Foreshadowing: Julia Davis in Morning Broke Credit: ITV
“First off, are you okay? I hope so.” Holly Willoughby's address to the nation this week was a chilling moment in the drama This Morning. Phillip Schofield no longer hosts This Morning, rather condescendingly suggesting that Schofield's departure has inflicted a deep emotional wound on the country.
To some, it was reminiscent of “The Morning Has Come,” a Channel 4 comedy pilot written by Julia Davis and starring Nick Mohammed. The pilot, filmed in 2014, stars Davis as Gail Sinclair, the queen of daytime TV and the host of Morning! magazine of the same name. With Gail Sinclair. But Gale's nose is very upset about the arrival of a new producer who insists on revitalizing the format and promoting Mike, the show's permanent doctor, played by Nick Mohammed, to a permanent co-host.
In the final scenes, Gail follows instructions to be “more spontaneous” by calling the secure ward of the psychiatric hospital – live – to wish her mentally ill former producer a happy birthday. But Gayle was late. Gayle is told—still live—that the producer/patient hanged herself an hour ago. The scenes are only slightly more gripping than Willoughby's “This Morning” monologue.
The Morning Broke was commissioned for a full-length series, and it even cast David Schwimmer in the lead role. But the series – like the rest of Gail's daytime television career, we can only assume – never aired. The pilot episode has now lingered on YouTube – a teaser of what could have been Julia Davis' harrowing classic. “People really like this pilot,” says Dan Clark, director. “He has such a cult status.”
Clark, a director and comedian, wrote and starred in his own sitcom How Not to Live Your Life. His first feature-length comedy, A Kind of Abduction, is released next month. He recalls that Julia Davis and Nick Mohammed (now best known as Ted Lasso's Nate) were natural comedy partners. “Julia wanted to work with Nick,” Clarke says. “She enjoys writing her shows through master classes and improvisation. Nick is really good at it.”
The empty, insipid world of morning television and the constant cycle of journal entries was fertile ground. “Nick and Julia liked it because you could pick any topic and talk about it,” says Clarke. “They could improvise on anything—cooking, health, or physical function. Not a single topic was closed.”
Really, Good morning! Gail Sinclair is a painfully realistic parody of morning TV. “Sometimes when you watch This Morning,” says Clarke, “you see stuff about weird health issues or pets and you think it’s crazy.”
At the start of the show, Mike brings in a dog that can sniff out testicular cancer. He nuzzles Gail's crotch and backs away, barking. “He says I definitely don’t have cancer?” Gail asks. Mike suggests she get a second opinion. What, from another dog? (This scene is reminiscent of how Richard and Judy once pushed some poor souls into filming This Morning, about testicular research.) Other material includes Julie Goodyear's special report on Rwanda and an interview with a woman whose spirit guide forces her to carry out crimes.< /p>
Gayle Sinclair is Scottish with a quiet voice, like playing the mighty Lorraine Kelly, the real queen of daytime TV. “It's strange that we didn't try to fake Lorraine Kelly as such,” says Clarke. “For example, we tried different wigs – and we tried blonde – so it didn’t look too much like Lorraine. But it was kind of out of our control—something kept pulling us back to her. The gods said, “That's who Gale is.” I understand that Lorraine is very nice off-screen – it's not us who are trying to attack her. The idea is that everyone's favorite auntie is a really ruthless bitch behind the scenes. It's a funny vanity.”
