August 23, 2008

Beginning of End for Richard and Judy After 26 Years…?

By Stephen McGinty

THE sofa has been shunted into the removal van and the Ali G costume packed in a trunk. Richard and Judy, the golden couple of daytime TV, yesterday bade farewell to terrestrial television.

No longer will those viewers still restricted to a choice of five channels be able to enjoy the mangled sentences of Richard Madeley and the embarrassed looks of his wife, Judy Finnigan. Instead, they will have to upgrade their service and track them down on UKTV's digital service.

The pair are exchanging the two million viewers their current teatime programme regularly attracts for an estimated 400,000 on UKTV's new digital channel, Home. The deal, however, has been sweetened by a reported annual salary of GBP 1 million each.

The couple were poached by Channel 4 from ITV's This Morning in 2001 - 26 years after they first started working together on Granada TV. Their departure from Channel 4 was marked with a special edition featuring a look back over the series with contributions from regular guests Vanessa Feltz, Amanda Platell and Nick Ferrari.

They will now host a new 60-minute primetime show on UKTV, which will retain the book and wine clubs that proved successful on their Channel 4 show.

Finnigan, 60, said public opinion had convinced her and Madeley, 52, to carry on their TV career together.

She said: "When we announced our decision to leave our current television series after seven years, we were very touched by the number of people - friends, family, guests, viewers and broadcasters - who told us how much they wanted to see us continuing making programmes together."

Last night, opinion on the wisdom of their move was mixed. Mark Borkowski, a public relations expert, said: "It's a desperate move for people who are already washed up.

"The fact of the matter is that it indicates their career is over. It's not a smart move. They were in a safe place and they are not going to enjoy the same traction as they did at Channel 4. The fact is UKTV needed them. They will take an audience with them, but I don't think it's enough for them."

However, Charles Fletcher, of Caledonia Media, said: "When Richard and Judy moved from ITV to Channel 4, people said that this was the beginning of the end, that they were stepping into oblivion. Instead, they took their audience with them and built up a stronger one. The same point applies today. Digital channels are the future, not terrestrial. They are both smart, financially savvy people and I think it's a clever move."

Memorable moments but perhaps best forgotten...

The streaker who leaped on to This Morning's floating weather map in 1995, provoking Finnigan and Madeley to collapse in peals of laughter.

* Madeley's 1997 interview with Neil Tennant, the famously gay singer of The Pet Shop Boys, in which he asked how his wife was faring.

* The shoplifting allegation - Madeley was wrongly accused of shoplifting champagne from a Tesco store in 1990.

* The Ali G spoof. In 2000 Madeley appeared on This Morning dressed as comic Sacha Baron Cohen's character Ali G and was interviewed by Finnigan. His impersonation met with widespread ridicule.

* Finnigan's unintentional self-exposure at the 2000 National Television Awards. The couple were on stage to receive an award when Finnigan's dress accidentally gaped open and exposed her cleavage, shielded only by part of her bra.

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