Neil Thompson bumps into his ex-boss in the mosh pit at Latitude – and doorsteps Snoop Dogg in Hollywood
OK, in the spirit of apologetic full disclosure, this ain’t a normal week for me. It’s August. Piers and Susanna are off (deservedly – thought I’d better slip that in) on their French car factory-style summer sojourn. I’m also sneaking in a bit of R&R and extra-curricular that the normal 100-hour week doesn’t allow.
At Latitude, the hybrid Glasto crossed with church fête Suffolk festival, where, among the middle aged of the mojito-fuelled mosh pit, I bump (literally) into my ex-ITV boss Peter Fincham for our annual blokey embrace.
We compare notes about Loyle Carner and Freya Ridings like we know what we’re talking about. Trot off to Neneh Cherry, whom I do.
Best beginning to the working week ever, albeit with post-festival lurgy looming large. Fly off to LA, where we’re working on a great little joint venture with ITV America. Depart Terminal 5 feeling 80%, arrive 11 hours later at 40%, fly back four days later at 20%, but job mostly done. Hey ho.
We decamped Good Morning Britain to LA in February for our Oscars coverage. Despite a peristaltically challenging failure of comms mid-TX, the show was a total hit, especially with the viewers – almost four points up on 2018. We came off air following a live carousel of many of Hollywood’s minted media stars, including a good number scooped up in the moment.
I had pursued Snoop Dogg into the lavs of our Beverly Hills Hotel OB location, where he politely declined my advances. But I was a lot luckier with Roger Taylor, fresh from wowing the ceremony with Bohemian Rhapsody. Piers asked: “Was that a train wreck?” Susanna just winked, knowing it had been a triumph.
Individually, Piers and Susanna are class acts; and, together, a class pairing. I won’t repeat my Jack and Vera Duckworth casting principle here. Both are at their best when the show is at its best – live, spontaneous and fleet of foot, such as when a big, breaking story has ripped up our running order on-air. Or Piers has ripped out his earpiece because he’s fed up with being told we’re 15 minutes over in the middle of a gripping interview.
The excitement of the programme’s live coverage of, quite literally, everything has ended ITV Breakfast’s 18-year purdah on TV prizes: two RTS nominations, two Bafta ones and a Golden Nymph gong for Live Breaking News. All that in the past 15 months. Not to mention five years of successive growth in share and volume, reversing a decade of decline. Oh, yeah, and fending off 500 other journos to scoop the Ultimate News Quiz two years running. What a team!
Back to the UK with a bump, missing half our anchors, literally and metaphorically, but the show goes on.
The summer bookings are crucial to our overall performance. The first week of August is traditionally our trickiest week of the year, but our exclusives have included Khadijah Mellah, the hijab-wearing teenage jockey, fresh from her win at Goodwood (and we plan to watch her open her A-level results live on air the following week).
And, in the wake of the El Paso massacre, we had Aaron Stark, who was a hair trigger away from carrying out a high-school and shopping-mall shooting himself, plus Love Island’s Curtis Pritchard on sexuality and his on-going relationship with Maura Higgins.
Result? We’re up two points year on year.
The following day brings a debate on whether, from a point of sexual appeal, we should “mind the gap” in our teeth, sparked by Dakota Johnson’s evident closure of her own dental divide.
It allows me in the morning meeting to quote Chaucer’s gap-toothed, sexually liberated feminist role model, the Wife of Bath. Only on GMB. Nuff said.
Neil Thompson is editor of ITV’s Good Morning Britain.