ITV: 12.20pm – 5.30pm

Following a one minute Granada Action slot (free airtime given to local charities and help groups to publicise themselves, today being “No Panic”, a panic attack advisory service) we have the Regional News. It is read, as it has been all morning, by Rachel Harrison, an uncharismatic figure behind a large desk in front of a dull, crudely designed wall of Granada logos. This extended bulletin is essentially the same as all previous summaries, only compounded with rather cheaply made filmed inserts. It is news delivery stripped of all character, interest or even the embers of liveliness. Laughably amateurish regional weather graphics, narrated by a disembodied uncredited male voice offscreen, end this regional package.

“From ITN, the ITV Lunchtime News” thunders another offscreen voice – ITN receiving their first credit of the day. From a garish, bright red and blue sparkling studio, banks of computer screens glinting behind their desk, John Suchet and Katie Derran declaim the headlines after a trademark ex-News at Ten bong. ITN choose to lead, as they will do all day, with the news of Mohammed Al-Fayed having to pay damages to Tiny Rowland’s widow over the theft of a deposit box. This choice of lead is no coincidence; for, as is revealed later (the fourth story in), ITV have got an exclusive interview with Trevor Rees-Jones, the Fayed bodyguard injured in the Princess Diana car crash, to be transmitted later that evening. Therefore they must do anything to keep Fayed’s name in the viewer’s mind, including making him the lead story of every news bulletin that day. The rest of the newscast sounds like its been bussed in from the opinion pages of the Daily Mail. No story is covered in depth; each is usually accompanied by a formulaic report; sports “news” is only about football; and the ubiquitous “and finally” is a staple of its genre, involving farm animals, unlikely rescues and patronising stereotyping of country yokels. All style, no content; surface and no depth.

It is followed by what appears to be a distant descendant of the Public Information Film: AA Crimecheck, a cheaply made videotape warning about carrying valuables in public.

The transmission of Home and Away marks a major change in the nature of the day’s output. Up till now all the programmes have been live – seven consecutive hours worth, and to be suddenly forced to confront something pre-recorded is a shock to the system. This rotten vessel of soap drama, imported from dazzlingly sunny Australia, is frothy, redundant and pointless. Badly acted and directed, the narrative lurches from one cliché to the next, resolving in a pitiful “moral” ending “It’s sometimes hard for people to say how they’re really feeling, isn’t it?” An utter waste of time, the gloom compounded by news the same episode is to be repeated later on.

Then we’re suddenly back to yet more live TV. Loose Women is a female fronted televisual manifestation of the women’s magazine. In front of a small non-male audience sit main host Kaye Adams, “resting” actress Nadia Sawalha, and journalist/writers Jane Moore and Phillipa Kerry. For the first 15 minutes they just loll about gossiping; topics of conversation are, incredibly, all ones already covered on ITV earlier in the day; including the ridiculous men-with-plaster-casts survey. The camera and audience (both in the studio and at home) are utterly ignored.

The rest of the programme includes a protracted plug for Tonight with Trevor McDonald in the form of a fawning, sycophantic chat with Jonathan Dimbleby, ending with shameless publicising – “I’m sure we’ll all be watching it tonight” drawls Jane; plus a similarly lightweight chat with Lisa Faulkner, actress from the BBC’s Holby City and some telephone calls, (like This Morningall from women). It all ends with the sign-off “Stay loose – see ya!” It is hard to find a reason why this programme should exist. It reinforces stereotypes, is extremely self-indulgent and offers preferred readings of contemporary issues straight from the tabloid gossip column. Its worse crime is to assume an audience wants to watch it or should care.

Emmerdale is an episode repeated from the night before. After a Dallas-esque panoramic gaudy title sequence, various storylines are respectively unravelled or sewn up in scenes little more than a minute in length. A grotesque parade of caricatures, from the matriarch in curlers to the black Scouser on the make, people this curious world of tantrums and lust. The dialogue is utterly unrealistic, delivered stiltingly without conviction by virtually all the ensemble. Some lines are beyond parody, a pub landlady bawling, “Before you start, I want you to know this has nothing to do with Frankie being a lesbian. Because my friend Michael knows a lot of lesbians – and most of them, well, you could eat off their floors.”

The Yorkshire setting is utterly redundant. Plot concerns could be just as easily transferred to any context anywhere, so little does the location matter. The characters seem only able to scream, or whisper, nothing in between. It’s very easy to come away from this programme with a bad headache the amount of wailing and shouting that goes on. Ridiculous names (people called Zak, Marlon and Butch in a Yorkshire village?) together with the ear-splitting volume of emotional hysterics are the abiding memory of this travesty.

