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The Big Breakfast
Lock Keeper Cottages
cottage studios
Format Breakfast television
Created by Charlie Parsons
Starring various
Country of origin UK
No. of episodes 2,482
Original channel Channel 4
Original run 28 September 1992 – 29 March 2002
TV Show

The Big Breakfast was a British light entertainment television show shown on Channel 4 each weekday morning from 28 September 1992 until 29 March 2002 during which period 2,482 shows were produced. The Big Breakfast was produced by Planet 24, the production company co-owned by former Boomtown Rats and Live Aid organiser Bob Geldof. It had a continuous run except for three days after the September 11, 2001 attacks when it was replaced by news bulletins.

The programme was distinctive for broadcasting live from former lockkeepers' cottages commonly referred to as "The Big Breakfast House", or more simply, "The House", located on Fish Island, in Bow in east London.

The show was a mix of news, weather, interviews, audience phone-ins and general features, with a light tone which was in competition with the more serious GMTV output and even more serious BBC output.

History[]

The Big Breakfast was launched at the end of September 1992 to replace The Channel Four Daily, which had been Channel 4's unsuccessful first dip into the breakfast television market between 1989 and 1992. The Daily, launched at huge expense, had possessed an "analytical" style, focusing largely on current affairs, news bulletins and quiz shows; however, this format had failed to earn enough viewing figures, and consequently Channel 4 had opted to change direction and work towards a lighter style focusing mainly on entertainment and humour.

The first two presenters, Chris Evans (1992-1994) and Gaby Roslin (1992-1996) held reign over what might be considered the 'golden era' of The Big Breakfast. Evans' zany humour and touch of arrogance was new and fresh, and Roslin a good foil for him. At its height in 1993, viewing figures reached around two million per edition, and it was the highest rated UK TV show in its timeslot. Along with Evans and Roslin, Bob Geldof presented a short lived political interview slot. His wife Paula Yates became notorious with her interviews in bed, and the puppet characters Zig and Zag created morning mayhem in the bathroom with Chris, in a slot called The Crunch. The use of puppets may be considered a resurrection of the technique used by ITV earlier in its history with Roland Rat on TV-AM.

As part of his contract with The Big Breakfast, Evans was committed to developing a new show for Channel 4. Don't Forget Your Toothbrush began in early 1994, and Evans cut his involvement with The Big Breakfast to 3 days a week (Tuesday to Thursday). Former Neighbours star Mark Little permanently replaced Evans on Mondays and Fridays. When Evans left the show later that year, Little continued on Mondays and Fridays, and Paul Ross took over the mid-week duties. Richard Orford replaced Ross around Easter 1995, but he was quickly dropped. After this the show reverted back to using just one male presenter for the full week. This role alternated between Keith Chegwin and Mark Little.

Relaunch[]

Roslin continued full time, and made way for Zoe Ball in 1996. Audience figures slipped a little after Evans left, and a little more after Roslin ceased appearing. Mark Little left shortly after and was replaced by Keith Chegwin. To stop the sliding viewing figures, the show was given a relaunch, including refurbishing the house at a cost of £2million. Ball and Chegwin were replaced by Rick Adams and Sharron Davies. But viewing figures fell dramatically, losing its audience primarily to radio and GMTV. Producers stopped the rot quickly, finding a winning partnership in Johnny Vaughan (who spent 1,023.82 hours in front of the camera) and Denise van Outen. Audience figures jumped back to their peak. Vaughan also briefly presented with Kelly Brook (who was largely unknown at the time) in 1999; but Brook's lack of experience presenting a TV show clearly showed and audience figures dropped. As a result, Brook was sacked while on holiday (she found out about losing her job from reading a newspaper). Liza Tarbuck then co-presented for a while but when she decided to leave after eighteen months, van Outen returned. Viewing figures rose until the pair quit together in 2001.

Demise[]

This turned out to be the death knell for the show, as viewers did not warm to their replacements, Richard Bacon, Paul Tonkinson, Amanda Byram and Simon Feilder.

Mike McClean and Donna Air joined the show as it converted back to using more than one main presenter. But this format only lasted for a couple of months, and the show reverted back to its original format for what would be the final months, with Bacon and Byram as the main presenters before it last aired on 29 March 2002. The last programme included a twenty minute retrospective that included contributions from Evans, Roslin, Vaughan and van Outen. Both Evans and Vaughan declared the cancelling of the show a bad idea. The show ended with a tribute from the Prince of Wales before the last Friday song, which paid tribute to the success of the show and its ability to attract celebrities.

