HomeLifestyleCHRISTOPHER STEVENS: Schofield's ripped the stuffing from This Morning
CHRISTOPHER STEVENS: Schofield's ripped the stuffing from This Morning
CHRISTOPHER STEVENS: Phillip Schofield has ripped the stuffing out of This Morning’s sofa… and there’s nothing left but broken strings
The sense of betrayal is personal. Phillip Schofield has lied endlessly, not only to his colleagues and his ITV bosses (and his wife, his children, his lawyers, his agent, as well as the Daily Mail) but to us – This Morning’s loyal viewers.
For millions of people, that will be impossible to forgive. I cannot believe Schofield will ever have any sort of career on British television again. He’s finished as an entertainer.
The question is: Can This Morning survive? After that dramatic admission of guilt last Friday, it seems as though the whole show is beyond recovery – tarnished with the suspicion that senior executives colluded in the lies.
The fact is the 61-year-old presenter has been so closely identified with the programme that his abrupt removal might have done irremediable damage. It’s not a sacking, it’s an amputation, and the patient could die from shock.
Schofield first joined the show in 2002, replacing John Leslie, who had left amid swirling allegations of sexual misconduct. Charges against Leslie of rape and indecent assault were later dropped.
Phillip Schofield has lied endlessly, not only to his colleagues and his ITV bosses (and his wife, his children, his lawyers, his agent, as well as the Daily Mail) but to us – This Morning’s loyal viewers
Over the next 21 years, Schofield became the undisputed king of daytime TV. It was natural that, when he came out as gay in February 2020, he did it live on air, with colleagues clamouring to tell him how brave he was.
I was one of many viewers taken aback by the announcement. In almost all cases, the sexuality of any actor or presenter is none of our business. But Schofield was different –and not just because he and co-presenter Holly Willoughby have mimicked a husband-and-wife act for so long, on that sofa in front of the picture window.
He also dragged his wife Steph into the ‘happily married and heterosexual’ pretence. This Morning viewers often heard her name, dropped into the conversation like a guarantee of authenticity.
For years, he even persuaded Steph to appear with him on a round-up of festive gimmicks and tat, called How To Spend It Well At Christmas. In November 2019, just three months before he came out, the show was promoting mince pies for dogs, self-warming coffee mugs… and an electric muscle massager.
Kneeling on the floor, Phil ran it up the back of Steph’s leg. The sensation, she said, was ‘like sitting on a washing machine’. It seemed forced and fake to me at the time. And now we know just how fake it was. Among the blizzard of lies, that’s the one which many viewers will most resent. I feel as though we have been coerced into league with him, enabling him to deceive his wife over the fact he had been having sex with a young man who was 15 when first they had met.
Schofield was different –and not just because he and co-presenter Holly Willoughby have mimicked a husband-and-wife act for so long, on that sofa in front of the picture window
It could prove psychologically impossible to disentangle This Morning from that sordid mess. How can we fail to remember it, every time we hear the theme music?
A spokesman insisted yesterday that there were ‘no plans for the show to be axed’. But with every statement from ITV Towers being so carefully worded by lawyers and spin doctors, it’s notable that only the ‘plans’ are denied.
Nobody is saying the possibility has not been discussed nor that the broadcaster is committed indefinitely to keeping This Morning on the air.
‘No plans’ is an insipid phrase, from the same book of weasel words that football club chairmen use when they assure fans they have ‘every confidence’ in the manager – before firing him the next morning. Schofield’s nosedive to oblivion might even drag Ms Willoughby down with him. The two have already been besmirched by ‘Queuegate’, the shameful business at Westminster Abbey last year when the duo were able to skip a line miles long to pay their respects to the late Queen.
Over 21 years, Phillip Schofield became the undisputed king of daytime TV. It was natural that, when he came out as gay in February 2020, he did it live on air, with colleagues clamouring to tell him how brave he was
Ms Willoughby was quick to emphasise this weekend that she had asked Schofield directly if the rumours were true, that he was in a sexual relationship with a young ITV employee, and he denied it.
‘It’s been very hurtful to now find out that this was a lie,’ she said. She has been harmed by this scandal, and she knows it, but she is one of Britain’s most versatile presenters – as evidenced by her success when she stood in for Ant McPartlin on I’m A Celebrity in 2018.
Her career will survive. So will that of fellow presenter Dermot O’Leary – and as for Alison Hammond, This Morning’s emerging superstar, she already has a triumphant role lined up on The Great British Bake Off. No one need worry about her future.
The future of This Morning is far less certain. It is a mainstay of the channel, attracting torrents of advertising. Without it, ITV might be doomed to a daytime diet of property renovations and antiques, like BBC1, or sitcom repeats, like Channel 4.
But the damage wreaked by Schofield could leave the show a write-off. He has ripped the stuffing out of that sofa. There’s nothing left of it but broken springs.