Another American imported format, Wheel of Fortune, does at least allow for the first male host on ITV so far today not wearing a suit. John Leslie’s idea of fronting this game show entails giggling to himself mysteriously, adopting unrelated silly voices when “chatting” to the three contestants, and even breaking out into song. Co-host Jenny Powell deserves better than the scoreboard on-legs that she effectively is here. While the trio of Ordinary People’s pursuit of money is off-putting and upsetting to watch in such detail, the mystery phrases often turn out to be, conveniently, ITV productions, i.e. “Lisa Riley/New You’ve Been Framed“, an apposite choice for such similarly tedious and base programmes. Being the only quiz show on ITV today, it’s both unfortunate yet typical it should be of US vintage, rather than any number of more low-key and subtle competitions, not so based on greed and affluence.

We are reminded of the agenda for the Evening News in a brief headline round up (Fayed still the lead, Trevor Rees-Jones third) read live by Nicholas Owen in the ITN studios. There is also a regional news roundup, from So Rahman; the line-up hasn’t changed, and if anything more reports are simply compiled of in-house library footage and archives.

Now that the midday kids slot on ITV is, like Rainbow and Let’s Pretend, long in the past, the only output specifically for children is lumped together here and branded as CITV. This moves through distinct stages and age ranges, from very young to mid-teenage; militating against this, however, is the shameless way even the youngest viewer is encouraged to stay tuned to the end – plus the ludicrously early start (and finishing) time. Who is home from primary school by 3.20pm these days?

Today, CITV comprised of rudimentary puppetry (Dog and Duck), four cartoons (Percy the Park KeeperKipperLavender Castle and Hey, Arnold!) and a drama serial (Children’s Ward). Continuity is provided by hyperactive yoof presenters screeching at the camera perched on beanbags and blocks of wood. They desperately try to maintain a relentless momentum but are as much cartoons and templates as the animations themselves; perhaps with this in mind, each link is a scramble through information and endless trailers, pausing only for a bit of faltering pre-scripted badinage between the presenters, Andrea and Steve, who have no surnames.

As for the programmes themselves, there is little to inspire, educate or amuse. The most endearing programme is Dog and Duck; aside from the sly in-joke of the title, this pre-school series uses dog, elephant and duck puppets to explain in Home Counties English key concepts of natural history. Today it was camouflage, illustrated by film of various creatures blending in with their surroundings. A talking piano sings a existentialist song about The Man Who Is Never There. Easily the most worthwhile segment of the CITV line-up.

Percy the Park Keeper and Kipper are both short animations of existing storybooks; the former a dull tale of a Kenneth Clarke sounding park attendant sharing a bath with a badger, the latter a turgid account of a dog voiced by Neil Morrissey deciding to live a bird’s life by building a nest. Lavender Castle is a Gerry Anderson produced science fantasy tale of computer generated creatures on some Ulysses-esque voyage through space. It tries very hard to appear slightly cult-ish, what with abductions of supermarkets and banjo-playing contests. It doesn’t come off because of the earnest aesthetics and trite names (Sir Squeakalot). Hey, Arnold! is straight from the Nickelodeon cable channel and is full of sickly US moralising (“Better to lose gracefully than to never try at all.”) A typical streetwise kid is the prism for delineating bumbling realisations of society misfits and the scrapes they have to overcome. Reactionary, conservative dogma at its worse, neither witty, well-voiced or imaginatively drawn.

Being the only programme this afternoon to feature real people, Children’s Ward nonetheless fails on a multitude of levels. Dud casting means that most of the young performers cannot deliver even the simplest of lines naturalistically. The set is so small it’s suffocating; there are more crude stereotypes (worst of all, a Scouse car dealer as archetypal slimy fraudster) and fumbled references to, of all things, the Balkan crisis. It is an attempt at something adult which doesn’t come off, mainly through failure to realise any room for empathy/association with the characters. The one figure who does hold your attention briefly – a cancer victim who paints his name on the café wallpaper because he’s bored – ends up becoming nothing less than a clichéd Danny Kendal Mark II, even to the extent of both hijacking the radio station and wanting to paint a hospital mural! A ghastly mess, summing up the state of the whole CITV set-up.

Though not officially part of CITV, the repeat of Home and Away is undoubtedly intended for an audience ostensibly in school when it was originally shown.

  <6am – 12.20pm