RI:SE replaced The Big Breakfast as Channel 4's morning programme following BB's axing on 29 March 2002, although there was some time between The Big Breakfast ending and RI:SE beginning. RI:SE went on to take increasingly low ratings, and despite undergoing a revamp, was shortly axed. Channel 4 has not since had a studio-based morning programme, although Dermot O'Leary fronted the show Morning Glory, which was given a short run in early 2006 but not continued. It has since been replaced with Freshly Squeezed.

When the show finished, the house again became a private residence (now known as 'The Cottage') and after renovation following a fire, has also been used for a number of television shows.

Innovations[]

Mark Lamarr, Keith Chegwin, Paul Ross, Richard Orford, Richard Bacon and Mike McLean were "down your doorstep" outside broadcasters, often turning up live and unannounced at an unsuspecting viewer's house, while rooms within the Lock Keeper's Cottages featured the zany aliens Zig and Zag and video games guru Ben the Boffin.

The nature of shooting the show, with hand-held cameras moving around all of the set, let many of the crew members be seen on screen. This led to them getting nicknames, such as 'Sturdy Girl', (regularly asked to shake her head so that her hair would be hurled around whilst music played and the camera zoomed in and out). 'The Carpet Monster' was revealed in the Doctor Who Special to have been an extra, playing a deadly clown, in the Seventh Doctor story "The Greatest Show in the Galaxy".

The show also used gimmicks such as live weddings to attract viewers. The first one was in 1993. This featured Jamie and Mandy from Catterick in North Yorkshire, who also came back on the show after their honeymoon.

A board game was released and also a fruit machine featuring popular games from the show.

Main Presenters[]

Features Presenters[]

News[]

Games and features[]

Pun Down[]

UK tabloid newspapers delight in punny headlines. The Pun-Down took a look at the best (or worst) puns in the headlines of that day's papers, and was especially popular in the Johnny Vaughan era. On Fridays this became the 'Pun of the Week' when an award was made for the best pun from the week's newspapers.

Question About the Clip[]

Before most advertisement breaks a clip from an upcoming TV show or movie would be shown, a question being asked by one of the hosts about it; the answer would be revealed after the advert break, along with details of the show or film. This feature would result in the production team chorusing "Don't phone, it's just for fun!" which was a Chris Evans creation, initially used on his radio shows before he shot to fame on The Big Breakfast.

Question of the Day[]

A phone-in feature encouraging viewers to provide humorous answers throughout the morning to a pertinent (or occasionally inane) question. At one point it was accompanied by a fanfare, apparently played on the trumpet by "little Ted" beneath the camera (in fact a member of the team waving a toy trumpet in shot). One morning's question was "What should the BBC do to improve EastEnders?", and one viewer suggested adding Barbara Windsor to the cast; this actually occurred shortly afterwards.

Super Hints[]

"Your indispensable guide to a better life!", this feature appeared during the early years of the show; in it celebrities would give various simple but useful hints for such issues as cleaning or keeping food fresh. It might be seen as a development of Top Tips from the Viz comic.

Streaky Bacon[]

'Streaky Bacon' became a regular feature, in which Richard Bacon would get a member of the public out of their house to 'streak' along their street wearing nothing but bacon-covered underwear in order to win a large supply of bacon from their local butcher.

Vital Statistics[]

'Vital Statistics' was another common feature, particularly in the Johnny Vaughan era. These would often relate to a news story, a guest or a topic they had discussed, such as Doctor Who on their Doctor Who Special.

On the Bed[]

A key feature for the first five years was the "On the Bed" interview. Paula Yates (then wife of Bob Geldof, whose company produced the show), and later Paul O'Grady (as Lily Savage) and Vanessa Feltz assumed the role of interviewer. One of the most infamous on-air moments was Paula Yates' open flirting during an interview with Michael Hutchence as a prelude to their affair.

More Tea, Vicar[]

A repeating feature in the Johnny Vaughan, Denise van Outen era, in which an erratically filmed, fast-mo video clip of a line of tea cups is shown to a call in viewer. Vaughan, dressed as an Anglican vicar, and van Outen, dressed as a nun replete with false teeth and an inferiority complex, then explain the rules. The caller guesses the number of tea cups shown in the video lead in, with Vaughan responding "More tea, vicar" if the number is too low; "Less tea, vicar" if too high. If the contestant guesses the correct number within the time limit, a prize is forthcoming. Van Outen was particularly good in this as the ugly nun who would occasionally speak up only to be shouted down as an abomination by the goodly vicar Vaughan, complete with flashing lights and thunder effects called down from above.

