For 20 years they were television’s golden couple, but the most recent series of Richard & Judy, on the Watch channel, saw viewing figures dip as low as 8,000 before the show was axed in 2009.
Speaking at the Cheltenham Literature Festival, Richard Madeley and Judy Finnigan were frank about why their latest foray into television ended in such embarrassment:
“It was on a digital channel called Watch and nobody did,” said Madeley. “We were asked to launch it, a chat show at eight o’clock with big names, big budget, all the rest of it and nobody watched – it was a pay-for-view channel and people quite rightly thought, ‘Why should we pay for people we’ve watched for free all these years?'”
“Nobody had the channel – that was the problem,” added Finnigan.
“The point is it was a failure,” concluded Madeley. “It was a good little show but the fact of the matter was it was a blatant failure – our last television outfit together was a failure but we missed it.”
Madeley also discussed the “intellectual snobbery” he says the couple faced when they first began on This Morning. “We were actually almost persona non grata for a while – we were really treated quite badly – but we thought, ‘Screw it, this is a good show, we can do it and we’re going to make this work. We’re going to make it a success.’
“One of the senior executives at Granada said when we launched in October 1988, ‘It’ll be off the air by Christmas and good, it should be,’ but it made us grit our teeth and fight on.”
After years of running the Richard & Judy book club, and releasing his own novel earlier this year, Madeley went on to express his loathing of intellectual snobbery in literary circles. “Unfortunately, literature attracts it. High table literature is an opportunity for somebody to show off – to show off their vocabulary, to show off their intellect and to find books that perhaps a few of us would find not particularly readable. There’s almost a need to pretend that a book is good because it’s highly intelligent or intelligently written and in terms of the written book, it could be as boring as old Harry. It infuriates me.”