Gale is definitely ruthless. In the opening scene, she demands that her limo driver be fired because he is smelly. Gail's personal assistant offers to change his driver to another job because he supports his family in Nigeria, including his wife with AIDS. “No, I'd rather you fire him,” Gale says. Like Davis' best characters, Gale is full of lewd digressions – she mistakes a freshly cut hernia for a buffet spread – and viciously passive-aggressive barbs. “My assistant says you feel like a slightly harassed woman who probably lives alone,” Gale tells her new producer with a smile on her face. Gayle may look and sound like Lorraine Kelly, but she belongs to Davis' group of monstrous women, standing next to the sociopath Jill in Goodnight, the havoc wreaking Faye in Camping, and the horrible, agonizing aunts Joan and Jericho.'Is he saying that I definitely don't have cancer?': Nick Mohammed and his dog colleague
Mike Mohammed has a more quiet and clumsy streak of egomania. Thrilled by the news that he has caught the attention of the ratings, he fawns over their new producer and plays on their side. In the pilot, Jamie Demetriou of Stath Lets Flats also plays a skilled runner.
Animator Dave White created images and props for the pilot episode, including graphics for the “Win a Hot Tub” contest, the sort of event that takes place on daytime shows before commercial breaks (“What liquid do hot tubs traditionally fill? A) Water B) Gasoline C) Sauce White also created the layout for OK Magazine with a photo shoot of Gail at home with her family. It's funny that her husband is actor Kevin Eldon, who also played Davis' cancer-stricken husband in Goodnight.
In September 2015, Channel 4 announced that David Schwimmer had joined the full series, which was due to air the following year. Schwimmer admitted to being “a huge fan of Julia for many years.” The intended series was developed far enough away for details of the story to emerge. Schwimmer was to play an American producer who was brought in to save the show's ratings while Gail's marriage was falling apart.
“It wasn't far off when it went into production a couple of times,” says Clarke. “All series have been mapped and ready to go. It was a strange thing: “Why is this not happening? Is there anyone who doesn't want this to happen?”
Recent reports state that it was a “mutual decision” between Channel 4 and production company Brown Eyed Boy not to continue, and “personal circumstances of creative talent are involved.” Was there – like Gail and Nick or Phil and Holly – backstage drama? Or was Channel 4 unable to digest Julia Davis' comedy to its fullest? Anyone who's seen Camping and Sally4Ever knows that Davis' comedy doesn't get easier and easier to watch: it's deliciously dark, lewd stuff. “Sometimes I wonder if she can say, 'This is the last time I'm doing this because no one is ever going to book another show,'” Clarke laughs. “I'll just smash everything against the wall!”
David Schwimmer and Nick Mohammed ended up co-starring on Scout Credit: Ollie Upton
But the truth about “The Morning Broke” is less sensational than the current drama “This Morning.” According to Clark, it all came down to scheduling issues and administrative changes.
“There was a scheduling conflict, then someone got sick and we had to stop,” he adds. “He was pushed back and pushed away all the time. In the end, as is often the case on television, all the people involved in the commissioning of Channel 4 and the responsible persons left. He just died on the shelf.”
Clarke doesn't remember the show being officially cancelled. The morning broke just never happened. Nick Mohammed co-starred with David Schwimmer in the comedy Recon, which returned last month as a special.
The Morning Broke is now alongside Davis and Jessica Hynes' BBC pilot, Lizzie and Sarah – more one lost piece of Julia Davis' genius. How dangerously swarthy middle-aged Thelma & Louise, in it Davis and Hines play a couple of suburban wives who take brutal revenge on their abusive husbands. The BBC refused to order the full series, although fans of Lizzie and Sarah launched a Facebook campaign to support the show.
In addition to the parody, The Morning Broke sent out daytime TV clichés
Regarding the entertainment format of The Morning Broke, Dan Clark believes that “Something was on the air.” Alan Partridge sent The One Show to This Time, and Jennifer Aniston satirized American television on The Morning Show. “People wanted to do this kind of show,” Clarke says. “It's a pity we didn't get there first.”
Nick Mohammed, speaking to The List in March, confirmed that he and Davis were reuniting for a Channel 4 project, though it doesn't sound like they'll be continuing the morning TV show. setting. “God, I love working with Julia,” Mohammed said. “We are still working on what it could be and I probably shouldn't say too much. But we just take the relationships between our characters and see what we can create with them.”
As Holly and Phil have proven, morning TV is now beyond parody.