This Morning: 30 Unforgettable Years

‘It’s hard to imagine a world before This Morning,’ said Joanna Lumley, tongue planted firmly in cheek as she introduced the story of daytime telly’s most enduring magazine show. (At least I hope it was tongue-in-cheek – unless she really does think we should be dividing world history into Before This Morning and Anno This Morning.)

It’s fair to say that hopes were not high when This Morning made its debut in October 1988, fronted by regional husband-and-wife telly stars Richard Madeley and Judy Finnigan (‘local but cheap’ is how the pair put it now). Critics dismissed it as ‘knitting pattern television’, and even staffers at Granada predicted that, like the war, it would be over by Christmas. But viewers, as they so often do, had other ideas.

As a document of Britain’s recent pop-cultural history, this entertaining birthday retrospective was hard to beat. Everything was there, from early appearances by Take That and the Spice Girls to the dollar signs appearing in a young Simon Cowell’s eyes when Kate Thornton, his fellow judge on a This Morning musical talent search, casually suggested they were looking for someone with ‘the X factor’. (Cowell would, of course, later go on to hire, and then fire, Thornton to host that very show.)

This Morning has also had its fair share of drama and scandal, like The Chippendales stripping off minutes before the start of Rainbow, or a famously worse-for-wear Kerry Katona slurring her way through an interview. (Holly Willoughby and Philip Schofield later went one better by presenting an entire show roaring drunk.) Ex-presenter John Leslie talked candidly about being ‘thrown out of the back door into a van’ following accusations about his private life, while a mortified Coleen Nolan recalled her short, disastrous co-presenting stint with Twiggy. (‘This Mourning’, crowed the tabloids, as ratings tumbled.)

But the show also does serious – often unflinchingly, whether talking to bereaved parents or popping taboos by showing breast and testicular examinations at 11 in the morning. Some viewers even claimed This Morning had saved their lives. Not a bad result for ‘knitting pattern television’.

TV extra:


Monkman and Seagull’s Genius Guide to Britain

The breakout University Challenge stars continued their odyssey around the UK with a visit to Northern Ireland, where their discussion of helicopters took in everything from Da Vinci to The A-Team, via a demonstration of Bernoulli’s principle. There was a shocking revelation when Seagull (enjoying his first trip ‘abroad’) admitted all his knowledge of Waterloo came from Abba, while Monkman proved himself an expert on Titanic (the film, as well as the ship). Is there anything he doesn’t know?


The Cry

If you thought Bodyguard’s bomb on a train sequence was tense, it’s nothing compared to being in charge of a screaming baby on a long haul night flight, as Jenna Coleman’s Joanna discovered in The Cry. Adapted from Helen FitzGerald’s anxious psychological thriller, it’s a harrowing but hypnotic watch, with reigning Sunday night TV queen Coleman – those big, Bambi eyes dark and heavy with exhaustion – exceptional as a struggling new mother accused of orchestrating her own child’s kidnap.

Published in Waitrose Weekend, October 4, 2018

(c) Waitrose Weekend