I had the most bizarre conversation the other day. I was telling a friend about an article I’d read about Daybreak, the new(ish), struggling for viewers morning telly show that took over from GMTV. Where the much lauded magical chemistry between The One Show wonders, Adrian Chiles and Christine Bleakley has failed to weave a spell over the public and is only pulling in around 500,000 viewers a day, way way behind it‘s rival on the beeb.
‘’Yes’’ said my friend, ‘’But where does the six inch dick tat come in‘? ‘’Well‘’, I replied, ‘’I just told you. Some bigwig ordered it‘’. My friend continued, puzzled. ‘’But how is having your dick tattooed going to help”? And then it dawned on me what they meant ‘’No, not dick tat‘’, I said. ‘’Dictat. A Six Inch Dictat, as in, a ruling, a decree from on high” You see,according to the article, an executive on the show had made a rule that the co-hosts should never be sitting more than six inches apart… Oh’’ said my friend, laughing, ‘’I wondered…’’
Meanwhile, I wondered if Daybreak had improved since the first time I saw it a few weeks ago, when I’d tuned in to see what all the fuss wasn’t about. That time, it did indeed make for some uncomfortable viewing. At one point I’d wondered if Mike Leigh was directing the show. Christine and Adrian perched on the sofa, unnaturally close. Like guests at Abigail’s party. All strained bonhomie and painted on smiles.I’d half expected Alison Steadman to wander over with a tray of nibbles whilst swaying to Demis Roussos. Then correspondent, Kate Garraway stroked an elephant behind it’s ears at London Zoo, whilst back in the studio, Adrian looked on non-plussed. ”That’s Fantastic” he’d said with as much sincerity as he could muster.Christine grinned and nodded in agreement. But we weren’t fooled.
The problem is, the The One Show felt intimate and the awkwardness of celebrity guests being asked to comment on studio items they often hadn’t got a clue about, became a cult attraction. The crew were allowed to laugh and when something eggy occurred, the audience knew that the co-hosts knew, so it was fine, we were all in on the joke. But on Daybreak, the presenters sit small in the centre of a hollow studio, no happy crew to bounce off, and you can feel the emptiness, see through the contrivances and at times, smell the tension.
I felt for them a little. Trying to produce two and a half hours of live telly every day when the media is sitting on your shoulder like a ruffled vulture waiting for you to croak, is not easy. I’m no stranger to ailing early morning TV. As a writer on The Big Breakfast, I worked on it during it’s final year of tenure. The show had been faltering and failing to hit the heights that it had achieved with Chris Evans and Gabby Roslin then later, Johnny Vaughan and Denise Van Outen. Several presenter combos were tried and even Roland Rat was drafted in. But it didn’t perform in the ratings and eventually, after a 10 year run, the axe fell. In retrospect, and I know I’m biased, but I have to say that I thnk the BB, even in it’s least popular period, was pound for pound, way more inventive and entertaining than any breakfast show since.
So I switched over to ITV to see if it Daybreak had gotten any better and whether they were, indeed, observing The Six Inch Dictat..
I was thinking though, about let’s call it the SID, because there are some couples on telly for whom six inches would be a yawning chasm. Anyone who has ever watched Newsnight and seen the Dialectic Duo that is Diane Abbott and Michael Portillo, will know what I’m on about. (Abbott and Portillo: Someone at Sport Relief really needs to do whatever it takes to persuade them to appear as the hapless slapstick double-act of yesteryear. They could recreate the Who’s On First, sketch. I’d pledge at least a tenner to see that.)
So here are a pair of diametrically opposed politicians, but on Andrew Neil’s sofa, you couldn’t put a ballot paper between them. I mean, I know politicians from opposing parties are up each other’s arses these days, but they’re ridiculous. And to watch them spooning all swoony-moony whilst discussing the serious issues of the day, always leaves me feeling more than a little queasy…
And I reckon the SID could also be useful in every day life. Such as when you’re sitting on the tube in rush hour and someone’s rubbing against you, or if you’re standing in a supermarket checkout queue, the person behind is nudging you with their trolly. ‘’Hey’’ you cry. As Sting once sang, ”Don’t stand so close to me. Don’t you know there’s a dictat on..?’’
So back on the box and Daybreak is doing it’s thang. Natalie Cassidy (Sonia from Eastenders) is at home holding her new baby and chatting by video link. At one point her face freezes and her eyes widen. Bleakley confirms it. The baby has filled it’s nappy, live on air! Wow. Bleakley laughs like a drain at this, long and loud and if you’d switched on a that point, you’d have thought that you’d just missed some amazing comedy gold. It was all a bit desperate.
One of the cringiest things on there is a feature called Something Cool Before The Kids Go To School. I’m sure this is supposed to have an ironic feel to it but it doesn’t work. The first time I watched it they had on a Guinness Book of Records holder. I dunno, the world’s largest mouthed tap dancer or something. This time, it’s freshly evicted X Factor weirdo Aiden Grimshaw. Not used to being interviewed on T.V and having, the night before, been unceremoniously booted out of the competition, plus being a strange boy anyway, it made for quite an uncool bit of telly.
Something Cool Before The Kids Go To School? Surely, if you’re a little kid then that would be Mini Dick and Dom on the other side. Or for a surly teenager, not getting their arse out of bed, I would’ve thought the coolest thing before you go to school is probably a wank. Or maybe a six inch dick tat. That would be quite cool, turning up at school and telling the teacher, I was watching the telly this morning and this guy came on with a Manga drawing on his baby maker..
Maybe they could do more of these features throughout the show? Something Berserk Before Your Dad Goes To Work. Something Boring For Those Still Snoring. Something Silly Before The Teen Pulls his Willy..
And then, after they returned from an ad break, I saw it. A gap. At least nine inches between them. I watched with growing anticipation to see what would happen. They threw over to Lorraine Kelly to get a tease of what was coming up on her show which follows theirs. ‘What’ve you got today, Lorraine’? asked Adrian as cheerfully as possible. And as she reeled off the roster of slebs n recipes, I was thinking, I’ll bet what she’s dying to say is ‘’Well, about half a million more viewers than you two, that’s what I’ve got’’.
They thank Lorraine. And then it happens. I’d wondered who it would be that would make the move. It was Adrian.Interesting. Whilst Christine read a link, he leant to the left slightly, and using his right hand for ballast, he raised a Chilesean buttock, shifted a little, his eyes unblinking, as he subtly nudged to the right a few inches. And then he became still. And.. twas complete. I saw it, live in operation. The Six Inch Dictat. It’s all true.
But my friend’s misinterpretation still tickles me and I ponder, is there really such a difference between a tattooed penis and gaudy, studio based morning television? Not really. They’re both just a load of brightly coloured cock..