Over the past two weeks, comments on Christine Bleakley’s Twitter account must have made for lovely reading.
A simple search for #wildireland on the social networking site shows that ITV viewers are loving her gentle 30-minute show touring the 1,500 miles of the west Irish coast and learning all about the country’s hidden stories and fascinating characters.
Watching it immediately reminded me of the time Christine was riding high on The One Show. She was the BBC’s golden girl with a girl-next-door personality. Magazine-style pieces to camera, as well as interviews alongside co-host Adrian Chiles were taken in her stride.
Then suddenly Adrian went to ITV and Christine’s public persona also changed in June 2010. She was caught in a tug-of-war for her services and was advised to put out a statement saying she was “torn” between BBC and ITV.
This made matters worse and she was perceived as trying to talk up her next contract and bank balance from both broadcasters. She ended up at ITV and the pressure on new breakfast show Daybreak was immense.
The gentle sofa chats of The One Show just couldn’t be replicated at 7am and it was the beginning of a backlash against Chiles who was starting to be dubbed as grumpy. Christine didn’t get much support from us journalists or some viewers either – and the pair left Daybreak before 2011 was over.
I now know Christine a little better than I did back in 2011 and she is not the fame hungry, money mad person she was made out to be by some back then. She is exactly the person you see on screen in Wild Ireland – approachable and down to earth.
I also think she wouldn’t have wanted to upset the BBC or ITV bosses and perhaps given her time again would not put any statement out, having underestimated the impact it would have.
Despite ups and downs, she definitely still enjoys working on TV and I think her best asset is that she is a people person and loves to chat.
Many presenters have moved channels or moved programmes and struggled, but few get back on their feet as well as Christine has done in recent times following the problems with Daybreak.
She landed a job on Dancing On Ice alongside Phillip Schofield and as their chemistry improved, they became a good team. She is now sat by his side for weeks on end fronting This Morning while her close friend Holly Willoughby has time off.
This role is similar to her old One Show gig which is why she is so good at it.
And now we have Wild Ireland – a light, easy-to-watch show which sees her meeting and chatting with real people.
Interviewed two weeks ago, she showed no signs of anger, regret or disappointment about anything that has happened during her move.
“Touch wood I’ve always been very lucky and these lovely things have happened,” she said.
Her career is back on track and I think viewers are forgetting Daybreak and now remember why they enjoyed watching her on the BBC.
ITV would be well advised to give her more gigs like Wild Ireland.
Mark Jefferies is the Showbiz Editor of the Daily Mirror
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