This Morning: 30 Unforgettable Years, Tuesday 2nd October, 7:30pm, ITV
My mother wasn’t a big TV watcher in the past. She was one of these dreadful people who had both a successful career and a busy social life. But in retirement, she has discovered a fondness for the box that has reassured me that I might be her son after all. (Annoyingly, she still has a better social life than me, but there it is). But she has a slightly puritanical attitude, which means that she doesn’t really approve of watching TV in the daytime. Obviously, exceptions are made for sporting events, the news, and anything that might conceivably involve a hint of reference to even the more insignificant members of the royal family, but other than that, daytime TV is the beginning of a slippery slope of immoral and louche behaviour that will lead inexorably to a life of breakfast-time gin and GBH.
Generally speaking, she’s not missing much. But it does mean that she’s never seen an episode of This Morning. She’s never even heard of Richard and Judy or Eamonn and Ruth. She has wilfully denied herself the pleasures of a daily dose of Pip and Holly. It seems to me to be a grotesque error of judgement. Because for 30 years, This Morning has set the bar for daytime television with a show that is lively, funny, informative and relevant, as this feature-length documentary vividly illustrates.
On Monday 3rd October 1988, at 10:40am, husband-and-wife team Richard Madeley and Judy Finnegan took to the airwaves, with the first words going, as they always did back then, to the male host. Mind you, it was a miracle Judy could speak at all, given the titanic shoulder pads she was sporting. She could have played running back for the Dallas Cowboys.
This is, by and large, a cheerful romp through the history of This Morning. It deals with some of the show’s most notorious moments, including a shockingly raunchy performance by the Chippendales during the closing credits one day. The problem was, children would be watching – Rainbow was on next. They already knew about Zippy – and now they knew about Unzippy as well.
It wasn’t the only time that a good deal of flesh was on show on This Morning. Doctor Chris – a welcome fixture throughout the last three decades – did a segment on women examining their breasts for lumps that may have raised a few eyebrows but certainly saved a number of lives. Then he went ahead and did the same thing for testicular examination. It was ground-breaking and courageous television.
The programme deals with the show’s move from Liverpool to London, and then the departure, after 13 years, of Richard and Judy. The idea of the show without them was unthinkable – all the more so when they were succeeded by Twiggy and Coleen Nolan. But things improved once the show was helmed by Fern Britton and Philip Schofield (who, footage exclusively reveals, actually once had dark hair!)
Fern and Philip had a tendency towards the giggles – much as he does today with co-host Holly Willoughby – and the frequent eruptions of uncontrollable mirth have become one of the show’s calling cards. We are reminded of the original, and perhaps best, of these moments – beef-dunking-gate. The biscuit town built by Song Dong comes a close second.
There’s so much more. Garlic ice cream and the Spice Girls (both an acquired taste), Gino D’Acampo’s literal interpretation of the Naked Chef, Simon Cowell’s TV debut, the passing of a Princess, Viagra tests, THAT Kerry Katona interview, Alison Hammond’s Hugh Jackman crush, and on and on. And, fittingly, there is a moving tribute to the late Denise Robertson, the show’s agony aunt, who helped so many people in times of distress.
Happy birthday, This Morning. By 30, most of us are expected to behave like grown-ups. Please make sure that doesn’t happen to you.
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The Debt Saviours, Friday 5th October, 9pm, BBC Two
Life isn’t fair. It’s a simple fact, patently obvious and, even by the shallow standards of a telly blog, not a statement that can pass as profound. But it’s true. And it behoves us all to be reminded of that from time to time. This evening, I’m going to play football (with all the elegance and finesse of a blancmange on the Cresta Run), before going home to kiss my kids goodnight, have dinner and enjoy a couple of glasses of wine with my wife in front of the telly. Okay, it’s not sipping prosecco in Amalfi with Grace Kelly, but it’s a pretty good life.
Meanwhile, all over the country, people will go to bed early because they don’t have money for food, and have had their electricity cut off. All on their own, hungry, cold and bored, what else are they meant to do?
