No business in showbusiness

BBC's Liquid News laughed off the curse of the celebrity news show, but it still failed to set audiences alight. Vanessa Langford, one of its presenters, asks why

I first got wind that all was not well in the world of celebrity news at the 2002 LA premiere of Jennifer Aniston's movie The Good Girl. She was progressing along the red carpet; I was preparing my witty-yet-probing questions. But first I had to schmooze the uber PR who accompanied the Blow-dry Queen. Stretching out my hand, I said: "I'm from BBC Liquid News." The PR piranha shot me a look of contempt, and snapped: "I know who you are, and I think Liquid News is very rude." I opened my mouth, I closed it, and they were gone.

In April, Liquid News was liquidated. Not because we'd hacked off one too many humourless Hollywood types, but because... well, why was it canned? In our celebrity-obsessed, Heat-reading country, you'd think a daily celebrity news show would have been big business. But although the show held up comparably well to the rest of BBC3 and its digital rivals, when it came to persuading a sizeable audience to turn on, it seems British viewers just weren't that, well, turned on.

For a generation now, British TV commissioners have been racking their brains and emptying their wallets to come up with a home-grown equivalent of the US celebrity shows. Access Hollywood, now in its eighth season, may seem somewhat saccharine to the British viewer, but it works. You'll rarely witness a reporter follow a tricky line of questioning, but NBC has found a formula and it sticks to it.

In Britain there has never been a long-running, successful, prime-time celebrity news show. Ever. Cast your mind back. BBC2's No Limits was too comfy; Channel 4's too-cool-for-school Network 7 reckoned itself too much. A random show presented by the women in the Philadelphia ads, the briefly funny Late Lunch with Mel and Sue, and Five's Exclusive have all had a crack at the whip. But none has ever reached water-cooler status.

Which was why it was all so exciting when Liquid reared its cheeky head in 2000. Setting itself up as an intelligent, cynical analyst of celebrity news, it promised all of the A-list access with none of the US-style brown-nosing. And for a while, it flourished: the enfant terrible of celebrity gossip earned good reviews, a loyal - if small - following and begrudging acceptance from the PRs.

It was not without its hiccups. At the Down with Love premiere, I planned to ask Renée Zellweger about her weight gain for Bridget Jones, and plotted a supposedly hilarious ruse. I intended to ask her to scoff a doughnut, on camera, to prove her commitment to getting chubby. Within seconds, the PR had got wind that there were doughnuts near the red carpet, and with the fervour of a WMD inspector, forced me to give them up.

But Liquid's ultimate two fingers to the PRs came when presenter Claudia Winkleman asked S Club 7 how much was in their piggy banks and they were all promptly marched off set by their furious PR. Liquid was subsequently banned from any interviews with Polydor or 19 Management.

All the same, Liquid never becamemust-see TV. Maybe we overstepped the cynicism boundaries, even by British standards. Its former editor Chris Wilson has his own theories: "All good celebrity reporting must have a careful balance between embracing it and being dismissive." Liquid's leading man Paddy O'Connell believes telly bigwigs need to combine celebrity chitchat with news, à la CNN's Larry King: "The set-piece interview show would benefit from being combined with a news round-up, since celeb guests are no longer as epic as they once were," he says. "An interview with Mohammed Ali in the 1970s was an event. An interview with some hapless soap creature today won't mean anything as soon as the credits roll."

What British telly does really, really well is the celebrity chat hidden within the lifestyle sofa show - like Channel 4's Richard and Judy. In this cosy environment, celebs forget there is often a sharpened knife beneath the settee. Richard Madeley's recent interview with Britney Spears went something like this: "Now, Britney, I don't give a fig about you and Justin 'cos that's your business; I just don't care... But tell me, is it all fine now with you and Justin?" Genius.

Pro-Russia rebels guard a train containing the bodies of victims of the Malaysia Airlines flight MH 17 crash in Torez, Ukraine
Life and Style
Child's play: letting young people roam outdoors directly contradicts the current climate
lifeHow much independence should children have?
Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book
booksFind out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Arts and Entertainment
<p>Troubled actor Robert Downey Jr cements his comeback from drug problems by bagging the lead role in Iron Man. Two further films follow</p>
filmRobert Downey Jr named Hollywood's highest paid actor for second year running
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Sign here, please: Magna Carta Island
propertyYours for a cool £4m
The Commonwealth flag flies outside Westminster Abbey in central London
Arts and Entertainment
Struggling actors who scrape a living working in repertory theatres should get paid a 'living wage', Sir Ian McKellen has claimed
Skye McCole Bartusiak's mother said she didn't use drink or drugs
peopleActress was known for role in Mel Gibson film The Patriot
Arts and Entertainment
tvWebsite will allow you to watch all 522 shows on-demand
Arts and Entertainment
filmThe Rock to play DC character in superhero film
Arts and Entertainment
Damon Albarn is starting work on a new West End musical
artsStar's 'leftfield experimental opera' is turning mainstream
Life and Style
Paul and his father
artsPaul Carter wants to play his own father in the film of his memoirs
Ben Stokes trudges off after his latest batting failure for England as Ishant Sharma celebrates one of his seven wickets
Arts and Entertainment
Members of the public are invited to submit their 'sexcapades' to Russell T Davies' new series Tofu
Sky's Colin Brazier rummages through an MH17 victim's belongings live on air
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game
arts + ents'The Imitation Game' stars Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

Graduate Sales Executive

17.5k + Commission (£18.5k after probation period): ESI Media: You will be res...

PPC Account Managers

£25k - £30k (DOE): Guru Careers: Two expert PPC Account Managers are needed to...

PPC Manager

£30,000 - £35,000: Sauce Recruitment: PPC Manager urgently required for indepe...

Content Manager - Central London

£35000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Content Manager - Central...

Day In a Page

Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn
Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Meet the man who doesn't want to go down in history as the country's last Scottish Secretary
Legoland Windsor's master model-makers reveal the tricks of their trade (including how to stop the kids wrecking your Eiffel Tower)

Meet the people who play with Lego for a living

They are the master builders: Lego's crack team of model-makers, who have just glued down the last of 650,000 bricks as they recreate Paris in Windsor. Susie Mesure goes behind the scenes
The 20 best days out for the summer holidays: From Spitfires to summer ferry sailings

20 best days out for the summer holidays

From summer ferry sailings in Tyne and Wear and adventure days at Bear Grylls Survival Academy to Spitfires at the Imperial War Museum Duxford and bog-snorkelling at the World Alternative Games...
Open-air theatres: If all the world is a stage, then everyone gets in on the act

All the wood’s a stage

Open-air productions are the cue for better box-office receipts, new audiences, more interesting artistic challenges – and a picnic
Rand Paul is a Republican with an eye on the world

Rupert Cornwell: A Republican with an eye on the world

Rand Paul is laying out his presidential stall by taking on his party's disastrous record on foreign policy
Self-preservation society: Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish

Self-preservation society

Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish
Generation gap opens a career sinkhole

Britons live ever longer, but still society persists in glorifying youth

We are living longer but considered 'past it' younger, the reshuffle suggests. There may be trouble ahead, says DJ Taylor