TELEVISION / More of the same

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The Independent Culture
'IF in doubt, copy' is the new maxim at the BBC. ITV beating you hands down? Easy, just up the ratings by confusing the viewer into thinking they are actually watching the other side. Every aspect of Good Morning with Anne and Nick (BBC 1), the 'new look to weekdays on BBC 1', was familiar: there was the pretty boy doctor to give medical advice, the endless cups of tea, the constant run-downs of what was coming up; even the sofas looked as though Anne Diamond and Nick Owen had brought them with them from TV-am. In tone, approach and direction this was indistinguishable from ITV's This Morning with Richard and Judy.

Flicking across the channels, you might have thought you could spot the difference when ITV stopped for commercials. But Nick and Annie had little breathers too: 'Let's take a break now,' Nick said. 'Old habits die hard.' On both sides, whenever the fab foursome needed to prepare for the next gruelling interview with the woman who makes Princess Bea's clothes or the man who strangled his neighbour's parrot, there would be a filmed insert.

The one advantage the This Morning presenters have is that, while Annie and Nick behave like a married couple, Richard and Judy actually are. They were never slow to remind us. 'Well, I know I wanted him there,' said Judy during a debate on childbirth, in a tone of voice that suggested it would have been a brave Richard who said he would prefer a fag in the corridor.

ITV tried a couple of spoilers for Nick and Annie's opening day - it was a good gag to have ITN's Nicholas Owen read their news - but won out in the end through a genuine bit of journalism. While Joan Collins was being fluffy on the Bruce Gyngell Memorial Sofa over on BBC 1, Richard and Judy were quizzing someone we really wanted to know about: Pandora, Kevin Maxwell's wife.

'What was your relationship like with Robert Maxwell?' asked Richard I-Don't-Wish-To-Pry Madeley, salivating. 'We had our ups and downs,' she replied, with a look that indicated the ups were on the level of Ronnie Corbett's knees. She was a smooth, quick-witted and likeable performer. If Channel 4 wanted to join in the mid-morning crush, they could do worse than recruit Kevin and Pandora. It would be worth it for the financial advice slot alone.

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