Emma Gormley is determined to bring some seasonal cheer to daytime audiences, despite the alarming spread of Omicron.
I’m glad we decided Christmas should come early on ITV Daytime this year. It’s been another tough weekend for the nation, with Storm Arwen ripping through a large part of the country (and taking I’m a Celebrity… off air for the first time ever).
There’s also been a Saturday-evening address by the Prime Minister, setting out new measures to stop the Omicron variant overwhelming the NHS.
For many, GMB is the first place they turn to for their news every morning. With 2,000 or so hours of live television coming from ITV Daytime every year, we just can’t afford to fall off-air. My Saturday evening involves a flurry of calls, concluding with a late-night conference call with our brilliant head of production, Alice Gairdner, as we establish exactly what we need to change for Monday’s shows.
We know more challenges are inevitable over the coming days and weeks. The shows are still working under the “new normal” of Covid precautions. None of us can quite remember what life was like producing shows pre-pandemic. We’ve built bigger on-screen desks to facilitate social distancing and we have fewer guests in the studios.
As of this evening, our plan to finally get the Loose Women studio audience back in the building suddenly feels vanishingly unlikely.
Monday morning – and boy do we all need some festive cheer. All the shows have gone beyond the call of duty (as always) with their Christmas trees, festive content and even a life-size, animatronic polar bear called Tundra, who appears on This Morning.
Throughout the pandemic, our teams have worked incredibly hard to inform the nation and be first with the news, but we also know it’s vitally important to put a smile on our viewers’ faces and a spring in their step.
Today is St Andrew’s Day, or, as we call it in ITV Daytime, Lorraine’s Birthday. Her show is packed with birthday treats from Rylan and Gary Barlow to Mary and Romain from LK’s favourite show, Selling Sunset.
It’s a brilliantly fun start to the day. Even so, my mind isn’t far from the real question of the day: will Christmas be cancelled, and how will we cover it?
Another Prime Ministerial press conference, and we’re assured that Christmas won’t be cancelled. Apparently, we can still party, but we’re told it’s probably best to leave out the mistletoe. Snogging aside, we’ve already made the tough decision to postpone or dramatically downsize our own parties.
The PM has also urged all who can work from home to do so. Unfortunately for me and many of my team, that’s just not an option. We’ve been in the office and studios every day for the entire pandemic, determined to keep the shows running, our audiences informed and to put those who are making the biggest decisions under proper journalistic scrutiny.
Partying becomes a recurrent theme on air, too, as ITV News uncovers footage of the now-infamous Allegra Stratton Christmas party video. Naturally, the morning after this brings much debate and anger across all our shows. The nation’s strength of feeling is reflected in our ratings.
This Morning and Loose Women go off-air for their well-deserved Christmas break this week. But there’s no rest for GMB and Lorraine, as they continue between Christmas and the New Year.
We will be finishing the year with a Loose Women extravaganza on Christmas Eve. There will be lots of laughs and warmth, and we’ll all be cooing over Stacey’s baby, Rose (socially distanced cooing, naturally). On Christmas Day, we’ll be waking up to special editions of Good Morning Britain, Lorraine and This Morning.
With a bit of luck, all Daytimers will get a Christmas lie-down – before we’re back on-air, all guns blazing, at the start of another year.
Emma Gormley is Managing Director, ITV Studios – Daytime.