One loves the One Show! Matt Baker and Alex Jones reveal why the Queen's asked them to dance in the Palace
Dancing duo: TV hosts Matt Baker and Alex Jones
Matt Baker is sporting something of a shiner courtesy of his The One Show co-presenter Alex Jones.
The gangly presenter elbowed her colleague in the eye as they were practising a lift in the foxtrot they will perform at Buckingham Palace for a special edition of the show airing next week.
The two Strictly Come Dancing alumni are officially launching the BBC’s Diamond Jubilee coverage next Tuesday from the Music Room at the Palace — where Prince Charles and Prince William were christened — and one segment will see them dancing, while narrowly avoiding the very low-slung chandeliers.
If there was ever any question that these two are now part of the BBC firmament, that has now been answered.
Even the Queen, it seems, watches The One Show. ‘Apparently when the request went into the Queen she said: “Oh yes, The One Show”,’ says Alex, 34.
‘On Tuesday we’ll be presenting the show from the Queen’s sofa. This is a really big deal.’
The pair visited the Palace on Monday to film their dance. ‘It was overwhelming,’ says Alex. ‘We were looking at the mantelpieces thinking every vase must be worth thousands and there are about 2,000 mantelpieces.
‘It was a bizarre experience as, apart from staff, we had the place to ourselves and we were having a little wander down the Queen’s corridor looking into doorways.’
Matt, 34, says: ‘Alex was beside herself when she saw the door William and Kate came through during their reception.’
Suppressing a squeal, Alex interjects: ‘We actually changed in the room where Kate and Wills had the night do at their wedding. I was in my bra and knickers in the room where they had the night do!’
The two constantly finish each other’s sentences; the true mark of that elusive ‘screen chemistry’ which is bringing The One Show in regular viewing figures of five million and more.
Of course, there was once another pairing on the show with chemistry. Thinking it could replicate the BBC’s success simply by snatching Adrian Chiles and Christine Bleakley, ITV offered them 5million and 4 million apiece to move and launch a new breakfast show.
Daybreak was a disaster with the two presenters recently axed after just a year.
Adrian has since admitted it was a mistake. Christine is now hosting Dancing On Ice which isn’t going well either; the show’s ratings have slumped while Adrian’s chat show That Sunday Night Show has received a critical pounding.
Matt and Alex are too canny to openly criticise their predec-essors. But both state they would never make the same mistake.
Would they move to ITV for millions of pounds ‘No, no, no,’ they say in unison. ‘It’s not about the money, it’s about the product,’ says Matt. ‘I would never do something my heart wasn’t in.’
On-screen partners: The two finish each other's sentences; the true mark of that elusive 'screen chemistry'
Alex adds: ‘You can move from show to show, but it’s keeping your place that is the challenge. We are in it for the long haul. We’re focused on the same thing. There is no reason in the world why we would leave.’
Matt continues: ‘Longevity is the key to success in this game. There is no point in getting a fortune overnight when five minutes later it could all be over. We’re broadcasters not celebrities.
‘And neither of us is desperate; if you’re not desperate you won’t be disappointed.’
Alex adds: ‘We know that our success is down to the show; it doesn’t matter whether it’s Matt and I or Adrian and Christine. We’re one small element of a huge thing which has clicked with the public.’ It seems a long time since there were worries about whether the two would be able to take over Christine and Adrian’s mantle.
As Matt says with a grin: ‘Our ratings are as high — higher even — than they were then.’
Not bad considering it’s only in the past few weeks that they have started to feel like the show is truly their own.
When Alex was given the job she was seen as a Christine-lite. The producers only screen-tested her ‘for a laugh’, because she looks like the Northern Irish presenter. But they saw something in her.
Her first screen partner was comic Jason Manford, who left after just a few months for sending sexy tweets to fans. There was then a period of flux — sometimes Alex wouldn’t know who was partnering her until a few hours before the show — until Matt came on board.
Match made in TV heaven: Both Matt and Alex fell into presenting by accident
Last year the pair both had multiple projects on the go, with Alex taking part in Strictly, in which she made the semi-final, and Matt madly practising for a charity rickshaw ride across the country. So they feel it’s only now that they can relax into their roles.
‘At the start we were getting to know each other,’ says Alex. ‘And since we came back from Christmas we have really started putting our mark on the show.
‘Now we know I’ll probably say something ridiculous and Matt will probably come up with a pun. We have the confidence to go off script. We need to be able to understand each other because so much can go wrong with a live show. I say something wrong most nights.’
‘But when it goes wrong is when it’s memorable,’ adds Matt.
Most controversially there was the Jeremy Clarkson incident. Referring to public sector strikers the controversial Top Gear host told Matt and Alex: ‘I’d have them all shot. I would take them outside and execute them in front of their families.’
Despite Matt issuing an apology on the show, the BBC received 4,700 complaints.
‘He was obviously joking but we were both shocked,’ says Matt. ‘You expect him to be opinionated, but what he said was completely out of left field.
‘We prepare as much as we can, but you have no idea what someone will say once on the air.’
Their favourite guest is Dolly Parton who even helped Matt choose what shirt to wear.
The biggest disaster was an appearance by David Cassidy. ‘He was on the sofa with us but he spent the entire show addressing a group in the audience,’ recalls Alex. ‘They were lovely middle-aged ladies who were fans. He’d just got off the plane and was jet-lagged…’
‘. . . When we said “Hello” he ignored us.’ continues Matt. ‘He turned to his fans and reeled off anecdotes. We had to wave to get his attention!’
Both fell into presenting by accident.
Matt, born in County Durham, wanted to be a physiotherapist but did not get the grades. So, spurred on by a school appearance in Grease, he went to drama school. An aunt of his girlfriend (now wife) Nicola saw there were auditions for a new Blue Peter host and he badgered the producers, before landing the role.
Alex, from West Wales, wanted to be a ballerina but ended up as a rather inept TV researcher. When she lost Julian Lloyd Webber’s priceless violin she was sacked — although, when it turned up her bosses decided she might be better in front of the camera.
Off-screen the brunette, who is dating a banker she will only refer to as ‘Charlie from New Zealand’, appears as delightfully scatty as she is on screen, but make no mistake — she is no ditzy airhead. ‘People criticise me for being too giggly, but I am just being myself,’ she says. ‘I’d rather be like that than miserable.’
The only Welsh prime-time presenter, she’s used to getting stick for her accent. ‘People are quite derogatory about it; I find it pretty racist,’ she says. ‘I wouldn’t say to someone: “Your accent annoys me”. I’m not about to change.’
Why should she She and Matt have one of the most consistently good ratings on TV. And now they are going to have a royal audience.
‘How on earth did this happen’ says Matt. ‘Sometimes we have to pinch ourselves.’
The One Show, live from Buckingham Palace, will air on February 7, at 7pm, for the Queen’s Jubilee Concert announcement.