Prior to the 1980’s if you switch on your TV before around 9am you would likely be met with a test card transmission, as unlike today British television didn’t air 24 hours a day as it does now. Â In the early 1980’s the powers that be decided to take a leaf out of American television’s book and begin broadcasting during the early morning when people were having their breakfast and getting ready to go to work.
The BBC were first to begin when on January 17th 1983 the first edition of Breakfast Time was aired. Â Featuring noted presenter Frank Bough sat in front of a rather garish orange and yellow sunrise logo made from horizontal lines with bent ends, it was popular but a little too stuffy for me as a kid, as it seemed to be little more than endless news reports, although I did like the little blue clock that was permanently on screen in the bottom right hand corner.
A couple of weeks later, on February 1st, TV-am started airing on ITV with their show Good Morning Britain, although it was no means a blinding success, despite a rather impressive title sequence featuring sky divers and aerial footage of loads of people (and pigeons) forming words. Â Unlike me, the rest of the nation seemed to prefer Breakfast Time’s more serious approach than that of TV-am, despite an initial strong line up of presenters including David Frost, Angela Rippon, Anna Ford and Michael Parkinson.
Those first few months for TV-am proved controversial, with most of the original presenting line up being dismissed or leaving. Â By the middle of the year they had been replaced by relative unknowns Nick Owen and Anne Diamond, but this was a good decision as people felt they could easily relate to this down-to-earth pairing.
They were joined by weather girl legend Wincey Willis, who joined in with the banter whilst telling us whether to pack an umbrella or not with the aid of her big rotating weather board. Â When Wincey left it was a sad day and a hard act to follow. Â She was initially replaced by Trish Williamson (who I believe is still a weather forecaster today) and when she left Ulrika Jonsson became the “meterologist”. Â I use quotes as Ulrika initially joined TV-am as a secretary, left to join a Scandinavian channel and then rejoined Good Morning Britain as weather girl – so I’m not sure how much she actually knows about cold fronts and isobars…
Things still didn’t look rosey for the TV-am gang though, until the arrival of Roland Rat during the summer holidays. Â The rodent superstar boosted ratings as kids across the country tuned in to start their day with cartoons and comedy from a grey rat puppet and his chums. Â Weekends also became devoted mostly to kids as the Wide Awake Club appeared, with David Frost appearing later in the morning to bring more serious minded political interviews.
Other notable presenters were fitness instructor Lizzie Webb, better known as Mad Lizzie simply because she was always far too bright and cheery for so early in the morning, and resident Jamaican cook Rustie Lee, who was far more deserving of the “Mad” title than Lizzie as she truly was off her rocker, constantly looking at the wrong camera, making mistakes and laughing her almost Sid James beating guffaw…
One of my fondest memories of TV-am though was the egg cups. Â The studios where filming took place had a number of egg cups on the roof, and this led to the end of transmission featuring an egg in a blue egg cup with the year written on the side of the egg. Â As the years went by this image gradually expanded with more and more dated eggs being added, making for quite a crowded screen after a few years.
In the years that followed TV-am became more and more popular, at it’s peak claiming 70% or more of breakfast television viewers. Â Sadly it all came crashing to an end when the ITV breakfast franchise came to an end and bids were invited from other interested parties. Â TV-am lost out to a company called Sunrise, which marked the beginning of GMTV, which too be honest borrowed fairly heavily from TVam when it came to format. Â Good Morning Britain aired for the last time on December 31st 1992.
For a stack load of information about TV-am take a look at the timeline and other resources from the Moving Image website, and below you can see the title sequence I mentioned earlier. Â They must have put down an awful lot of bird feed to get those pigeons to stay in the right place…