That does not mean that anyone could do as they do. It requires a kind of talent to be ordinary on television. Just as you never meet someone who could be a reality star in reality, so you never meet a man in a pub who can come across on screen as the man you'd like to meet in the pub, or a woman who can convince a national audience that she is the ideal version of the girl next door. When a colleague of Chiles talked of his brilliance, I bridled, thinking in my elitist way that brilliance must be tied to worth. But in the presenter's terms the compliment made sense. Chiles, he told me, stood alongside Jonathan Ross and Graham Norton as natural performers who could be themselves on air, seemingly without thought or artifice. Bleakley was not in Chiles's league. But she too knew as if by instinct where the cameras were and what she must do.
Successful couples on television — always an older man and younger woman — give the audience the subliminal impression that they are lovers. The chemistry between Chiles and Bleakley was so overpowering that they had to deny that they were having an affair. They made The One Show, an undemanding magazine programme, a hit for the BBC. ITV stole them by offering fantastic sums of money, confident that they could turn around its breakfast show, which lagged behind the slightly more serious offering on the BBC. Few doubted that they could. They were the hottest properties in British television.
They are now disasters: flops who raise questions about why British television values what it so loosely calls "the talent" so highly. ITV's already poor ratings collapsed. The stars, who once looked as if they were ready to jump into bed with each other, now looked as if they had hired divorce lawyers. Bleakley turned from the girl next door into a perma-tanned WAG, complete with a boyfriend from the Premier League — an image with little appeal to viewers enduring a recession. Chiles looked miserable. Daybreak took to running advertising breaks with no advertisements in them. A forlorn ITV was telling marketing managers that slots were for sale, if someone, anyone, wanted them. As great as the loss of advertising revenue was the loss of money from gullible viewers willing to phone ITV's premium-rate lines to enter the show's competitions. In November, ITV recognised that it had made a monumental blunder and announced Chiles and Bleakley would be leaving the show.