“I deserved the sack, Christine didn’t”: Adrian Chiles reveals why it all went so horribly wrong for him and Christine Bleakley at Daybreak
Adrian says he and Christine are firm friends
Adrian Chiles marches into a private members club in west London looking as far from a TV star as possible in an over-sized leather jacket, blue jeans and running shoes, not to mention his famous scowl.
It’s less than a month since the 44-year-old and his ‘on-screen wife’ Christine Bleakley were dumped from the Daybreak sofa by ITV after more than a year of difficult headlines and personal attacks. Since then, Adrian has had time to contemplate what went wrong. Too much time, in fact.
He still wakes up in a cold sweat at 3.45 every morning, expecting to drag himself out of bed. But this is the first time he’s put those thoughts into words, which is not easy for a man who prefers to keep his feelings very much to himself. ‘For the first time ever the other day I thought, “Can I do something else”,’ he admits. What would he do ‘I’d love to write a novel. And I want to do something positive with my time, like work with young offenders.’
It’s a far cry from April 2010, when Adrian quit the BBC with a certain degree of swagger. He and Christine appeared to be the new king and queen of TV after putting the previously lowrating BBC1 7pm slot on the map with The One Show. So, when BBC1 controller Jay Hunt wanted to replace him on the Friday night edition with the supposedly more entertaining Chris Evans, Adrian wasn’t having it.
His agents negotiated a multi-million pound, four-year deal with ITV to relaunch its struggling breakfast show, GMTV, become the face of its football coverage and launch a chat show. Within weeks, with his encouragement, Christine followed. Well-known for his generally negative outlook on life, Adrian appeared to have been intoxicated by showbiz hype for the first time.
He assured Christine their move to the other end of the TV day would be a good one and said as much during an expensive advertising campaign he now regrets. (Pictures of a slim Adrian and tanned Christine were erected on billboards throughout the country, while Adrian confidently predicted the show would be a success in a series of press interviews.)
‘I didn’t want to do it, but I went along with it. Part of me liked the idea I was on billboards, but it was calamitous,’ he laments. Likewise, he thinks the axing of GMTV was a mistake. ‘To the core audience it looked like we’d murdered everyone and come on with their blood still on the carpet.’ Another ‘disaster ’, Adrian believes, was the studio, featuring a lurid purple couch and a panoramic view of London’s skyline, but which would be pitch black for most of the show during the winter.
‘One of my colleagues referred to the studio as a purple cave of sadness,’ he says. But Adrian insists he is not trying to pass the buck and denies he described the show as a ‘crock of s***’, as was reported. ‘Part of the problem probably was me,’ he concedes. ‘Looking back on it, am I right for breakfast TV I thought I was dead right for it, and now I think I was probably dead wrong. What
housewife wants to look at me in the mornings A lot of blame has to come to my door. To my detriment, I never watched breakfast TV.’
Screen memories: Christine and Adrian on the set of Daybreak
Yet despite the critical backlash, ratings were improving. ‘At the end, we felt as if we were getting somewhere. That’s the frustration of it,’ Adrian says. He found the criticism of his demeanour and appearance particularly hard to stomach. ‘It did start to gnaw away. The game’s up when you start to doubt yourself – and sometimes I did,’ he says. ‘I’m generally not happy in my skin. Everyone would say I didn’t look comfortable, and the more they said it, the more uncomfortable and grumpy I got.’
One morning, he had a particularly tough moment. ‘I was talking and saw myself on the TV monitor and thought it was my dad looking back. Most people have that moment in a mirror but I had it on live television. My dad is fine, but I don’t want to look like him, because he’s 73.’ In the dark days Adrian turned to his Catholic faith to help him find calm. In fact, during Lent, with the Daybreak stress mounting, he went to Mass every day.
‘It was fantastic, actually. It’s a way of finding some peace and quiet. I’m not remotely pious or evangelical about it, but I go and I enjoy it.’ On one occasion, Adrian was asked to give that day’s reading. ‘It was from the Old Testament,’ he recalls. ‘There were three verses. To my horror, the word daybreak was in the second and third verse!’
