TV Cream

Cream over Britain

20 breakfast telly mistakes ITV is making all over again

"Someone's rung in to ask where Mike Morris has gone"

What was it Karl Marx said? History repeats itself, and each time is fucking worse than the last. Or something. Here are the things ITV has forgotten about – yet again – when it comes to running a successful and popular breakfast television service.

1) Faces are not more important than features

The biggest and simplest mistake of them all. People won’t – and never will – tune in just because “it’s Adrian and Christine from The One Show”. In the words of Walter Mondale to Gary Hart: where’s the beef?

2) Nobody watches breakfast telly to see sexual chemistry

A man and woman pretending to flirt first thing in the morning is ghastly. Fiona Armstrong and Michael Wilson couldn’t do it. Hell, even Frostie and Anna Ford couldn’t do it.

3) Keep the set simple

The last thing people want on a pitch black autumnal morning is to switch on the telly and see an even bigger pitch black autumnal morning on the screen in front of them. What possessed ITV to launch Daybreak with that wretched London skyline for a backdrop just as the mornings were starting to get really dark?

4) Nobody is bigger than the brand

Any breakfast TV service that defines itself through its main presenters is doomed, because anything that goes wrong with the show – anything at all – automatically becomes the fault of the hosts. The future and fortunes of the brand end up linked with the future and fortunes of its faces, and everything gets dragged down together.

5) Don’t piss about with the schedule

For heaven’s sake, run items when you say they are going to run. First thing in the morning is no time to be messing with transmission orders. The eight o’clock news HAS TO BE at eight o’clock. How hard can it be?

6) Don’t give your programme a meaningless title

Nobody has used the word “daybreak” in normal conversation since the end of National Service. GMTV was just as rubbish; since when have programme titles been acronyms? At least Good Morning Britain had a bit of flair to it, even if it was pompous. The Beeb have always got it right. Breakfast Time, Breakfast News, Breakfast: all unfussy and obvious.

7) Nothing should be longer than five minutes

People haven’t got the time or inclination to watch presenters jawing with Jamie Cullum for a quarter of an hour. Or, indeed, presenters jawing with Jamie Cullum.

8) Keep it light

There’s a time and a place for a debate on the legality of the Iraq War. Breakfast television is neither, no matter if your guest is the former prime minister.

9) Don’t go for the wrong kind of gimmick

The trick is to either go for a kind of anti-gimmick (Gyles Brandreth, Frank Bough in a cardigan, Chris Tarrant at seaside resorts) or turn the whole programme into a gimmick (The Big Breakfast in its early, funny incarnation). You don’t go for knock-offs from other formats, like a real fireplace (GMTV) or, in Daybreak’s case, people trying to set new world records, or giant rabbits, or visits from the Women’s Institute, or celebrity nail painting, or any other lousy crappy half-baked nonsense.

10) Don’t be a smart-arse

We’re looking at you, Mr Midlands miserablist.

11) Don’t be a ponce

And we’re looking at you, Captain Bleakley.

12) All novelties must be harmless, not charmless

It’s the difference between Roland Rat or Russell Grant (harmless) and hiring a retired military man to shout the weather forecast or Linda Lusardi doing physical jerks (charmless). In Daybreak’s case, the latter means hiring Four Poofs and a Piano to do “topical” “songs” every Friday, or Bradley Walsh to “present” the weather forecast.

13) It’s not just about London

The rest of the country is already pissed off at having to stare at a London skyline every few seconds; don’t make us even more pissed off by pretending the rest of the country doesn’t exist.

14) There must be self-evident reasons for change

There weren’t any when GMTV replaced TV-am, and there aren’t any now.

15) Don’t define yourself by what you are not

By positioning itself essentially as “not GMTV”, Daybreak has been all about negatives: it’s not this, it’s not that. Where are the positives? What – and who – is the show for?

16) And don’t aspire to be something you are not

This is breakfast television, not Des O’Connor Tonight. You’re not on primetime TV anymore, Adrian!

17) Don’t frighten the viewer

Protracted conversation with the likes of Howard Marks and Rhys Ifans at 8.10am is not what people want over their toast and cereal. This goes right back to that moment in 1983 when Greg Dyke switched on TV-am for the first time and saw Yehudi Menuhin talking about classical violin technique. “Who wants to watch Yehudi Menuhin at breakfast time?” he rightly concluded.

18) It’s not fucking Question Time

So stop trying to give senior politicians “a grilling”.

19) And it’s not fucking Parkinson

So stop getting the likes of Seal and Ben Affleck to sit by side on the sofa and listen to your self-promoting questions.

20) Smile

Turn that frown upside down, Chiles, you miserable bastard.



  1. mr mote

    October 7, 2010 at 8:33 pm

    A sublime list. I too saw Howard Marks and remembered Dyke’s comment re Menuhin. While TV-am’s original bosses were pretentious, Daybreak’s are desperate to be trendy and- as you put it- ‘not GMTV’

    I take issue with #14 though. There were overwhelming reasons for ITV to axe GMTV. Unlike TV-am which grew in popularity, GMTV limped through its last five years. Crucially, the premium rate phone scandal was wot killed it.

    ‘A broken brand’- Eamonn Holmes

  2. Mike

    December 3, 2010 at 3:01 pm

    The comment, #14, TV-am didn’t chose to go, that was down to the iTC Licence renewal of 1991.

  3. Richard Davies

    December 3, 2010 at 8:46 pm

    GMTV won that franchise as Sunrise TV, but had to change it’s name as the morning segment of Sky News was already called that.

  4. Des E

    March 18, 2014 at 5:01 pm

    Three and a half years, four editors, eight presenters and countless jeers from the tabloids later, ITV have decided that turning Daybreak’s fortunes around is about as possible as Channel 5 becoming the greatest television station in the world, ever.

    So they’ve decided to replace it.

    And they’ve decided that Susanna Reid should be among the presenters of this replacement service, as should Charlotte Hawkins.

    Finally, they’ve decided that this replacement service should be called… Good Morning Britain.

    I don’t think it would be unfair to say that they’ve already repeated mistake 6, again, in reviving a name that’s associated with a totally, completely and utterly different era of breakfast TV (and since that era ended, two of the Famous Five have died, as have Mike Morris and Bruce Gyngell, while Ulrika Jonsson has become known for much more than just presenting the weather, and the Camden studios have been partly demolished).

    In signing up “the hot one off BBC Breakfast” and “the cute one off Sky News Sunrise” (for truckloads of cash, no doubt), and allowing the press to promote these two (well, mainly Susanna) to high heaven, one can’t help but feel that they’re set to repeat mistakes 1 and 4, again, as well.

    And with Ben Shephard also set to be part of the team, as well as Sean Fletcher from Sky Sports, who’s to say that they won’t repeat mistake 2, aga… oh, forget it?

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