Breakfast TV was invented* in 1983, between the Falkland’s War, and Madonna’s First LP

Next year, corks will be popped as Breakfast TV celebrates 30 years.  And as the headline suggests, it has always balanced the world of substantial, developing news events and lighter celebrity content..  Last week, the original and biggest Breakfast programme had one news/celebrity mash-up close to home when its co-presenter was fired and made an emotional goodbye on-air.  America really loves its morning shows.

We’ve never been quite as keen in the UK; is it because of our radio tradition, or because we’re a bit less up-and-at-em at this awkward daypart.  So despite all the relaunches and retreads of BBC, and changes to the ITV breakfast franchise, audiences are a bit stuck.  Most people wouldn’t watch TV at that time unless something massive was really kicking off.   There’s a lot to say about breakfast TV (see later posts to follow), and when we look back at the 30 years, it’ll be striking how much has changed over the years.  The early days of BBC Breakfast News had horoscopes (Russell Grant), exercise (The Green Goddess), and cooking (Glyn Christian).  They wouldn’t do that now.

The real innovator was The Big Breakfast, introducing new talent and really embracing the aesthetic elements of breakfast – cornflakes, coffee, eggs, cockerels, fry-ups and the rest. It’s a little surprising that this effort died when The Big Breakfast ended in 2002, because it feels like a real opportunity to attract latent viewers.





Toast, Nigel Slater’s autobiographical account of rubbish food, begins with a childhood memory of his beloved mother scraping the burnt bits from the eponymous food-stuff and stating that ‘It is impossible not to love someone who makes toast for you’  It reminds us how breakfasts are about protection.

It can be a fraught time of day, as food needs to be eaten, and clothes put on, despite people with different chronotypes (that is, being morning people or evening people) being forced to synchronise specific actions at the same time.  But behind that, it’s a time of families parting, saying goodbye.  Audiences need to know what is happening, what they should wear, and whether they need to take a different route to work.  There’s a lot of understated love going on, and an emotional caring element.

It’s also the time when blood clots more easily, which is good news is if you cut yourself shaving, but bad news if you have a heart condition (heart attacks are 30% more common in the morning than at other times) – an echo of the healing, but the hurting that can happen after you say goodbye.  Ready Brek may not have run its famous Central Heating for Kids campaign for many years but it glows warmly in the memory because it captured the protective instincts that are so prevalent at Breakfast.

Currently, the Breakfast shows manage a straightforward, unpretentious and reliably effective information service that gives families the facts they need to know at this time.  It’s very toast.  And it is delivered by presenters that loyal audiences really like.  But, 20 years after The Big Breakfast started (the anniversary is on September 28th 2012), it sometimes feels like our morning shows are like three hour slots of rolling news.  It might help to reintroduce a few more breakfast images to BBC Breakfast and to Daybreak.  Eggs, toast, muesli, sausages, porridge, tea and coffee… these things are loaded with emotional heft for viewers, and most are specific to the time of day.  And they are suited to television.  Radio can’t show these things, the internet hasn’t learnt how to build in a sense of temporal location, and, since breakfast is a special time for us all, it could do with being given a sense of itself.



*  In the UK

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