The lyrics to "More Tea, Vicar" were as follows:

More tea, vicar
More tea, vicar
More tea, vicar
Guess how many cups

From Me Shed, Son[]

The inventor of the wind-up radio, Trevor Baylis, would join Johnny Vaughan in the shed to discuss innovative new products. Vaughan tended to make fun of Baylis for being in his late fifties/early sixties and was a traditional grey-haired man in London.

Wonga[]

A Jenga-style game, followed by various shouting and anarchy, with fans and the Wonga Lawyer. The show famously went over 27 minutes for a game once, with the Millennium Big Breakfast actually being commissioned extra time for Wonga.

Wonga Money[]

The big breakfast used to give out wonga money to people when they whon money because they didnt want to give it to them on the show. They would give the real thing to them later

The Friday Song[]

Each Friday the two main presenters and the whole crew would gather in the hallway for The Friday Song. The song would look back at events that happened on the show each week

The lyrics to the chorus went as follows

''Singing, wakey, wakey, wakey rise and shine, cause' big breakie is the only way to dine, It's your number one big breakie So get it down your neckie, And stick with us from seven until nine!''

Others[]

  • Guess The Mess
  • One Lump or Two?
  • Sunny Side Up
  • Pots Stop
  • Telly Rellies
  • Get Your Kit On
  • Show Us Your Behind
  • Court With Your Pants Down
  • You Pet
  • Spot the Sausage
  • What's in My Pants
  • What's Your Job, Bob?
  • Yanks for the Memories
  • Bring Home The Bacon
  • Get Your Nobbly Nuts Out
  • Egg On Your Face
  • Young Fogey
  • The Brian Moore The Merrier
  • Pushy Mum
  • Why
  • The Vincent Price Is Right
  • Housey Housey
  • Wheel Of Fish
  • Stop The Mop
  • Chicken In A Basket
  • Moving The Goalposts
  • My Lenny, Um, Gnome
  • Whose Washing Line Is It Anyway?
  • Ice One Cyril
  • License To Lurk
  • Beat The Banger

Spin-offs and related programming[]

The Bigger Breakfast[]

Between 1997 - 2000, during most nationally recognised UK school holiday periods, as well as occasional Bank Holidays, The Big Breakfast would run beyond its typical 9am finish to provide continuity into and out of unrelated shows aimed primarily towards children. This would last throughout the morning, usually until around midday. Although typically presented to the viewer as simply a programme on Channel 4, most of The Bigger Breakfast is perhaps better classified as an informal style of in-vision continuity.

The strand also acted as an umbrella brand for the programming which it linked to, by use of Big Breakfast style break-bumpers and Digital On-Screen Graphics. The expanded format always featured the regular content of The Big Breakfast from 7am-9am. The first run of The Bigger Breakfast during the summer of 1997 was titled as such all the way from its 7am start, presented throughout by Richard Orford and Denise Van Outen. Future editions would see slight separations made from the 7am-9am content, by way of this portion of the show being branded and scheduled as The Big Breakfast, with all content after 9am taking on the expanded Bigger Breakfast name. After a while, a further distinction was made by using a different set of presenters from that of The Big Breakfast. Presenters of The Bigger Breakfast included Josie D'Arby, Ben Shephard, Melanie Sykes and Dermot O'Leary

Programing was primarily composed of reruns of Channel 4 shows and US imports. The lineup changed frequently. The list below is of some of series featured on the Bigger Breakfast over the years:

The Bigger Breakfast was discontinued in 2000. The block of programming provided within The Bigger Breakfast was retained, with the Channel's youth strand T4 taking over the continuity role.

Snap[]

Snap Cackle Pop, a regular and recurring feature throughout the history of The Big Breakfast, was briefly retitled as simply Snap, in 1997. As well as continuing as a short, daily entertainment news feature within The Big Breakfast, Snap also became a program in its own right. Airing once weekly at 6.00pm on Channel 4, the half hour show was a light hearted round-up of recent news stories concerning popular entertainment in the UK.

