At a special Bafta event to celebrate 30 years of This Morning, figures from the show’s past and present are rubbing shoulders.
“Oh hello! You’re on Strictly, I’ve not met you!” cries Judy Finnigan as she spots Dr Ranj Singh in the audience.
Judy and husband Richard Madeley briefly interrupt proceedings at the panel event they’re speaking at to congratulate This Morning’s current doctor for his recent salsa on the BBC One show.
But before long, host Alan Carr gets the pair back on track. They are, after all, here to talk about the special award Bafta is giving the programme as it celebrates its 30th year on the air.
“We’ve never even been in this building before,” says current host Phillip Schofield, who has fronted the show since 2002, first alongside Fern Britton (who left the show in 2009) and then Holly Willoughby.
“This is the big one. It’s the [award] that we haven’t had, it’s the one we will treasure the most.
“The National Television Awards are fantastic when it’s audience voted, but when there’s a prestigious organisation like Bafta… you get people who’ve been sniffy in the past, for 30 years, who are now saying ‘Yeah all right, actually it’s pretty good’.”
This Morning first launched on 3 October 1988, and was fronted by Richard and Judy until 2001.
The pair recall that the programme wasn’t initially expected to last beyond Christmas, but, Richard says, it was successful because “it plugged into the viewers, it belonged to them”.
“It didn’t belong to us or our production team, or Granada or ITV, it belonged to the viewers, and that was the key to it.
“I know that you two [he gestures to Phil and Holly] totally get that vibe. And I can’t think of any other programme… The One Show comes quite close to it, but not as close. This Morning did it.”
Judy adds: “We felt it was normal, fairly ordinary, completely different from any other programme on TV, there’d been nothing like it on British TV – there had been on American TV – and it felt special.”
Bafta said the trophy was being awarded to This Morning “in recognition of the continuing success of its creative and innovative approach to daytime television production”.
The academy also acknowledges “its popular appeal among the British TV-viewing public; and for it launching the careers of many of those working in the factual entertainment genre today”.
It’s true that a huge number of famous faces cut their teeth on This Morning before going on to successful presenters or performers in their own right.
“As I’ve said a million times, and I mean with all my heart, I owe everything to them,” says Vanessa Feltz, who has gone on to a successful radio career after being a regular on the show.
Claudia Winkleman, Kym Marsh, Charlotte Church and John Torode also made appearances on the programme early in their careers.
David Liddiment, ITV’s former director of programmes, recalls the difficulties they had casting the show in the late 1980s.
“From the very beginning, we wanted Richard to be one of the hosts, and we believed we needed someone alongside him, who brought a ready audience,” he explains.
But, he adds: “We did not get the big name we wanted.” (Poor Judy.)
“We woke up and saw the reality that there before our eyes was the answer to our problems, which was that Richard and Judy should present this programme.”
The show has since, of course, defined daytime TV.
The varied format sees money saving tips brush up alongside celebrity interviews and agony aunt segments. Prime ministers appear as guests and topics of the day are debated.
But the quirkier items are the ones that panel host Alan Carr really revels in.
“There’s the woman who gave up men to have sex with ghosts, the man with 200 love dolls,” he squeals as he recalls some of the show’s previous highlights.
“The woman who can orgasm for 18 hours just by hugging, the woman who can’t stop eating her armchair.
“I mean, when I went on there there was a woman who could tell your future by reading asparagus!”
An ITV documentary, broadcast on Tuesday evening, explores some of the show’s most memorable moments.
Indeed, ask someone about Katie Hopkins’s famous rant about baby names or the time Phil and Holly went straight to the studio after partying all night at the NTAs and most people will recall exactly what you’re talking about.
But Phillip is keen to stress a more serious point about the health items they air, which he says have encouraged many viewers to get themselves checked.
“It’s extraordinary how many people say ‘if it hadn’t been for This Morning, I would’ve died’,” he says.
“Whether we’re talking about a testicular examination, a breast examination, moles, whatever it is… the next day they’ll say ‘I’ve been to the doctor, and thank God I was watching your show.”
“All doctors obviously save lives, but Dr Chris and our team over the years have saved thousands and thousands of lives.”
Of course, one of the key ingredients to the show’s success is the warm and welcoming nature of the two hosts.
“I can’t bear getting up in the mornings, I’m a late night person,” admits Phillip.
“But what’s fantastic is I know that when I wake up and get in the car, that I’m on the way to see my best friend.
“Holly is like my younger sister, and I love the fact that we have the same sense of humour, that we work at the same speed, and there are times when you just look [at each other] and all you have to do is look.”
Holly agrees: “You couldn’t do that many hours of TV together, with all the different subjects, without there being some sort of relationship that’s utterly real.”
Source BBC News