Looking back on it, am I right for breakfast TV What housewife wants to look at me in the mornings
Adrian and Christine remained committed to Daybreak, but they knew ‘something was going on’ when things went quiet after the announcement the show was getting a new editor. Eventually, their joint agent told them ITV had decided they would be ‘let go’. Adrian says initially it was a ‘relief, because I’d felt it was coming’. But, he adds, ‘It got a bit messy in the end, as these things always do. Maybe if I’d gone in on all fours and begged, it might have made a difference. But probably not – the decision had been made at a high corporate level.’
He has been reported as saying ‘dark forces’ were at work when the news of his departure was leaked weeks before he wanted it to go public. Was that true ‘No, no,’ he says, with exasperation. ‘That was said to somebody and somehow it, er… there was no conspiracy. Perhaps there
was a conspiracy. I don’t know… I was a bit humiliated. But it wasn’t as if they’d leaked that I had six nipples – it was something that was true.’
Then there’s his relationship with Christine. During The One Show period, when Adrian was still married to radio presenter Jane Garvey, the tabloids speculated about whether they were having an affair. Media interest cooled when Christine’s romance with Frank Lampard went public. Near the end of their Daybreak stint, it was rumoured the couple had fallen out. When I raise this, Adrian shakes his head.
Adrian says Christine”s relationship with Frankn Lampard changed their friendship “only slightly”
‘Imagine seeing your best friend every day at 4am. There is so much potential for enmity, it’s a miracle we’re still firm friends,’ he says. ‘Look, she’d get the hump with me. I’d get the hump with her. But we could always have a laugh. I’m going out with her tonight, and we speak more or less every day.’ In fact, the only ‘beef’ Adrian has with the ITV bosses is in relation to Christine. ‘I understand why they got rid of me but it’s bonkers they got rid of her.’
I wonder whether the public became less interested in the pair when they realised there was no romance. Viewers wanted the next Richard and Judy, didn’t they ‘Yes,’ he concedes. ‘It did give it a certain energy. But that wasn’t our intention and you’re powerless to stop what people are thinking.’
Adrian says Christine’s relationship with Frank changed their friendship ‘only slightly, in terms of time. When you get together with someone, you take on board all their friends and family. But that was fine. He’s come round to my place to watch West Brom lose on TV. He’s lived my life!’ Before Adrian landed the One Show job, he was a well-regarded but relatively low-profile presenter of business show Working Lunch and Match Of The Day 2. In fact, wife Jane, then with Radio Five Live, got more attention.
The couple divorced in October 2009, but he is a doting dad to their two daughters, Evelyn Katarina, 11, and Sian Mary, eight. Regarding his TV career, it would be easy to think it was in trouble judging by the press coverage. But, in fact, he has been lauded by sports insiders since becoming the main football presenter for ITV. The channel has also committed to a new series of his topical panel series That Sunday Night Show, which has attracted strong ratings.
‘ITV entrusted me with three jobs, and I’ve still got two, so I feel grateful. Three was probably too many in the first place,’ he rationalises. Does he ever regret leaving his comfortable BBC home ‘Absolutely not. The One Show was very successful. But I enjoyed it without being proud of it. I was proud of Daybreak but couldn’t say I enjoyed it because we never got given a chance from the start. I’ve learned so much about television in the last 18 months. I’m a better and much more experienced broadcaster than if I’d stayed at the BBC. With ITV you live and die by the sword, but I haven’t got a problem with that. I’m battered, but not broken, and, ultimately, I still feel very lucky.’
But, after his experiences on Daybreak, one thing this eternal pessimist will never be again is positive: ‘I’m bowing out to positivity. This is the last time I assume anything is going to work. I was wrong. And it hurts.’
The new series of That Sunday Night Show starts 8 January, ITV1, 10pm.