Mike Morris: Presenter who helped put TV-am on to an even keel

 

The television critic Philip Purser commented on the arrival of breakfast television in Britain in 1983 that it was "rather like Milton Keynes. No one really wanted it but now it's there it's quite handy." Although the BBC's Breakfast Time programme was an instant success, and made a novelty into a habit within a few weeks, commercial television's first attempt, TV-am's Good Morning Britain, had a turbulent 10-year run of strikes, financial problems and oscillating ratings. But despite chaos behind the scenes, presenter Mike Morris remained genial, unflappable, and, that rare trait in presenters, sincere.

TV-am had got off on the wrong foot in February 1983, two weeks behind the BBC in its launch and assuming that the BBC's offering would be a news-based analytical show. They attempted to mimic this, with David Frost and Anna Ford, then found that the BBC had opted for a cosy, magazine-style programme which left theirs feeling starchy and dull. Viewers loved the cordial atmosphere on the BBC, conducted effortlessly by the epitome of middle-class respectability, Frank Bough, and within a few months it seemed that TV-am was finished.

Greg Dyke was brought in to "make it work", and the show was given a new look, Nick Owen, Anne Diamond and Roland Rat augmented by Morris, first as sports presenter and host of the Sunday edition, and then as one of the main weekday presenters from 1987. Ratings soon picked up, the show adopting much of the BBC's house style just as the Corporation, rather bafflingly, reinvented their programme as precisely the kind of news-based concept that had failed for TV-am. But things became even more unstable when new boss Bruce Gyngell responded to a technicians' strike by soldiering on using "cleaners as cameramen and secretaries as vision mixers." It made every morning's three-hour programme a chaotic affair, made worse when Gyngell sacked striking staff members.

None the less they had the audience by then, and managed to retain them. Morris was joined by Lorraine Kelly in 1990, and they made a good pairing. Under their reign TV-am was the most profitable station in Britain in terms of turnover and had a 75 per cent share of the breakfast audience. In his time on the show Morris interviewed everyone from Prince Edward to Joan Collins, even conducting Britain's first live television interview with Nelson Mandela, eight days after his release from prison. The show was easy, friendly, and finally a success.

Mike Morris was born in Middlesex and educated at St Paul's School in Barnes before reading English and American literature at Manchester University. His first job was on the weekly Surrey Comet in 1969, where he initially covered amateur theatre productions before becoming Entertainments Editor. He worked for AAP Reuters in Sydney in 1973, returning to England in 1974 to join United Newspapers as a sports reporter, within three years becoming Sports Editor. He entered television in 1979 to join the team of Thames Television's first wholly news-based daily programme, Thames at Six, a strong effort anchored by the no-nonsense Andrew Gardner, before his move to TV-am in 1983.

When TV-am lost its franchise in 1991, an incredulous Morris was "gutted", but as he left the building after the final programme some months later was typically good-humoured and said his situation was summed up by the fact that in the car was "a bottle of champagne and a P45."

Despite joking on air that he was going to become a passport-photographer, in 1994 he joined TV-am's replacement, GMTV, as host of Sunday Best, then went on the road for the relaunched Bristol-based WireTV with an outside broadcast unit that would spend each week in a different region. But despite being the first cable channel to secure the television rights to a major sporting event, the 1996 Cricket World Cup, the channel closed and Morris went to Yorkshire, where he had spent much of his childhood, to replace Richard Whiteley as host of the regional programme Calendar.

He stayed with the programme for six years before taking early retirement in 2002. His final television appearance was on a BBC documentary looking back at breakfast TV, in which Morris finally got the chance to display his cheekier side by describing Bruce Gyngell as "barking mad", and saying of former colleague Ulrika Jonsson's show Gladiators, "the last brain cell truly has left the country now."

He suffered from cancer in his final years and died of heart failure. Sadly he never fully realised his passion for sport on the screen, but deserves to be remembered for helping to make a programme with everything against it a major success.

Simon Farquhar

Michael Hugh Sanderson Morris, journalist and television presenter: born Harrow 26 June 1946; married 1975 Alison Jones (marriage dissolved; two daughters); died Surrey 22 October 2012.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
TV
Life and Style
Apple showed no sign of losing its talent for product launches with the new, slightly larger iPhone 6 making headlines
techSecurity breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Oliver
filmTV chef Jamie Oliver turned down role in The Hobbit
News
The official police photograph of Dustin Diamond taken after he was arrested in Wisconsin
peopleDownfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
tvReview: Top Gear team flee Patagonia as Christmas special reaches its climax in the style of Butch and Sundance
News
people
Sport
Ashley Barnes of Burnley scores their second goal
footballMan City vs Burnley match report
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca alongside Harrison Ford's Han Solo in 'Star Wars'
film
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Man of action: Christian Bale stars in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
Arts and Entertainment
Tracy Emin's 1998 piece 'My Bed' on display at Christie's
artOne expert claims she did not
Arts and Entertainment
Catherine (Sarah Lancashire) in Happy Valley ((C) Red Productions/Ben Blackall)
TV
News
Hackers revealed Oscar-winning actress Lawrence was paid less than her male co-stars in American Hustle
people
Arts and Entertainment
Clueless? Locked-door mysteries are the ultimate manifestation of the cerebral detective story
booksAs a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Sport
Robin van Persie is blocked by Hugo Lloris
footballTottenham vs Manchester United match report
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Manager

£32000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Manager is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Panel & Cabinet Wireman

£20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Panel Wireman required for small electro...

Recruitment Genius: Electronics Test Engineer

£25000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An SME based in East Cheshire, ...

Day In a Page

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
Homeless Veterans appeal: Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served

Homeless Veterans appeal

Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served
Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

Scarred by the bell

The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

The Locked Room Mysteries

As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

How I made myself Keane

Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

Wear in review

A look back at fashion in 2014
Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

Might just one of them happen?
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?