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This morning, there's one happy couple - thanks to Richard and Judy

PERHAPS IT was the pressures of time or of having to perform in front of two and a half million viewers, but in the end the live television trial of Viagra was, literally, a bit of a flop.

Richard and Judy, renowned for their cosy and caring brand of television took their sympathy one step further on their show This Morning and invited three couples for a live test of the anti-impotence pill.

The couples, two of whom have not had sex for four years, were given one little blue pill and packed off to a hotel with instructions to report back in an hour. The nation held its breath.

"They're all in for a very exciting morning - we hope," said Judy Finnegan caringly.

Her husband Richard Madeley, who failed completely to disguise his relief that he was not similarly afflicted, said earnestly: "Sex is so important, isn't it."

Amid much ribald laughter and nudging of ribs, the pills were duly swallowed and the couples took their leave.

Or as Judy preferred to put it: "The pills have gone down and now we will see what comes up." Richard was more blunt: "Apparently it starts with a tingling sensation and ends in carpet burns."

As the minutes ticked by, the screen was filled with footage of a tower block collapsing - shown in reverse - and a pill thrusting up from the bottom of the screen.

A spokesman for the show denied that it was a crass approach and made fun of what is, after all, a serious problem for many. "I absolutely deny that. We were not poking fun. It was an important medical experiment conducted by the viewers for the viewers."

Andy Burrows, spokesman for Pfizer, the makers of Viagra, said: "I am concerned that this type of approach trivialises a serious medical condition that causes great distress to sufferers and their partners."

Ann Craig, director of the Impotence Association, said they had received dozens of complaints about the experiment.

"This makes the whole issue seem like fun when it certainly isn't," she said.

But what of the couples? Richard leapt eloquently in to the breach. "We had one no result, one reasonably OK result and one wey hey hey give me more," he giggled.

Returning with very red faces, Alec Witherington and Peter Goudie, admitted only partial success. Mr Witherington, 52, who has been impotent for four years, said it was better than previous cures but had not worked for him.

Mr Goudie, 63, who has suffered for the last 18 months, said the pressure of being packed off to a hotel for an hour was too much."There was some improvement but nothing to get excited about."

Not so Peter Brown, 50, who has not had sex for four years.

"As we got out of the car at the hotel I felt myself getting flushed. It started in the lobby," he said shyly. Then getting in the mood, he grinned. "I could go another ten rounds."

Caring as ever, Richard cut them off mid-sentence and rushed to announce the daily quiz. "If you were prescribed Viagra you would be a) impotent b) important c) incompetent.

Well, that's caring TV for you.