This documentary meets people who are in serious debt, and the people who help them out of seemingly irretrievable situations. Christians Against Poverty (CAP), founded by Dr John Kirkby, is an evangelical Christian organisation that offers invaluable practical support to those in debt, helping them with the bureaucracy, drawing up sensible repayment plans, and often providing them with food bank vouchers and much-needed meals.
They also help them with their more ethereal needs. They pray with them, encourage their attendance at church, and hope to welcome them into their faith. To some, this is harmless spiritual guidance. To others, it is a cynical attempt to take advantage of vulnerable people at a moment when they are struggling.
But at least CAP is doing something. When you’re broke, hungry and alone, it’s all too easy for people to fall between the cracks. People like Mick, who worked his whole life, but is £11,000 in debt, and has lost most of those close to him. “If I died tomorrow, I couldn’t give a s***,” he says. Meanwhile another client, Ronnie, lives alone in a bedsit. He spent two years on remand in prison, suspected of being a master criminal involved in a £24m conspiracy to sell heroin. Spend 30 seconds watching Ronnie and you realise he’s no more a master criminal than I am a chess grand master. Institutionalised by his stint behind bars, for him a successful day is being able to go to the shop and buy a newspaper. Or there’s Danielle, a single mother to a young baby, who states matter-of-factly that “eating food is a luxury.” When did that become a reality for people?
That the CAP team makes a difference to their lives there is no doubt. Kirkby is messianic in his zeal (he’d probably not use that term himself, come to think of it) and his staff, people like debt coach Gareth, are everyday heroes. Some of us might be a bit uncomfortable with the idea of introducing a debt-relief plan hand-in-hand with a bible and some Christian homilies. But the support is not conditional, and clients who say no will be served as well. Phillip Wood’s admirably even-handed film asks the questions, and leaves the viewers to make up their minds.
The best… and the rest
Saturday 29th September
Albert: The Power Behind Victoria, 8:35pm, Channel 5: A feature-length drama-documentary about our Vicky’s hubby, and his considerable influence on the affairs of state, responsibilities that saw him work himself into an early grave aged just 42.
Sunday 30th September
The Cry 1/4, 9pm, BBC One: The fabulous Jenna Coleman stars in this new drama about a young couple facing intolerable public scrutiny after an incident changes their lives forever. There must be easier gigs, in telly-land, than following the national event that was Bodyguard (even if its conclusion was a tad on the ropey side…)
Golf: Ryder Cup Highlights, 7:30pm, BBC Two: If you’ve managed to lock yourself into a sound-proof room for most of the day to escape the result, this should be a riveting couple of hours, as golf’s premier event reaches its final-day climax.
Monday 1st October
Drowning in Plastic, 8:30pm, BBC One: Biologist Liz Bonnin presents this feature-length documentary as she travels the world examining the untold damage we are doing to the planet with our vast consumption – and discarding – of plastic. You may never look at bottled water in the same way.
Wednesday 3rd October
Joanna Lumley’s Silk Road Adventure 4/4, 9pm, ITV: The final part of this magnificent travelogue sees our heroine travelling through the majestic landscapes of Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, and on to the Chinese border.
Thursday 4th October
Canada: A Year in the Wild 1/4, 8pm, Channel 5: Bears, flying squirrels, beavers, big horn rams, and arctic foxes all make an appearance in this visually arresting look at life in one of the world’s great wildernesses.
The Placebo Experiment: Can My Brain Cure My Body? 9pm, BBC Two: Michael Mosley embarks on Britain’s largest ever trial to investigate the placebo effect, with the help of 117 back-ache sufferers from Blackpool.
Friday 5th October
The Great Model Railway Challenge 1/6, 8pm, Channel 5: James Richardson, once of Football Italia fame, presents a series which sees teams of model train enthusiasts build miniature masterpieces against both each other and the clock.
The Big Audition 1/6, 9pm, ITV: Factual entertainment series following people as they audition for their dream roles. Tonight, we follow the fortunes of those seeking work as a dog model, a shopping TV presenter, and Henry VIII.