smile and his melting caveman expression make it difficult to decide which side of the screen is less painful to focus on, and while today’s weather probably wasn’t a production decision, the vast greyness behind their heads just added to the notion that this was a dark, dark day for breakfast television. The news (and I know no-one ever watched GMTV for the NEWS) was like any other third-rate channel’s news – dull, read by an attractive but nondescript woman and with the same terrible 80s-looking graphics as the rest of the show. Purple and yellow? Outside of an Easter Hat Parade these colours have no business appearing side by side. It’s hard to believe this is the big shift in ITV’s morning schedule, months in the planning. It looks like they had to come up with something in 24 hours, planned using only post its, purple crayons and a perpetual soundtrack of James Blunt in the background.
It’s not that GMTV was a sensational piece of topical television; it simply stood for a time when I had options. Bleak day, hungover day, can’t-bear-to-hear-another-economic-reason-my-life-is-about-to-suck day? Ben Shephard’s boy-scout charm and the ramblings of their (clearly on crack) TV guy Richard Arnold would momentarily disperse the challenges of the day ahead. Bad satellite links, verbal stumblings and crying babies drowning out interviews were all part of its wayward charm. Transparent timewasting – during their World Cup coverage, Shephard had a troupe of vuvuzela players competing with an English brass band for a number of minutes I will never comprehend – provided a good opportunity to flick over to the real world, aka BBC Breakfast. But while I know many of you were always exclusively Breakfast watchers, there is a small part of my brain, the same part that enjoys reading Cosmo in the bath, that just doesn’t know how it will get through some segments of a purely-BBC morning. The other day one of their correspondents was wedging himself through small tunnels in a cave for what seemed like hours, as some sort of topical nod to a big cave-related story. I can’t even remember what the point of it was, so traumatic was the coverage. It also doesn't help that the hosts are as forgettable as they are professional, and the business and sports presenters are snoozeworthy even when sipping your first caffeine fix of the day.
So farewell, GMTV: farewell to the interchangeable blondeness of Penny, Kate and Emma, farewell to the Pussycat-Doll-esque weathergirl, farewell to Real People interviews marred by grizzling babies, to Andrew Castle’s valiant stabs at being ‘cool’ and ‘hip’, to Fiona Phillips’ inability to be remotely likeable, to Richard Arnold’s pun-a-minute, ‘ooh matron’ TV coverage, and to many other little moments of lightness in my weekday mornings.