TELEVISION / Morning sickness

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The Independent Culture
AS THE Channel 4 Daily drew to a close last Friday morning, its anchorwoman handed over to its sportscaster for the final time with appropriate commiserations. Then, reality rushed in: 'I don't suppose anybody at home gives two hoots about this,' she said.

You will not hear a more succinct analysis of breakfast television. When the character on the Channel 4 trailers taps on the screen it is because he knows that nobody is out there. As far as viewing figures are concerned, the 200,000 people who watched Channel 4 Daily amount to no more than one man and his dog. Adults have turned their backs on breakfast television, so Bob Geldof, whose Big Breakfast replaces Channel 4 Daily, has turned his back on them. Forget the man and his dog. Go for his children.

Gone are the slatted blinds, smooth suits and buzzing office chic of the newsy, viewsy Daily. In are the cartoon colours and joke- shop decor of the homey, jokey Big Breakfast. In this, a double- fronted, semi-detached house, the cameras roam Tube-like from room to room to pick out hosts Chris Evans and Gaby Roslin serving a Big Breakfast of Saturday morning children's television, five days a week. The Radio One DJ and the ex-Motormouth presenter have that happy, happy, happy, fun, fun, fun style that is perfectly suited to introducing cartoon clips and competitions, which seems to be their chief duty. 'It's packed, packed, packed, big, big, big,' chirped Evans, who could barely contain himself at the thought of watching an old episode of Banana Splits and meeting Alf the Hissing Cockroach.

Meanwhile, on BBC 1, Breakfast News was reporting a 2 per cent fall in Japanese retail sales and even TV-am was discussing the decimation of the world's elephants. Not that The Big Breakfast shut out the real world entirely. There were bulletins every 20 minutes, with stories selected as much for their pun potential as their news value - 'Going for Gould', 'Major Problem' and 'Reigning in Taxes' being the main headlines. They were projected on to a backdrop that changed colour with each story: golden for Gould, blue for Major and so on. When, back in The Big Breakfast sitting room, Gaby Roslin began an interview with battered wife Kiranjit Ahluwalia, it was a surprise the set wasn't draped in black. Anything would have been better than listening to the poor woman explaining why she set light to her sleeping husband in a room blazing with oranges, yellows and reds.

But at least they didn't interview her in bed, which was where Paula Yates talked to Joanna Lumley. Yates abandoned any attempt at formal interview early on, opting instead for the kind of aimless chatter about fitness and holidays that would have been better placed in a hairdresser's than a bedroom. The first of Bob Geldof's interviews with heads of state got off to an equally shaky start ('Why don't you elect a queen of Australia?' he asked Australian PM Paul Keating). Heaven knows what he will ask the Dalai Lama.

However, Geldof is nothing if not honest. 'This is rubbish,' he told Chris Evans, well before The Big Breakfast had really scraped bottom with a spoof item about hard toilet paper. From any other employer to employee this would have been a kick in the teeth. Here, where chaos takes precedent over content, it looked suspiciously like a pat on the back.