Happy 30th birthday breakfast TV!

BBC was first out of the blocks in the race to wake us up with Lycra-loving fitness gurus, chirpy astrologers and unruly animals

The sofas were ugly, the pullovers little better and even the people who worked for the fledgling BBC Breakfast Time didn't expect it to survive. But on Thursday it turns 30, having changed for ever the way the nation starts the day, Others followed, arguably with greater success, but the BBC set the template for many of the now-traditional slots that jolt us awake, from eccentric astrologers and Lycra-loving fitness freaks to TV chefs and unruly animals.

Perhaps surprisingly, the Beeb's offering started life as the underdog: its great rival TV-am, which launched nearly a month later had more money; a swanky studio in Camden, and bigger names – Anne Diamond, Nick Owen and later Roland Rat, who helped push up ratings.

The BBC had Frank Bough, not in the first flush even then, a bouncy Nick Ross – both in unforgivable knitwear – and Selina Scott, who appeared to be on day release from an Amish aid mission. And the studio reflected the general view that the show wasn't going to be around for long.

Ross last week recalled his envy of colleagues at TV-am: "They had a flashy new office in Camden, we were all stuck in a corner of Lime Grove."

Despite its apparent shabbiness, the show was a massively expensive gamble. It launched at a cost of £6m a year, making it the corporation's biggest investment since BBC2 went live in 1964.

And lack of expectation for its hopes against its richer rival on commercial television, Ross agrees, meant it slipped through corporate controls, allowing it to grow quietly and at its own pace.

"There was a relationship with our audience. We were not the high and mighty," he says. "And the editor at the time, Ron Neil, deserves much credit for making it work."

Ross admits to being a bit po-faced over the format, going as it did from hard news stories to cookery demonstrations. "I nearly threw my toys out of the pram when I heard we were doing astrology," he says. "It was only in rehearsals when it came together that I saw his [Neil's] genius."

The first show was presented by Bough and former ITN news reader Scott, with radio news journalist Ross, astrologer Russell Grant and fitness expert Diana Moran, dubbed "The Green Goddess".

Moran, who pioneered leotard-wearing on morning TV, remembers her first section being filmed at Waterloo station. "I was not prepared for how mad it would get," she says. "I was working at Butlins in Minehead before that."

The show today is watched by some 1.5million viewers daily and has a staff of about 45. The BBC will mark its 30th anniversary with archive footage, interviews with some of the original cast and perhaps live footage from the pub where a first-day segment was filmed, which, as testament to changing times, is now a vegetarian restaurant.

Alison Ford, who has edited the current show for more than five years, said Friday's programme will nod to the anniversary but not repeat the 25th celebration, when the original presenters appeared in their jumpers. "The breakfast audience has not changed too much," she says. "People still go to work and they are in the kitchen, but we know they are not watching for the whole show. It is not like Newsnight where you have a targeted audience.

"I don't think today's show is massively different from when it was launched," she added. "We still have people on the sofa, the news and fun stuff."

The weather girls and boys

Ulrika Jonsson appeared on TV-am before going on to present and appear in many other shows, including Gladiator, Vic and Bob's Shooting Stars and 2009's Celebrity Big Brother, which she won.

Wincey Willis was a regular on TV-am and later appeared on Treasure Hunt. She is now a writer, public speaker and conservationist, and a presenter with BBC Hereford and Worcester.

Trish Williamson was a regular on TV-am and later worked as a producer, presenter and reporter. The mother of two died in a car crash in Suffolk in 2007.

Fred Talbot (yes, not strictly breakfast), presented the weather from a floating map in Liverpool's Albert Dock on This Morning. His home was raided last month by police investigating historic sex-abuse claims. He currently works for ITV's North West news programme.

Cooks and stargazers

Russell Grant presented a daily astrology guide on BBC Breakfast until 1986 before defecting to the opposition, TV-am. He later appeared as presenter on a number of shows and TV spin-offs.

Jamaica-born chef Rustie Lee was a staple on TV-am in the 1980s. She later worked on the show Game for a Laugh and had a brief singing and acting career. She also appeared on a spooky reality TV show for Living called I'm Famous and Frightened!

Popular puppets

Roland Rat joined TV-am and was generally seen as the "only rat to join a sinking ship", apparently taking the then-ailing show's audience from 100,000 to 1.8 million. Roland later had three hit singles, including "Rat Rapping", and released an album, The Cassette of the Album.

Zig and Zag, an Irish puppet duo performed by Mick O'Hara and Ciaran Morrison, were popular on Channel 4's Big Breakfast and later scored a UK top-five single with "Them Girls, Them Girls".

Morning stretches

Diana Moran, aka the Green Goddess, got the BBC gig after appearing at Butlins holiday camps, following the work-out craze started by Hollywood star Jane Fonda. Moran was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1988, at 48, and has become a breast cancer advocate for the Breast Cancer Campaign and other charities.

Lizzie Webb, often known as "Mad Lizzie", presented daily exercise routines on TV-am as a response to the Green Goddess.

Mr Motivator, the Jamaica-born British exercise instructor, real name Derrick Errol Evans, graced our sets in the 1990s on GMTV dressed in colourful Spandex, complete with bum-bag. All, naturally, went on to produce fitness videos.

Past & presenters

Frank Bough was a Grandstand regular but cemented his status on Breakfast Time. He left for Holiday in 1987 but was sacked after a sex and drugs scandal. His BT colleague, Selina Scott, presented and produced TV shows until 2003 when, feeling that her age was restricting her career, she withdrew, wrote a book, bred goats and brought out a sock range. In 2008, she won an out-of-court settlement against Channel 5 after she was dropped as maternity cover for Natasha Kaplinsky because of her age. In 2011, Scott presented Treasure Houses of Britain for Sky Arts.

Over on TV-am Anne Diamond set up a campaign in 1991 for research into cot death after the death of her third son, Sebastian. She now presents a phone-in show on BBC Radio Berkshire. She has also given evidence to the Leveson inquiry. Her co-presenter, Nick Owen, went on to other news shows, including Midlands Today. He is chairman of Luton Town FC.

Hits and misses

In 1992, Channel 4 launched The Big Breakfast with Chris Evans and Gaby Roslin to huge success. Later Johnny Vaughan and Denise Van Outen's screen magnetism on Big Breakfast won a legion of fans. Its cast list included a number of famous faces, including Paula Yates, Zoe Ball and Richard Bacon. To date, ITV's Daybreak has not been so successful, despite a number of reinventions after starting as a segment on TV-am in 1983, The name was revived in 2010 when ITV replaced GMTV but has struggled. In 2011 presenters Adrian Chiles and Christine Bleakley were sacked after ratings plummeted.

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