Presented by Denise Van Outen, the show was intentionally recognisable as being closely related to The Big Breakfast, from which it originated and continued to be part of. Snap contained a number of elements synonymous with The Big Breakfast, such as using the very same boudoir set and on-the-bed interviewing of guests. However, care was generally taken not to alienate viewers who were not so familiar with The Big Breakfast.

The Big Breakfast End Of The Year Show 1992[]

3 months after first appearing, Chris Evans, Gaby Roslin and Paula Yates hosted a live edition of the show, seeing in the new year of 1993. Featuring Zsa Zsa Gabor as a special guest.

The Biggest Breakfast Ever[]

At 12.30am on the 1st of January 2000 a mammoth eight-hour live broadcast took place from Lock Keepers' Cottages to herald in the new century. The Biggest Breakfast Ever was hosted by Johnny Vaughan and Liza Tarbuck and featured many classic moments and 'best of' features. Even eight hours of airtime was not enough. The show's producers got Channel 4 to extend its broadcast time by half an hour to fit in the premiere of the competition "Wonga" (a large-scale version of Jenga). The winner of the game had been told to 'stop steadying the stack' on numerous occasions, but was still allowed to play and eventually won £100,000. It was a prize game that returned to the show many times in its final two years, but never again was anyone allowed to blatantly break the rules of the game.

Lock Keepers' Cottages[]

Almost uniquely for a live British TV show at the time of its creation, The Big Breakfast was broadcast entirely from a real house. Located alongside the Hertford Union Canal, in east London, the property became informally known as 'The Big Breakfast House'. Filming would frequently take place within the large grounds of the property and the closely surrounding area.

Built in 1947, the property originally composed of 3 cottages which housed the lock keepers, toll takers, and navigation operators of the Old Ford Locks in Bow. By the time of purchase by the program makers, Planet24, in 1992, the property had become Grade 2 listed and had remained unused for around 2 decades. Extensive renovation work saw the transformation of the 3 cottages into one large 3 bed roomed property, specifically fitted for use as a TV studio. The exterior character of the property was largely unchanged. During the first 4 years of the show, the given address for the house was number 2, Lock Keepers' Cottages. The '2' was later dropped.

In 1996, due to the declining popularity of The Big Breakfast, the house was transformed in an Art Deco style makeover. The original brickwork was virtually entirely covered over with a smooth rendered finish which, by the time the re-launched program aired, was painted crisp white. Two large balconies now adorned the front and rear. The only untouched exterior features, recognizable from the show's original styling, were the four brick chimneys and the roofing. The legality of this extensive makeover could be questioned, as it contradicts the rules imposed by its Grade 2 status. The work carried out is purported to have cost around £2million, largely funded by its sale to the shows parent company, Channel Four Television.

Structurally, the house largely remained in this style for the rest of the TV series' life. The only notable structural alterations occurred over the 2 years immediately following and included the removal of the front balcony, the partial removal of the balcony to the rear, and minor alterations to the styling of the doors and windows.

However, the character of the house was altered through several artistic makeovers to both the interior and exterior. The exterior was painted bright yellow, later a light brown similar in shade to the original brickwork, followed by a faux red brickwork effect which was painted onto the render. The latter style became the final look of the house, during the show's final 3 and a half years.

Cottages since The Big Breakfast[]

In November 2002, eight months after The Big Breakfast was axed, a fire destroyed a significant proportion of the first floor of the cottage the show was made in. A large part of the roof was also destroyed in the blaze. The fire was suspicious as there was no gas or electrical supply to the building.

Since the fire, extensive work has taken place to restore the house and it is now used as a family home. The house was bought for little more than half the original asking price of £1 million at £550,000. The house was slashed in value due to the fire of November 2002.

The house has now been fully renovated, but some of the well-recognised aspects of the house from its use during the run of The Big Breakfast remain.

The newly renovated house features in the BBC Two show Neneh and Andi Dish It Up, BBC Three's Singing With the Enemy, and most recently Too Fat To Toddle on ITV1.

The cottages are located about 200 metres from the planned site of the main Olympic Stadium, to be constructed for the 2012 Olympic Games. In 2005, the cottages became part of the Compulsory Purchase Order for the Games (http://www.lda.gov.uk/server/show/ConMediaFile.1223 - item 239), giving rise to speculation that the building may be demolished. However, some outline plans have indicated the immediate location of the cottages and gardens as being unchanged.

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