“I HAD AN ENCOUNTER WITH THE M4 THIS MORNING!”
We’ll start with the original battle of the breakfasts, and rather brilliantly someone has put online the first five minutes of both Breakfast Time and Good Morning Britain from the same day, 25th January 1984, to allow us to make accurate comparisons. So we start on the Beeb with Frank and Selina – they’re a smashing team on that show, as Kenneth Williams famously had it – with some rather frosty banter, and we love the way they’re a mile apart. Meanwhile five minutes earlier, over in Eggcup Towers, we’ve got Nick and John, back in the days when there was nothing funny about two men presenting together, indulging in that patented TV-am item, Pointing At Pictures Of Princess Diana In The Papers, before Wincey is a bit more repellent than we remember.
“WE’RE GOING NOW, I’M TOLD, INTERGALACTIC!”
This is a great clip for all sorts of reasons. Mostly it’s a clip from Breakfast Time in 1984 (we’re not sure when, possibly the May half term?) featuring an interview with Rik Mayall, Ben Elton and Lise Mayer about The Young Ones, which is entertaining enough, and Frank seems to get on pretty well with them and is quite interested in their work, which is nice to see. But the absolute highlight as far as we’re concerned comes right at the end, with one of our most vivid TV memories which we were so thrilled to see again, Frank introducing the next programme on BBC1, which is Battle of the Planets, and everyone turning around to watch it on the Weather Window. We used to love that bit. Early Breakfast Time was a lot of fun, though, they even brought us Billy Bragg singing live.
“DAVE, I’VE GOT FRANK BOUGH’S BREAKFAST TIME BOOK HERE!”
Sadly it couldn’t last, as Beeb meddling turned it into the rather dull affair we’ve now had for the last 24 years (although it’s OK now because Bill livens it up). The change in 1986 – we recall illustrated in the Radio Times with a cartoon of a workman prising the sun logo off the wall – was big news, and here’s a clip from Open Air moaning about it. Of course it was relentless suits and desks now, but for all its high-minded approach, it was also unbelievably flimsy, and here’s an ill-cast Paxo pissing off at half eight to make way for Laverne and Shirley. The news coverage was alright, we suppose, and here’s a bit of Election 87 you won’t have seen on BBC Parliament, Frank and the gang the morning after, but it was all dead dull. Even worse was to come, though, with the utterly tedious Breakfast News, which couldn’t even be bothered to change the theme tune. It is a nice theme, though, especially the fiddle-dee-dee bit in this extended opener from the Gulf War.
“THAT’S A NICE JUMPER!”
Still, at least stuff happened on the Beeb. The most remarkable thing about looking at clips of TV-am is how most of the time they just chat about nothing, a perfect example being here in 1987 when Caroline Righton, who’s recently failed to become a Tory MP, comes out of the pre-7am bit with some idle banter with Anne and Mike, followed by some more idle banter when the show, such as it was, actually starts. Even when Roland Rat was about, very little actually happened, such as this non-event, albeit with Sweeney and Steen off of CBTV. Still the guests were sometimes ace, like here and here.
“MARTIN, LEAVE THE PHONE ALONE!”
An interesting footnote in the history of breakfast telly here, this is a sort of meld of two breakfast shows on a third. It’s TV MAYhem, the Chris Evans-fronted kids show that began in September 1991 and, er, ended in October 1991 when TV-am lost their franchise and immediately axed it (but they still got paid). Watch out for the Big Breakfast-esque hello to the boys and hello to the girls, as well as Me2 which Chris had brought along from his days on The Power Station. And here’s Chris and his mate Gary, who went on to produce The Big Breakfast and then become a telly boss himself, plugging it in front of a baffled Lorraine Kelly.
“DELIVERED BRIGHT AND BREEZY MONDAY TO FRIDAY!”
Of course a year later Evans would be delivering breakfast one button down on the telly, but on Channel Four before that was their original effort at breakfast time. Here, from April 1989, is the extended trailer explaining the delights within The Channel Four Daily, including Paddy “chest nappy” Haycocks and Debbie Greenwood plugging Streetwise, an attempt to make Kickback look like something more interesting than Sue Mott moaning for five minutes, Susannah Simons being possibly the poshest TV presenter of all time and the hilarious Box Office trailer with the most pompous gimmick ever, all ending with the most complicated menu in the history of television. Anyway, here’s how it all arrived on our screens, with some, cough, teething troubles. It has to be said, though, that it’s the best theme tune of any breakfast telly show ever.
Couldn’t last, though, and sadly there aren’t any clips of the latter incarnation when the twenty million studios were replaced by just sticking everyone in one room and doing it all live. But after three tedious years (we recall Smash Hits summing up The Channel Four Daily with the simple summary, “The Channel Four Daily: stock market ‘activity'”), it was replaced by something entirely new, and here’s one of the first trailers for it, before they’d hired either Gaby or moved into the house, with the first presenters available clearly in somebody’s front room. The ‘splits were a major selling point at the start, although after episode one everyone realised why they hadn’t been on telly much for the previous twenty years. But never mind, because we had fantastic stuff like this, like this and, rather excitingly, the whole of the show around midnight in 1992. Don’t eat my turds!
“THAT’S THE WONKIEST CAMERA SHOT WE’VE EVER SEEN!”
One of the highlights of the Big Breakfast’s golden age (1992-94, and no later) was the 8.30 competition, and in the summer of 1993, when everyone in the world was watching, that meant One Lump Or Two. Here’s the last ever round, which as well as seeing Sebastian Scott in front of the camera also sees a guest appearance from Lord Bob Monkhouse. It doesn’t get any better than that. Of course, Bob presented the show for a bit, and he later admitted he hated doing it because it was the hardest job he’d ever done, but here are two other guest hosts – the first one ever, Andrew O’Connor, playing a round of the original 8.30 game, the Dingbats-styled Guess The Mess (and if anyone knows what the answer is, do tell us), and best of all, the Bake, fronting Stop The Mop. “Or as we remember it around here, the steak knives fiasco!”
“NOT A THING, LOVE, I’M SORRY!”
But of course the reason everyone in the world watched The Big Breakfast was for Zig and Zag, the funniest comic characters in television history (apart from when they came back for the last one ever and were shit). Yet another item on our long list of Things That Surprisingly Aren’t On YouTube is the chocolate cake, but this is almost as good, Agony Alien, taken off the video that’s long been deleted but worth buying if you ever see it in a charity shop. Also here is one of their fabulous songs, the whole of their encounter with Patrick Moore (during the school holidays when they were on at ten to nine, fact fans) and never mind Take That, the other guest that day was Max Bygraves. “I did flush!”
“WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE GOAL, GARY?”
As well as The Big Breakfast being brilliant, the other reason the ratings were so huge was because GMTV was bloody awful, Here’s how it began on New Year’s Day 1993, followed by this extended introduction to the entire team, most of whom had been dumped by the end of February. Proper programming didn’t get underway until Monday 4th, where on that revolting set (Greg Dyke: “The set was horrible, they had that bloody fire!”), Fiona and Mike, who nobody had heard of, illustrate that F Factor that worked out so well. And who needs Zig and Zag when you’ve got Simon Parkin buggering about in front of some crap CSO?