So far behind was ITV trailing in the breakfast ratings that it needed a show with distinctive flavour if it was to recover ground on the BBC.
What viewers of the launch edition of Good Morning Britain got was neither the Eggs Benedict nor the Kedgeree nor the Kellogg’s Coco Pops of breakfast television – but rather an unpalatable concoction of the lot.
It began inauspiciously with the sight of the irrepressible former children’s show host Andi Peters in a Leeds market usually after 6am before falling back on a format clearly borrowed from ABC’s Good Morning America.
Instead of the usual British breakfast sofa, the show’s four presenters were camped behind a vast glass-topped desk with a backdrop of the dome of St Paul’s and the London skyline.
While the pre-launch hype had focused on presenter Susanna Reid, who had jumped ship from the BBC in a reputed £1m deal, she was not the obvious star of the show as the four hosts shared out the headlines which were dealt with at a dizzying rate.
The result was a high-paced newsy offering which is much more squarely in the territory of rival BBC Breakfast than ITV’s previous offering, Daybreak, an expensive experiment that was scrapped after four years with ratings down to 600,000 (compared to the BBC’s 1.6m).
ITV has a long tradition in breakfast television, from the launch of TV-am in 1983 through to its long-running successor GMTV, which was on air for 17 years.
But Good Morning Britain’s choice of an American-style format seems to have discomfited many of the viewers who took to social media during its debut show. The large desk was seen as an oppressive “barrier” between the hosts and the audience while the multitude of presenters was overbearing.
Sky’s Kay Burley took to Twitter to say “Just watching Good Morning Britain…there’s so much going on I need a little lie down”. Her comments shouldn’t be dismissed as the nervousness of a broadcast rival and echoed the thoughts of “Satnavsooz” who said it was “too busy”.
But just as Good Morning Britain seemed to be setting out its stall as a committed news programme back it went to the market where Peters was now giving away £50 prizes on something called The Wheel of Cash (39 years after NBC unveiled the Wheel of Fortune format).
This crunching gear change and lack of originality was later repeated with the arrival of the show’s star guest Paul O’Grady. The news stories had evaporated and we could have been back watching ITV morning stalwart Lorraine Kelly.
In between, Good Morning Britain courted a younger audience by fawning over the boy band One Direction.
The overall result, as a commentator on the Radio Times blog noted, was that the show was “trying too much, too many times for too many people”.
It was never going to be easy launching into a market where the BBC has such a commanding position and at a time of day when other media have audiences that breakfast television can only dream of.
As a contributor to the Digital Spy website observed, “Radio is king in the mornings” and no matter how much Good Morning Britain improves it’s never likely to be able to compete with John Humphrys and the Today programme or Chris Evans on Radio 2.