If The Word dies, can Big Breakfast survive?

Rhys Williams looks at prospects for the runaway breakfast-TV success now that its stablemate seems doomed

The higher they climb, the further they fall. And when your name is Planet, the tumble can assume stratospheric proportions. With the future of The Word looking as secure as a Nick Leeson derivative and rumours of a springclean to revitalise The Big Breakfast, the question arises: is one of the brightest stars in independent television, Planet 24 - responsible for both shows - losing its twinkle?

Channel 4 executives will shortly sit down and consider whether to recommission The Word after the end of its present run. They must decide whether the five-year-old programme has the vitality to sustain another run. According to Stephen Garrett, who commissioned The Word and is joint managing director of Kudos Productions, the show is at the end of its natural life cycle.

Jane Hewland, joint creator of the pioneering youth show Network 7, with Janet Street-Porter, says now The Word operates in an infinitely more competitive environment, with BBC2's Fantasy Football League providing unmissable viewing for the lagered-up crowd. And the left-field, late- night Eurotrash, presented by Jean Paul Gaultier and Antoine de Caunes, comfortably outwits and outshocks its stable-mate.

So with a big chunk of Planet 24's high-profile output looking as though it may shortly be spending more time in the programme vaults, the tension turns to The Big Breakfast.

Targeted to double the 250,000 audience ratings of its predecessor, Channel Four Daily, The Big Breakfast, which burst upon us in September 1992, boosted the early morning audience sixfold. Although GMTV reaches more viewers across the morning, The Big Breakfast regularly eclipses its commercial rival at the 8am peak.

Dismissed as "infantile hotch-potch" for the "terminally moronic", The Big Breakfast has developed into one of the programming sensations of the decade. The manic pace and camera-work is Oliver Stone without the blood, while full crew participation and items such as "Get Your Knobbly Nuts Out" suggests its antecedents are rooted in Eighties youth programming.

This is why Channel 4 went for it. But according to William G Stewart, the producer of The Price Is Right, The Big Breakfast is becoming a victim of its own frenetic innovation. "The more anarchic and chaotic a programme, the less chance it has of running for years. It's not about how good they are, it's about how they are able to stay the course."

A subscriber to the philosophy that a programme should out-stay its welcome to ensure that every last drop of entertainment is milked from it, Stewart believes time should be called on The Big Breakfast and The Word.

This may explain why Planet 24 is applying a new lick of paint to The Big Breakfast from next month. Ruling out any suggestion of a relaunch, Dawn Airey, controller of arts and entertainment at Channel 4, says viewers may start noticing a few changes in the spring. She says the channel is looking to lengthen the show and add several items.

It is also understood that there will be a change in the presentation line-up of Gaby Roslin, Paul Ross and Mark Little."The show is very robust. We're just giving it some new toys to play with," Ms Airey explains.

So there is an unmistakeable hum in the ether on Planet 24.The recently established Planet 24 Radio looks to be repeating the success of its television parent with three shows on the BBC. Straight Up on 5-Live follows the comics Andy Parsons and Henry Naylor as they travel the length of Britain in a straight line through veterinary surgeries, living rooms and peat bogs. A second series of Supertunes on Radio 3 hosted by Lord Onslow continues to explore the darker reaches of house, rap and jungle.

TV commissions include Delicious, a children's show for Carlton, a prime- time entertainment show for BBC1 (believed to involve Steve Wright) and episodes in BBC2's art series, American Visions.

The company has also just teamed up with Hat Trick, producer of Have I Got News For You and Whose Line Is It Anyway?. The joint venture was established to pursue programme opportunities on cable and satellite. But as the pitch for a new Channel 4 daytime strand (for which it has already been shortlisted) demonstrates, Planet Hat Trick is also poised to feature on mainstream channels. "We're there to collaborate on cable and satellite primarily," Denise O'Donoghue, managing director of Hat Trick, explains. "But if there are terrestrial opportunities, we would be stupid not to chase them."

Although it can be no guarantee of longevity, the fact that Planet 24 has begun recruiting for a graduate trainee scheme - something that even the BBC has fought shy of recently - suggests that the company plans to stick around.

Half of us seldom watch breakfast television, so the battle for those who do is fierce. GMTV has lifted its ratings a little since its mid-1993 nadir, but it is still below TV-am's vintage late-Eighties levels. C4's The Big Breakfast plundered many younger viewers. However, since Chris Evans left last September the show is down by 500,000 viewers a week. GMTV's weekday audience is almost 4 million a week above C4's but older, and less attractive to toy and household advertisers. The BBC's sober news programme is performing well.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Project Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This established Digital Agency based in East ...

Guru Careers: Sales Director / Business Development Manager

£35 - 45K + COMMISSION (NEG): Guru Careers: A Sales Director / Business Develo...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - Manchester - Urgent Requirement!

£30000 - £35000 per annum + 20 days holidays & pension: Ashdown Group: Marketi...

Sauce Recruitment: Senior Management Accountant

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: Working for a independently owne...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness