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Sun Sets on Daybreak Couple
January/February 2012

Adrian Chiles and Christine Bleakley: The chemistry between them was once overpowering 

In normal circumstances, the lower you sink in the media the higher you rise. The failure of Adrian Chiles and Christine Bleakley to make a success of Daybreak, a witless breakfast show that was fluffier than a cheerleader's pompom, has therefore caused something close to consternation in the television industry.

They had everything going for them. Chiles is that rarity in British television — a successful working-class journalist who can talk to the common man. (I almost wrote, "Chiles was that rarity..." because it now feels as if he is dead.) Bleakley is beautiful, as women presenters now must be, and has a cheery screen presence. They were brilliant performers when they worked on BBC1's The One Show, although that praise needs qualifying. The American historian Daniel J. Boorstin coined the phrase "famous for being famous" as long ago as 1962 to describe how celebrity had become detached from talent. It has become a cliché, but it isn't a full explanation. Sportsmen and women have talent. So do many actors and even a minority of pop stars and comedians. In the broadcast media, however, it is hard to deny that Boorstin defined a slice of modern culture.

You can see the emptiness of celebrity when a "television personality" dies. Some poor hack has to cut and paste an obituary, and invariably finds there is nothing to say. The audience wants to know about its friend and entertaining companion. But what were his achievements? How do you mark his life? No one has ever collected his work or thought of watching clips on YouTube of his greatest performance. At least when sportsmen and women die you can say that they won so many Grand Slams, Olympic medals, Test series or Champions League trophies. At least with an actor there are Oscars — not the best guide to greatness, I grant you — or films and television dramas that people watch years after they were made.

Nothing remains of celebrities who are truly famous for being famous. Remembering them is like remembering dead newsreaders. They have no achievements beyond being personable.

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