The unblinking eye of the television camera has an uncanny ability to spot fakery

Now the chemistry of This Morning’s golden couple has been dissolved by deceit, it is time to say goodbye to this tired and outdated television formula, writes Stephen Jardine.

Many moons ago, I was filming with a well known health and beauty expert. On our way to the location we stopped because she was hungry. Moments later she returned to the car with a poke of chips and a quarter bottle of gin and at that moment I realised, television is not always what you think it is.

Cut to the saga of Phil and Holly. Whatever you think of the saccharine pair, it’s clear the front they projected together on ITV’s This Morning was just that. Holly’s opening salvo when returning to programme alone this week seemed summed it up. “Are you OK?” she asked, the way you might enquire of someone who’d just lost an elderly dog. The reality is, shows like This Morning care only about ratings and advertisers and any concerns about the audience involve only what will happen if they stop watching.

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Having worked in television for a long time, people keep asking me about Philip Schofield. I don’t know him and have never met him but I do know some of the other people caught up in this saga and some of the issues surrounding the programme have been talked about for ages.

Phillip Schofield and Holly WilloughbyPhillip Schofield and Holly Willoughby
Phillip Schofield and Holly Willoughby

Toxic workplaces are nothing new. At one radio station someone threw a telex machine at me for being late. If you don’t remember them, just trust me they were big and heavy. However that was in the dim and distant past and nowadays work places are expected to look after - not maim - their staff.

What will eventually force This Morning off air is not a lack of HR oversight but the fact that the façade they presented to the audience was built on lies and deception. The trust is broken and can’t be fixed.

In this age of multi-channel TV, audiences are promiscuous. At night viewers are jumping between terrestrial channels and the streaming giants based on what is on offer at that moment. Morning television is different. It is a club composed of people who like to share the same comfortable viewing experience. The Holly and Phil chemistry was the glue that held the whole thing together but it has been dissolved by deceit.

Down the years I have worked on TV shows that have been good and bad. When I’ve found myself in the wrong place, I’ve always had the guts to checkout. The unblinking eye of the television camera has an uncanny ability to spot fakery and no matter how long you keep up a pretence, at some stage a look or even a word will give the game away. Then all is lost.

If anything good comes out of this it will be better safeguarding practices at ITV but also a move away from contrived TV pairings. We live in an age of diverse blended families of all shapes and sizes so maybe it’s time to give the TV husband and wife routine a rest. Holly will certainly have to get used to a solo existence until bosses have the guts to drop this frazzled turkey of a show.

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