It had always been assumed that the friendship between Paul O'Grady and Richard Madeley and Judy Finnigan would endure the vicissitudes of the television ratings battle.
All three hail from Liverpool and have been regular guests on each others' show. But when the showbiz pals found themselves going sofa to sofa for viewers in the 5pm celebrity talk show spot, the cushions were soon flying.
First O'Grady, better known as the transvestite comedian Lily Savage, found himself gazumped by the first couple of daytime TV when he booked Joan Collins. She pulled out of O'Grady's ITV show after being approached by Channel 4. Relations worsened when Richard and Judy announced they had booked Madonna as a guest. "I don't give a toss who Richard and Judy have got - it could be the Pope for all I care," O'Grady told reporters at the after-show party for the West End musical The Producers this week. "Whoever they get, I'll still be nailing them in the ratings day in and day out."
He may have a point in ratings terms. O'Grady is pulling in an audience of 2.7 million, equivalent to 18 per cent of the available share. Richard and Judy, who left ITV for C4, have been left languishing with 1.9 million or 13 per cent.
But a spokeswoman for the couple said: "As far as Richard and Judy are concerned they are on permanently and he is only on until Christmas."
Those close to O'Grady say reports of the argument are overblown. "They've always been good mates and have gone on each others' shows and had a good time. This row is more in the mind of the newspapers than anything else," said a friend.Reuse content