Like a binge-worthy box set, the Phillip Schofield saga continues to offer new twists and turns.
Each episode features new information, new angles – whether it’s former colleagues like Eamonn Holmes enjoying revealing their pent up grievances, or Schofield torturing himself in interviews for ITV’s sins.
Now even politicians are demanding extra juicy details. In the language of the modern media world, this story has “legs.”
I know many are tired of the madness. At a time when the world faces a belligerent Russia, the rise of humanoid robots, rising inflation and fears of another pandemic, this seems like a seemingly trivial story from a daytime TV show host who, it seems, , has not done anything illegal .
But look closer and the sad saga is sharply revealing about so many aspects of life.
Like a binge-worthy box set, the Phillip Schofield saga continues to offer new twists and turns. Each episode has new information, new angles – whether it’s former colleagues like Eamonn Holmes enjoying the revelation of their pent-up grievances, or Schofield torturing himself in interviews for ITV’s sins
An example of this was the way Piers Morgan (pictured) was fired from his job as a presenter on ITV’s Good Morning Britain, claiming he had been canceled by the ‘woke crowd’ – personally blaming Dame Carolyn McCall
First, there’s our twisted relationship with TV, and specifically with on-screen presenters.
It is natural that we become captivated by human dramas. I worked for years in TV as a screenwriter and on the production side, so I know this all too well.
Exposing hidden lusts and hidden resentments, and sudden reversals of reputation, is compelling. It is the lightness of ITV’s This Morning, with its competitions and cooking and elves’ niceness, that adds an extra element to the dish.
Everyone is addicted no matter what they say.
MPs from the Culture, Media and Sport Committee have summoned ITV CEO Dame Carolyn McCall to appear for a barbecue over what they call a ‘matter of the highest importance’. What is it really their business?
Progressive ITV dances the mold of awakened American ideas
Of course, all employers should take the duty of care towards staff, especially juniors, seriously. But does this particular incident really require urgent scrutiny at the highest level by MPs?
For all their lofty language, it’s hard to resist the suspicion that politicians just want a piece of the rubbernecking action.
As for ITV, it seems management has gotten into this mess. Worse still, the way the channel’s bosses jumped headfirst into the quicksand is illustrative of a much larger cultural problem that has afflicted all British television for the past decade: a separation from and disdain for viewers.
The projection of the spotless, wipe-clean perfection of Schofield and his co-host Holly Willoughby was totally out of place from the start.
It meant that any derailment of their image – the giggling plus size, always bursting into laughter or tears – would be a disaster.
Other presenters in similar roles – Dermot and Alison, Eamonn and Ruth – feel like real people. But there was always something creepy about Phil ‘n’ Holly, a little too sickly sweet.
However, according to cynical ITV bosses, anything but anodyne is too complex for viewers.
But the fact is, there’s an uneasy contradiction between this saccharine surface and what’s a seedy reality in some parts of the television world.
How racy that the broadcast media, obsessed with ‘fake news’ and disinformation, but often positioning itself – ludicrously – as above all, has been exposed to viewers as a myth.
The BBC has been particularly blissful in this holier-than-thou conception, employing 60 journalists as part of the recent launch of its BBC Verify fact-checking operation.
Let’s not forget that this is the same BBC that not long ago repeatedly reported that Jewish students had hurled racial slurs at men in central London, when the exact opposite was the case.
It is the same BBC that unthinkingly mimics the reality-bending ideology of extremists in the trans lobby who do not want to respect the rights of biological women, and who tries to pretend that modern Britain – probably the least racist society in human history – is full of of bigots.
ITV, too, is now a scrupulously ‘progressive’ institution that dances the mold of awakened American academic ideas. But now the Schofield affair has blown the wafer-thin TV decoration – ‘You can’t trust other media, but you can trust us’ – out of the water.
With regard to trust, ITV bosses have serious questions to answer.
If, as they claim, they sincerely believed in 2020 that there was no hidden backstory, then why did Schofield urgently need to come live on the air?
Were ITV executives curious about other opportunities?
What’s more, the company’s investigation into allegations about a relationship Schofield had with one of his show’s young runners appears to have been cursory, to say the least, only taking the two men’s word that there was nothing between them. . Imagine if the police took this approach.
The cover-up only made the inevitable exposure worse.
But it’s clear ITV wanted to believe Schofield and protect his oh-so-valuable asset, this morning’s king.
The irony, as Eamonn Holmes has pointed out, is that ratings for This Morning don’t go up or down no matter who’s on the couch.
Ultimately, this is all symptomatic of the wider problem at ITV.
Until recently, the network had a peppery, earthy quality that was one of the brand’s strengths.
The staff had an exceptionally strong and precise sense of who their viewers were, and a healthy respect for them. They did not view them as people who needed to be constantly told that they did not agree with the preferences of the elite.
The BBC has always been the broadcaster that was a little courtly, patrician and self-righteous.
In contrast, ITV was like a roast dinner followed by a sponge cake – maybe not very ‘good’ for you, but very satisfying.
But take the sugar and salt out of that meal and all you’re left with is a big bucket of syrup.
Primetime TV is not social work. It betrays its audience
An example of this was the way Piers Morgan was defended from his presenter job on ITV’s Good Morning Britain, claiming he had been canceled by the ‘woke crowd’ – personally blaming Dame Carolyn McCall.
Also witness ITV’s recent campaign to get everyone talking about their mental health.
Primetime television is not social work. The job of everyone on TV is mainly to make better shows. It shouldn’t be their mission to impose their California “social values.”
While other aspects of British media – such as our newspapers – remain varied and distinct, TV betrays its audience.
Apart from the occasional big hits, everything gradually solidifies into a bland mash. Channels have lost their individual identity. The Schofield Affair is a microcosm of contemporary television: a glossy surface but a messy reality.
- Gareth Roberts is a TV screenwriter and novelist who has worked on Doctor Who and Coronation Street.