It’s been a tough few days for TV royalty.
The faces of ITV’s This Morning, Phillip Schofield and Holly Willoughby, have been forced to defend themselves against accusations that they jumped the, at one point, six mile-long queue to see the Queen lying in state.
While praise has been heaped on celebrities such as David Beckham, Susanna Reid and Tilda Swinton for pulling a shift and queueing for hours like the rest of the good British public, Phillip and Holly have received a furious backlash – including a petition for them to lose their jobs.
Though there is nothing I hate more than people who don’t know how to queue, and I’d be the first person to call out a queue jumper, the fact that people want them axed from This Morning based on a photograph that went viral on social media is a gross overreaction.
I was initially shocked to see the sheer scale of the opposition they faced based on this allegation – but, after consideration, it seemed to make sense.
Holly and Phil, two of ITV’s biggest stars, have started to lose their shine.
What Holly and Phil need to do now is revamp their image before the public comes for them again, over a minor slip-up – if not, perhaps it’s time to step away.
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Alongside others, I first saw the story on Twitter, where a screengrab from the live stream in Westminster Hall showed a sombre-looking Phillip and masked-up Holly being led past the main queue and heading straight into the hall where the rest of the world’s media was gathered.
These pictures were captioned with angry statements about how the duo lacked common decency and had no respect for those who temporarily paused their lives to stand in a queue.
This Morning’s Facebook page, which is usually the home of light-hearted comments about cooking items and fashion, was soon cluttered with angry comments from watchers.
It didn’t take long for the anger to be diluted by jokes and memes about queueing, as well as Phillip’s advert for webuyanycar.com being edited to say wejumpanyqueue.com.
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Even though they were there in a professional capacity, according to social media and the court of public opinion, Phillip and Holly were nothing more than just presenters of a daytime TV show who had no place in being part of the world’s media at this extraordinary event.
Except that’s not true. Each and every weekday morning they appear live in living rooms across the UK and report on a professional level on important events – and they do it in a way most journalists can’t.
For the past 34 years, ITV’s This Morning has been a staple of daytime television. We all know the show, even if we’re not regular watchers.
And given that the passing of Queen Elizabeth II is one of the biggest events that many of us have experienced in our lifetime, who wouldn’t expect This Morning, ITV’s flagship show to feature it?
But therein also lies the problem. I think that viewers were suddenly reminded that the fun and friendly presenters who they felt were like their friends, an image that This Morning has worked hard on getting viewers to believe, were actually showcasing their true power and privilege – by walking straight past all those people who would usually be sat down with a cuppa, watching their show.
If Phil and Holly want to regain their daytime television crowns, then it’s time for them to remember that viewers see them in a certain light, and they need to talk to their audience like their mates – rather than journalists reporting on a breaking story.
And this is not the first time they’ve received a backlash from social media users, either.
Earlier this month, they took their competition segment ‘Spin to Win’ down a dystopian path by offering viewers a chance to win the price of their energy bills for four months – seemingly making a fun game of the energy crisis. In my opinion, it was a completely tone deaf move.
The next day, after it was revealed that the show’s competition winner had instead won all of their bills paid for, rather than just their energy bills, it was merely shrugged off by Phillip with the jibe: ‘I wonder how much of that they can complain about online.’
Coupled with rumours about Phillip Schofield’s tumultuous relationships with co-stars over the past few years, the famous pair are beginning to seem a bit too out of touch with their viewership.
Truly, I don’t believe that they should lose their jobs over a misjudged segment at an event that they were entitled to be at.
But, I do think this proves that viewers are starting to grow tired of the Phillip and Holly show. They have long dominated the ITV prime time schedule and if they’re not presenting, they’re advertising anything from gin to hair dye during ad breaks.
They no longer feel like ‘regular people’ – there’s now too much distance between themselves and their average viewer.
Perhaps, the proof lies in stand-out star Alison Hammond, who took over the Friday presenting duty last year, receiving a nomination for Best TV Presenter at the 2022 NTA awards.
And, it’s no surprise that Alison is such a big hit. She’s just like us. She doesn’t adhere to unattainable beauty standards, she has an infectious laugh, but can also sympathise when serious issues come up.
She is liked because she doesn’t think of herself as a celebrity, and viewers see her as fun, bubbly and, most importantly, approachable.
However, generally, viewers don’t like change and with that in mind, the duo could certainly regain their following.
They started off their career together by being best friends who wanted to share the morning’s talking points with everyone watching.
Now is the time for them to go back to being authentic. To understand and empathise with the viewers at home about what’s going on in their lives.
It’s also time to be honest about their shortcomings, admitting their mistakes and errors of judgements, instead of making easy jibes. They can easily bring things back by seeking a connection with, instead of attention from, their audience.
If they don’t, instead it could be a good time for a shift of talent. To quote ex-This Morning presenter Eamonn Holmes, ‘a changing of the guard’ in terms of presenters.
ITV have always been exceptional at nurturing talent, which is evident by the rota of stand-in presenters, including Vernon Kay, Josie Gibson and Rochelle Humes, who all seem to be fan favourites.
And Alison Hammond has already proven she can do the job…
People watch daytime TV for all kinds of reasons but none other than that it’s a comforting place, full of friendly faces and familiarity.
If it’s to survive, the presenters at the helm need to take note.
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