CHRISTOPHER STEVENS: Ashes to ashes, ad break to ad break…. The first episode of This Morning since Philip Schofield’s departure was an awkward obituary
A nation mourns. Or so you might have assumed if you returned from a holiday in outer space and tuned in to the sombre faces of Alison Hammond and Dermot O’Leary presenting yesterday’s edition of ITV’s This Morning.
‘Now, we can’t start today’s show,’ intoned Alison, choking with emotion, ‘without paying tribute to the man who spent the last two decades sitting on the This Morning sofa – Phillip Schofield.’
Dermot twisted uncomfortably in his swivel chair, which let out a long squeak of repressed grief.
CHRISTOPHER STEVENS: A nation mourns. Or so you might have assumed if you returned from a holiday in outer space and tuned in to the sombre faces of Alison Hammond (left) and Dermot O’Leary (right) presenting yesterday’s edition of ITV’s This Morning
CHRISTOPHER STEVENS: Until the brutal dismissal of Phil (right) on Saturday, and Holly Willoughby’s (left) immediate decision to take a two-week break, Alison and Dermot were not expecting to host the show this week — and a 150-minute live magazine takes a lot of filling
CHRISTOPHER STEVENS: Eulogy over. Ashes to ashes, ad break to ad break: Schofield may be still with us but his career is now dust. Please do not send flowers, by request (pictured: Philip Schofield with his other in Cornwall last weekend)
‘As a show, everyone on and off screen at ITV and This Morning want to say a huge thank you to Phil,’ he agreed. Photo stills of the dear departed Phillip appeared and faded away, like images on a digital screen at a modern crematorium.
The tribute wasn’t over. ‘Quite simply, we all know he’s one of the best live television broadcasters this country has ever had,’ proclaimed La Hammond.
Eulogy over. Ashes to ashes, ad break to ad break: Schofield may be still with us but his career is now dust. Please do not send flowers, by request.
Dermot scrambled off his chair, assuring us the squeaks were not his fault, and the duo headed for the sofa.
Its capacious cushions didn’t appear any comfier, because Fidget O’Leary spent the next two hours tying himself in physical knots.
He scratched his knee, he pulled on his ears, he clapped a hand to the back of his neck and, at one point, he wrapped an arm right over and around his head.
Ruth Langsford, popping up to promote the lunchtime show Loose Women, copied him. ‘What are you doing?’ she inquired.
Dermot couldn’t explain. Alison could. ‘No sign of stress!’ she lied, inspecting his face as they introduced a feature on sleep masks and eye make-up. No one can blame them for feeling fraught.
Until the brutal dismissal of Phil on Saturday, and Holly Willoughby’s immediate decision to take a two-week break, Alison and Dermot were not expecting to host the show this week — and a 150-minute live magazine takes a lot of filling.
Thank goodness for Gyles Brandreth, who managed to spend five whole minutes telling us how he’d been to Nando’s only once.
Gyles can waffle for England, literally – he’s in Guinness World Records for the longest ever after-dinner speech, at 12-and-a-half hours. How they needed him yesterday morning.
Twice, Dermot admitted that he’d spent Sunday in hurried preparation, catching up on TV and speed-reading books. He looked at ease only once, as he spun the wheel on the phone-in competition.
Dermot is a natural gameshow host. Alison was more unflappable, though she looked ready to pull the plug when one guest launched into a long and confused account of an online scam that involved multiple references to ‘gypsies’.
And she couldn’t hide her disgust at a bowl of spicy prawns and pasta. They should have called it Crevettes à la Schofield . . . because we won’t be seeing that recipe again.