First Morning: Daybreak, ITV
Chiles and Bleakley's 'Daybreak' looked different – but felt like 'GMTV'
Tuesday 07 September 2010
It might not be up there with "one small step for man" but it did the job – sort of. "Dawn is happening, day is breaking behind us," intoned Adrian Chiles yesterday as he welcomed viewers to the first edition of Daybreak, ITV's much vaunted replacement for GMTV. But far from heralding a brave new era in breakfast time infotainment, it was more a case of Groundhog Day for those who had set their alarms to join Chiles and his co-host, Christine Bleakley, for their first day on the job.
Much is unrecognisable from the old show, which for the best part of two decades proved popular with both viewers and advertisers. The revamped version has a flashy new set with a stunning view over London (no doubt to highlight BBC Breakfast's impending and ideologically driven move to Salford), not to mention the two big-money signings at the helm. But a reliance on tabloid follow-ups, soft soap interviews, celebrity news, weather and sport brought to you by a cast of telegenic young presenters remains firmly at its beating heart.
Not that there weren't a few banal innovations. Viewers were invited to vote on their favourite quirky story of the day, and the inaugural winner – a skateboarding dog – demonstrated that the spirit of Nationwide circa 1979 remains alive and well in TV land. There was also the opportunity to win £100,000 – yours by the simple expedient of paying £1.50, or "considerably more" if using a mobile, to answer the bewilderingly simple question: "How long is a century?"
Simple, of course, is exactly what the art of television presenting is supposed to look like, though anyone who has been in front of a camera will know it is anything but. After their twin fallouts with the BBC, Chiles and Bleakley seemed keen to prove to their new paymasters in commercial television that they are worth every penny of their considerable salaries – much rests on their ability to to recreate the sofa chemistry which was such a hit on the corporation's teatime slot.
Yesterday morning, despite the vastness of the mauve sofa on which they were perched, leaning precariously forward towards the camera as if trying to lick it, it seemed at one point as if the former The One Show duo were clinging to each other for dear life.
Bleakley, resplendent in a beige sweater dress, looked like she was concentrating on trying to hold onto her breakfast. The lugubrious everyman that is Chiles sought to diffuse the obvious tension with a few self-effacing jokes which were met with gales of unwarranted laughter from the studio crew.
The studio itself was as much a star of the first day as the presenters, as we were invited to join them on an inspection which petered out soon after being introduced to the studio clock ("big hand, little hand... err").
One of the more toe-curling moments came later in the show when Chiles strode across the floor to swap patronisingly blokeish comments about the England women's rugby team with the show's sports editor, Dan Lobb, as if they were propped up at the bar of their local.
The first-day coup was enticing Tony Blair to appear. The former Prime Minister was among the first politicians to realise that he could reach more voters on the GMTV sofa than by being flayed alive by John Humphrys in the Today studio, and so perhaps he was repaying that debt. To their credit, the presenters elicited something of a scoop by getting Blair to admit he was considering cancelling future book signings after last weekend's protests.
If there is to be some chemistry in Daybreak it could be between Bleakley and Kate Garraway, the ousted former presenter. The latter displayed an admirable disregard for the inane niceties of breakfast telly, refusing to trade compliments as she was forced to play second fiddle to her replacement – holding out the delicious prospect of stilettos at dawn in the weeks to come. Now that would be worth getting up at 6am for.
How 'Daybreak' unfolded
0600: "Dawn is happening, day is breaking behind us," says Chiles. We get our first glimpse of the new set and newsreader Tasmin Lucia Khan.
0630: "We've never done a show lasting longer than half an hour," Chiles quips.
0645: Viewers are asked to choose their favourite story – a skateboarding dog, a knobbly carrot and a mobility scooter display team are the options. The dog wins.
0710: John Stapleton returns with his report on the collapse of Farepak, four years on.
0725: Chiles engages in some awkward banter with sports editor Dan Lobb.
0732: Weather reporter Lucy Verasamy brings news of rain from the West – and an update on the dawn over Ilkley Moor.
0750: New babies in Kirkcaldy are shown, marking the birth of Daybreak – but none want to be called Adrian.
0800: Former GMTV presenter Kate Garraway squares up to Bleakley – and wins.
0825: Tony Blair explains why he is not "kicking Gordon Brown while he is down".
0830: "We have survived," Bleakley says.
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