By John Myers, mediaweek.co.uk, Monday, 22 November 2010 03:05PM
Britain has fallen out of love with celebrities. After gorging itself for years on the sordid lifestyles of the rich and famous, the nation has finally sobered up and what we see is not a pretty sight.
The failure of ITV’s new breakfast show Daybreak, where viewing figures are alarmingly low, is not due to a problem with the show’s format, but rather how its star presenters have become a symbol of what we don’t like any more.
Once, Chiles and Bleakley seemed like ordinary people with a job on the telly. They were a bit like us and were welcome in our homes. Adrian had an endearing clumsy approach, while Christine had an interesting accent and looked, well, nice.
We were told we were watching a "special chemistry" in action, although no-one ever tells us exactly what that means.
This chemistry was so special that ITV, which really should have known better, fell for the PR and hired both these muppets in what became a public and distasteful move across London, purely motivated by bags of cash.
Bleakley was transformed from the nice girl next-door to the fit bird on the arm of a Premiership footballer, perhaps the worst of all crimes these days. Chiles, on the other hand, won the national franchise for dodgy jumpers while becoming the miserable face of the World Cup.
The show’s producers soon complained we weren’t tuning in. Too right, we’re not. We hit the remote in defiance long ago and headed to the BBC where we discovered a new hero in Susanna Reid. Lovely, adorable and, dare I say it, probably wouldn’t recognise a footballer if she fell over one.
Down on planet Earth, while ITV holds ratings crisis talks, we are dodging cutbacks, job losses, price-hikes and strikes. The days are dark, cold and wet and it is months before our next holiday, so anyone who annoys us is in for a good kicking. MPs are now pathetic fodder but celebrities are perfect, and our weapon of choice is the one famous people fear most of all: we simply ignore them.
The footballing celebrities really wind us up. Three weeks ago, the TV cameras at Manchester United captured row upon row of empty seats with the same story reported at every ground in the Premiership: there seem to be more bums on the pitch than there are sitting in the stands.
We watch as these so-called star players rant, sulk and complain while picking up more in a week than most fans earn in a year. We used to put up with it; today we don’t. The club asks us to show loyalty by buying tickets and shirts but it’s hard to do so when we discover our national heroes are not at home caring for their pregnant wives but shacked up with prostitutes or having three-in-a-bed romps.
We strike back like a ninja by no longer coughing up the cash. Sales of OK, Hello and other personality-led publications are no longer our first purchase as we dismiss the dross and do something else. A story about Jordan once guaranteed thousands of extra sales; now it just ensures apathy for the product.
Redemption is possible for some and there is no finer example than Chris Evans. In less than a decade, the man has gone from hero to zero to hero again. He lost his money, career, respect and sense of proportion in life, but then he discovered the magic of humility. After all, it takes a special person to blow £87m. We also appreciate genuine talent and, in Evans, talent has never been an issue.
But the ‘good’ celebrities are quickly becoming the minority. Excess, rudeness, sex and bragging about cash are out. For now, consumers want restraint and good old-fashioned manners.
Daybreak, therefore, is not nearly as bad as the media suggests and neither are the presenters themselves. But this misses the point. We are simply fed up of the whole bloated celebrity circus, and the public way in which Chiles and Bleakley fled the BBC for big money was just distasteful.
Of course, you could take the advice of Peter Finch who, as anchorman in the 1976 satirical movie Network, encouraged people to take to the rooftops and declare: "I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this any more!" Race you to the top.
John Myers is the former chief executive of GMG Radio.
This article was first published on mediaweek.co.uk