My visits to London seem to be frequently fraught with mishaps, and last week was no different. Arriving at Dublin Airport, ready to embark on my exciting couple of days, I was brought down to earth with a bang when I realised I’d booked the flight for the wrong day! After a few tantrums and a lot of tears, I eventually got sorted – nothing was going to get in the way of my impending trip to the London Studios.
This Morning on ITV is, without a shadow of a doubt, one of my favourite programs on telly. So when I was offered the opportunity to go and have a nosy… ahem… I mean, a look behind the scenes, I jumped at the chance. The show has been nominated for a National Television Award in the category of Factual Program (please vote here) and I wanted to see just what it is that continues to capture the heart of the nation.
When the show airs on weekdays from 10.30-12.30, what we see is the culmination of a lot of hard work by a huge team of people. I thought I’d first catch up with some of those who are hiding their lights under a bushel and find out more about what goes on behind the scenes. The first person I managed to grab was Sarah Hitching, PR Manager, and I asked her what she thinks it is about This Morning that makes it so special.
“I know it sounds like a cliché,” said Sarah, as we walked on set, “but if you take a look around, you’ll see that we’re all like one big happy family. Honestly, every single one of us appreciates each other. We all need each other and the key to harmony is knowing that. We all put in really long hours so it just wouldn’t work if we didn’t get on so well.”
Despite its 10.30 start, the wheels of This Morning are turning well before that when the presenters arrive at the studios at around 7.30. They meet with producers to discuss the running order of the show and also present at that meeting is David O’Brien, head of wardrobe.
“The presenters usually arrive in their casual clothes and we sit down and discuss what they might wear for the show,” said David, who was busy sketching designs in his room. “There’s a lot of thought goes into the clothes and we usually make the decisions together. For instance, I wouldn’t put something floral on Holly or Ruth if they were going to be dealing with a sombre subject. Likewise, if a politician is coming in for a chat, we have to be careful not to put any of the presenters in political colours.”
As I left David’s room, I bumped into Shari Rendle, one of This Morning’s resident make-up artists. “I’ve been here for the last ten years,” she said, “and I absolutely love it. I often do the make-up for the presenters but I also have the opportunity to work on some amazing people. We’ve had some great guests over the years and it’s been very exciting to work with them.” I asked Shari what was her most memorable experience so far. “Well,” she laughed, “you might remember Gino d’Accampo did his cooking slot naked last year after winning the NTA – well I had to prepare him for that!” Bet that wasn’t in her job description!
I was stunned at the amount of thought that’s put into the finer details of the show and yet there doesn’t seem to be a frazzled hair on anyone’s head! While I was snooping around the corridors, I was aware that the show had started so I quietly slipped back out onto the set, trying not to click-clack in my 6 inch heels! I must have been a nightmare for floor manager, Tim Carr, who generously allowed me the run of the place. Tim is crucial to the smooth running of This Morning as he organises everyone and makes sure everything runs on time. Author and screenwriter, Lynda La Plante was just finishing a chat with Eamonn Holmes and Ruth Langsford so I took myself off to the hub for a chat with the lovely Matt Johnson, who was the day’s hub presenter.
The hub is the interactive part of the show where viewers can email or tweet their comments, some of which will be read out on the show. Matt, greeted me warmly and introduced me to Brett Lawrence, the producer. Now this is where things got slightly embarrassing. “Nice to meet you,” I said, shaking his hand and noting his gorgeousness. “I can see why you’ve earned the name of ‘hot producer’.
“Em… I’m actually the ‘hub producer,” he said, giggling. “But thanks for the compliment.” In my defence, I’m an Irish girl trying to come to terms with a whole variety of accents but if I’d had an opportunity to let the ground open up and swallow me, I’d have welcomed it!
Last year when This Morning won an NTA, there was a flurry of excitement as Gino d’Accampo and the hub’s Matt Johnson fulfilled their promise of presenting while naked. I asked Matt if he was making any similar promises this year! “Not a chance,” he laughed. “I think once is enough for getting my kit off on telly! I think that This Morning has never been better and it deserves to win the award anyway. It’s growing from strength to strength – it’s very rare for a show such as this to be going for so long and still have such a huge following. We’re in a tough category this year though and have to fight off big wigs like An Idiot Abroad, Big Fat Gypsy Wedding and Top Gear. But I have every faith in us – we have a lot of very loyal viewers who I’m sure will be voting.”
Following a lovely mug of tea made by Matt (see, there are no airs and graces on this show – everyone mucks in!), I headed off in search of more people to chat to. Adam Vandermark is the show’s editor and he beams with pride when I ask him about This Morning and what it would mean to him to win the NTA. “Winning an award for the second year running would mean so much, not just to me, but to the whole production team. We put together a really well-crafted program and the ratings have been fantastic. The award is voted for by the public so it would be the icing on the cake to win and confirmation that people still love what we do.”
Even the guests on This Morning seem to enjoy the time they spend there. I was delighted to see a very relaxed and happy David Hasselhoff (OMG! The Hoff!) come into the studio for a chat. Incidentally, did you know that he holds the Guinness World Record for the most watched TV star in the world? He joked with Eamonn and Ruth before going on air to talk about his new live show, An Evening with David Hasselhoff. He was happy to chat to the team afterwards and pose for pictures. He even held up a sign to prompt viewers to vote for This Morning in the NTAs and later tweeted about it.
The lovely Lindsey Coulson (aka Carol Jackson in Eastenders) popped in for a chat and I asked her about her experience on the show. “I love it here,” she said, as we posed together for a picture. “There’s a lovely atmosphere – a really comfortable, homely feeling. I sometimes forget I’m on telly at all when I’m chatting to the presenters! They certainly know how to get the best out of people.”
I couldn’t believe it was already almost 12.30 and time for the show to end. In true This Morning style, they finished off with a fantastic performance of That’s Life from the brilliant Rat Pack who are gracing the stage on the West End at the moment. But I couldn’t go without grabbing Eamonn Holmes and Ruth Langsford for a quick chat before they headed off to yet another meeting. I asked them what it would mean to them to win the NTA this year.
“This Morning is an institution,” said Eamonn. “To win an NTA for the second year running would cement the show as a consistent contender and confirm that it’s a top quality program. And the win would mean so much, considering the tough category we’re in.”
“It’s the first time we’ve been in a factual category,” added Ruth. “We’ve really worked hard to make the show more topical, dealing with pressing and real issues. To be recognised in this category would be very special indeed.”
I love Eamonn and Ruth. They’re so down to earth and, just like the rest of the team, they’re welcoming, friendly and warm. But sadly, although the show was over for the viewers, another few hours work awaited the team. I didn’t want to take up any more of their time so I said my goodbyes.
This Morning truly deserves its nomination for a National Television Award – please vote for them here.