In his many years on breakfast TV, Eamonn Holmes can only remember sleeping in once. “The secret is to be efficient with your time,” the presenter explains.
And as the nation’s longest-serving breakfast TV presenter, he should know. Holmes helped to wake up viewers almost every morning for two-and-a-half decades, first delivering the sports news on the BBC’s breakfast news bulletins before joining Anne Davies on GMTV for the show’s first broadcast on New Year’s Day in 1993.
Holmes says that he wouldn’t have been on the GMTV sofa if it hadn’t been for the BBC sports presenter Des Lynam, who called him up and told him he’d recommended him for the role. “Des was always my hero and for him to recommend me for the job and me to then get the job was a tremendous thing,” says Holmes, who went on to anchor the show for 12 years.
During his time on GMTV he worked with Davies, Lorraine Kelly, Anthea Turner and Fiona Phillips, broadcasting from numerous locations and interviewing countless politicians and celebrities.
“For me, the stand-out moment was the interview with David Blaine,” says Holmes of his awkward encounter in 2001 with the American magician and illusionist, who hardly said a single word for almost five minutes.
“He just refused to talk and so I did all the talking and then he showed me the eye that he had drawn on his palm,” says Holmes. “I asked, ‘What’s that?’ and he said ‘Protection’ and I said, ‘Protection from what?’ and he said, ‘Death’. I thought, ‘Well, I’ll need that because I’m dying on my feet here.’”
But the This Morning host – he helms the show every Friday with his wife, Ruth Langsford – would take a controversial guest over a bland one any day. “The biggest enemy you can have on breakfast television is blandness,” he says, arguing that a good presenter needs to be “very something”, be that very interesting, entertaining or controversial. “You want to wake people up, you want to prod people and say come on, get up, watch this!”
That quality is something that he thinks Good Morning Britain host Piers Morgan has got. “You love him or loathe him, but you can’t ignore him. Breakfast TV is dying because people’s tastes and habits are changing. But Piers has said we’re going to go out kicking and screaming on this one and I think that’s interesting.”
Holmes didn’t leave breakfast TV kicking and screaming, choosing instead to hang up his hat in 2016 after an 11-year stint on Sky News’s Sunrise, where he broadcast during major news events including the shooting of Osama bin Laden and a helicopter crash in London’s Vauxhall in 2013.
He even presented via Skype from his Belfast home when heavy fog prevented him getting to the studio in London. He didn’t mind bringing the viewers into his house, though, because he feels as though he’s lingered in their lives for most of his career. “I’ve spent most of my life with people saying to me with a giggle, ‘I wake up with you most mornings’ and ‘Oh, you’re in my bedroom every morning, Eamonn.’”
He attributes viewers’ familiarity to the time of day: “They’re vulnerable, they’re in bed, they need to be gently coaxed as to what to do. It’s a very interesting time.”
Does he miss it, then? “I miss the news agenda very much and I don’t think it’ll be long before I go back and do something, probably around that time of day.”
But despite enjoying a successful stint on Good Morning Britain over the summer, he won’t be gunning for Piers Morgan’s seat. “That’s his beat now,” he says, “and there’s no doubt in my mind that this mantle of mine will eventually pass to him.”
Sign up to the Radio Times newsletter for the latest TV and entertainment news