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31 March 2023

In defence of daytime television

Snubbed by the Baftas, daytime telly is a staple of British culture. Underestimate it at your peril.

By Scott Bryan

There were two big snubs at the TV Bafta nominations this year. The first was Ambika Mod – while her more famous This Is Going to Hurt co-star, Ben Whishaw, received a Best Actor nomination, Mod, who expertly played a character with a storyline that left viewers thinking for days, did not. Bafta juries, what were you thinking?

The second – noticed by the television host, hugely successful author and active tweeter Richard Osman – was for a whole genre. Only three shows were nominated in the “Daytime” category – and of those, only two were actually shown in daytime (The Chase and Scam Interceptors). The third, The Repair Shop, has roots and is regularly shown during the day. But the episode nominated, featuring a cameo by King Charles, was first shown on BBC One at 8pm. 

“To have only two daytime shows on this list is a bit of a kick in the teeth for producers,” Osman tweeted – noting the success of shows such as Bridge of Lies, Homes Under the Hammer and Come Dine with Me. (Osman himself, of course, is a former co-host of daytime TV staple Pointless.) “Why bother having the category?”

[See also: This year’s nominations make the Baftas seem stupid and outdated]

He’s right, you know. The Baftas have failed to recognise the variety and popularity of daytime television. For one thing, daytime regularly produces some of the most viral scenes in British TV, from the time Alison Hammond inadvertently pushed someone into a dock, to the moment Barry Humphries mistakenly congratulated Dermot O’Leary for coming out of the closet instead of Phillip Schofield. It’s not just This Morning – who could forget Come Dine with Me’s “You won, Jane”? Bradley Walsh dissolving into giggles on The Chase?

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Daytime is more popular than you think. The Chase, in fact, is a ratings juggernaut with its biggest viewing figures around the 5 million mark. The most popular show on BBC One is often the BBC regional news at 6.30pm; while BBC Breakfast and Good Morning Britain are continuing to perform strongly – despite the fact that most of us turn to our phones for news when we wake up each morning.

Daytime television is also an incubator for new shows and talent. Bridge of Lies, starring Ross Kemp, has recently gone prime-time with celebrities on Saturday nights. BBC One’s Doctors is a training ground for the nation’s actors, with Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Nicholas Hoult, Jodie Comer and Pearl Mackie all appearing on it early in their careers. Public-service television thrives on daytime: the BBC’s Morning Live explores the impact of the cost-of-living crisis daily, and Steph’s Packed Lunch recently looked at the rise of evictions. 

The daytime schedule has far more range than is usually imagined: from BBC One’s The Moment of Proof, which looks at the use of DNA in solving crimes, to Tool Club, a Channel 4 renovation show that recently aired an episode focused on a local LGBTQ+ community. All of these shows are made with a smaller budget than evening programmes.

And viewers have exhibited a surprising depth of loyalty to daytime TV. You only have to look at the love for Neighbours, which received so much support and solidarity when it was initially cancelled that Amazon stepped in to save it (and the cast recently went on a UK tour).

It would be great if the Daytime category reflected all of this, but it is worth noting that it isn’t entirely the fault of Bafta either. There were only three nominations in this reasonably new category (compared to four in many others) as Bafta received fewer than 20 entries. All the more reason for programme-makers to put shows forward.

If you assume daytime television has little more to offer than estate agents wandering around empty properties to bland pop music, then you are quite wrong. Underestimate it at your peril.

[See also: The Baftas: celebrating the best in British film, or predicting the Oscars?]

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