BBC1: 6am – 1pm

By Jack Kibble-White

First published April 2000

“This is BBC Scotland, good morning.”

Breakfast TV goes a long way to defining the channel. Breakfast News attempts to portray BBC1 as modern and urbane, able to see through the hyperbole and deliver to its audience intelligent, fast paced programming. If there is a defining tone to the programme then it is perhaps that of slight ironic detachment. Disturbingly, those long held supporters of the view that the BBC is too London-centric would find supportive evidence here as – for example – Scotland is described as “there”. Presenters Sophie Raworth, Michael Peschard and Tanya Beckett seem at ease, perhaps distractingly so. In particular businesswoman Tanya employs Jan Leeming style pronunciation for “Dresdner”, refers irritatingly to “a bit of a decision going on, on the old interest rate front” and fails to comfortably “fill” as the required graphics for currency prices fail to materialise.

These are trivial moans. More legitimate concern is raised by two of today’s main stories (including the lead story), both of which serve to publicise BBC programmes or initiatives. The significance of a NATO spy (as uncovered and revealed in a BBC documentary to be broadcast later that week) may hold validity as a news story, but the attention given to the Corporation’s talent initiative is unquestionably out of place within an ostensibly news driven vehicle. The promise of further information on a breaking news story concerning a plane crash in Russia, is never upheld, indicative of a programme that believes its audience to be renewed on a half hourly basis. Much of the content is recycled on this frequency, but the latter part of the programme does become slightly more discursive, and by 8.30am, things are positively lugubrious as we enter magazine territory complete with a wry look at the papers and a science bit (and yet another plug for a BBC programme).

As Kilroy begins we see a palpable shift in the identity of BBC1.

A slightly out of breath Robert decides that he is going to hit his target hard with “I’m an elderly victim of crime”. One suspects that much of his usual audience must consist of a large body of candidates for this particular programme. The first old boy’s story is genuinely disturbing, yet Kilroy appears to view it with faint amusement. A year has passed and this old fella still has not slept properly. A gum-chewing ex-burglar attempts to provide some justification for his actions, yet ends up as simply the focal point of the victims’ anger. The audience’s righteous anger is something that we will see again in tonight’s Question Time. It is difficult to draw anything constructive from this edition, save for the perennial police advice not to try and fight back against assailants. Kilroy concludes the episode with a Nick Ross style reassurance, and then departs, seemingly happy to take the BBC shilling.

A brief news bulletin with Anna Ford follows, and contains much the same content as Breakfast News.

Shopping City with Lowri Turner works under the assumption that all of its viewers prescribe to the 21st Century shared joke: “shopping therapy”; but make no mistake – this is a lifestyle programme, and an excuse to bundle together a number of loosely related features. Today’s piece on training security guards is woefully improvised, the red-coated army failing to evoke any form of respect in this viewer. It is very difficult not to laugh as – having resolved a crisis concerning unattended trolleys – their trainer wisely says: “Did you see what I did there? I went and spoke to the Manager. Not just anyone, but the Manager. That way I can be sure, that the trolley will be moved.” Lowri retains high energy throughout, and must be commended for doing so, but this is “back of a fag packet” telly at its worst.

Anna Ford appears once again before Casualty Kicks the Habit with Dale Winton allowing the BBC another chance to promote one of their favoured sons. More lifestyle advice arrives as various members of Casualty undergo facials, acupuncture etc., punctuated with choice clips from the series, and aimless links by Dale patrolling the Casualty set interviewing various members of the cast. Much like Shopping City this programme consists of attaching a number of filmed inserts and interviews around a shared subject. The combination of Dale, healthy living and Casualty must have seemed irresistible to somebody.

Real Rooms must have the ugliest logo on telly. This is quasi Changing Rooms complete with a dash of local history. One feels that candidates for the Real Rooms make over have been salvaged from Carol Smillie’s rejection list and Ian (a Rick Wakeman lookalike) does appear a little disappointed at the lack of Handy Andy, Lawrence et al. However, the programme’s willingness to stay with one subject is a welcome contrast to the previous 90 minutes. Real Rooms‘ saving grace is the relative sobriety of its experts. Carol band of helpers always consist of one or more would be TV personalities, by contrast, Simon Biagi’s merry lot stay focused on the job in hand providing salient DIY tips on the way. On the whole this is inoffensive stuff, and perhaps the most watchable daytime programme this morning.

The 12.00 news (still presented by Anna Ford) now leads with a story regarding Mohammed Al Fayed. The NATO story has slipped to third place. Then it’s Wipeout. Bob Monkhouse ably presents in his old school way, and the whole thing kicks off with a carefully orchestrated chat with the contestants allowing Bob to crack a few more funnies. This is a sedentary programme, certainly a world away from Tarrant, and the contestants seem to appreciate that there is very little really up for grabs here. The object of the exercise is to identify the correct 11 members of a particular group from a choice of 16. That is the cut and thrust of this programme. The final round is for the holiday, and Bob drops the laffs in an attempt to crank up the tension. However, this is a slight piece of work and he knows it.

Going for a Song is a more cultured, highbrow affair. Bizarrely one of the team captains appears to be Kit of “Kit and the Widow” fame. Anne Robinson presides with a no nonsense style, dispensing with any preliminary chat and we are straight to business. The guests tamely banter when the particular antique they are trying to identify befuddles them, yet their jokes resemble the kind of uneasy humour two strangers might indulge in when forced together for a period of time. Kit is obviously the series wag and the others appear happy to let me assume the Paul Merton role. The programme is nothing more then yet another daytime TV attempt to spin off from a more successful programme (in this case Antiques Roadshow). As is common with most of these programmes it concludes with a plea from Anne Robinson to write in.