The Big Breakfast

The Big Breakfast

: "This article is about the British television show. For the Canadian television show of the same name, see The Big Breakfast (Canada). For the Australian television show of the same name, also known as "The Big Arvo", see The Big Arvo."Infobox Television
show_name = The Big Breakfast

caption = Lock-keeper's cottages, in Old Ford Lock, used as the studio for "The Big Breakfast"
format = Breakfast Television
picture_format = 576i (SDTV), 4:3
runtime = 2hrs 5mins / 5 hrs 35mins (The Bigger Breakfast)
creator = Charlie Parsons
starring = Various
channel = Channel 4
first_aired = 28 September 1992
last_aired = 29 March 2002
num_series =
num_episodes = 2,482
country = United Kingdom
producer =
preceded_by = "The Channel Four Daily"
followed_by = ""
imdb_id =

"The Big Breakfast" was a British light entertainment television show shown on Channel 4 each weekday morning from 28 September 1992 until 29 March 2002. In this time there were a total of 2,482 shows produced. In the aftermath of 11 September 2001 attacks, "The Big Breakfast" was not shown from 12–14 September 2001. "The Big Breakfast" was produced by Planet 24, the production company co-owned by former Boomtown Rat and Live Aid organiser, Bob Geldof.

The programme was particularly distinctive for broadcasting live from a set of former lockkeeper's cottages commonly referred to as "The Big Breakfast House", or more simply, "The House", located in Bow in east London, ['s+Cottages,+Old+Ford+Lock&sll=54.162434,-3.647461&sspn=12.526923,29.619141&ie=UTF8&ll=51.538244,-0.020471&spn=0.000811,0.001808&t=k&z=19&iwloc=A&om=] . Following The Big Breakfast, the house has been reverted to a private residence (now known as "The Cottage") and has also been used for a number of television shows.

The show itself was a mixed format of news, weather, interviews, audience phone-in and features.


"The Big Breakfast" was launched in 1992 to replace "The Channel Four Daily", which had been Channel 4's unsuccessful first dip into the breakfast television market between 1989 and 1992. The "Daily's" over-analytical focus on current affairs, news bulletins and quiz shows had alienated viewersFact|date=April 2008, and Channel 4 had opted to change direction and work towards a lighter style focusing mainly on entertainment and humour.

The initial two presenters, Chris Evans (presenter from 1992 to 1994) and Gaby Roslin (1992-1996) held reign over what might be the golden era of "The Big Breakfast". Evans' zany humour and "touch of arrogance" was new and fresh, Roslin a good foil for him. At its height in 1993, viewing figures reached around two million per episode, and was the highest rated UK TV show in its timeslot. Along with Evans and Roslin, Bob Geldof presented a short lived political interview slot, his wife Paula Yates became synonymous with her interviews on the bed and puppet characters Zig and Zag created morning mayhem in their slot in the bathroom with Chris entitled The Crunch.

As part of his contract with The Big Breakfast, Evans was committed to developing a new show for Channel 4. Don't Forget Your Toothbrush began in early 1994, and resulted in Evans' involvement with The Big Breakfast cut to 3 days per week (Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday). Former "Neighbours" star Mark Little permanently replaced Evans on Mondays and Fridays. When Evans left the show later that year, Little continued on Mondays and Fridays, whilst Paul Ross took over the mid-week duties. Richard Orford replaced Ross around Easter 1995, but was quickly dropped from this position. Upon which, the show reverted back to using just one Male presenter for the full week. This role alternated between Keith Chegwin and Mark Little.

Roslin continued full time, and made way for Zoe Ball in 1996. Audience figures slipped a little after Evans left, and a little more after Roslin departed. Mark Little left shortly after and was replaced by Keith Chegwin. To stop the sliding viewing figures, an ill-fated relaunch was given to the show, including the refurbished house at a cost of £2million, Ball and Chegwin were replaced by Rick Adams and Sharron Davies, two less accomplished hosts on the small screen. Viewing figures fell dramatically, losing its audience primarily to radio and "GMTV". Producers stopped the rot quickly, finding a winning partnership in Johnny Vaughan (who spent 1,023.82 hours in front of the cameras) and Denise van Outen. Audience figures jumped back to their peak. Vaughan briefly presented also with Kelly Brook (who was largely unknown at the time) in 1999; however Brook's lack of experience in the field of presenting a TV show clearly showed and audience figures quickly dropped. As a result, Brook was sacked while on holiday from the show (she only found out about losing her job from reading the newspaper while on holiday)Fact|date=February 2007. Liza Tarbuck then co-presented for a while but when she decided to leave after eighteen months, van Outen returned. Viewing figures rose until the pair quit together in 2001. This turned out to be the death knell for the show as viewers did not warm to their replacements, Richard Bacon, Paul Tonkinson, Amanda Byram and Simon Feilder.

Mike McClean and Donna Air joined the show as it converted to a multi-presenter format. However, this format only lasted for a couple of months, with the show reverting back to its original format for the final months, with Bacon and Byram as the main presenters before it last aired on 29 March 2002. The last programme included a twenty minute retrospective that included contributions from Evans, Roslin, Vaughan and van Outen. Both Evans and Vaughan declared the cancelling of the show a bad idea. The show ended with a tribute from the Prince of Wales before the last Friday song, which paid tribute to the success of the show and its ability to attract celebrities.

Mark Lamarr, Keith Chegwin, Paul Ross, Jason Bradbury and Richard Bacon were "down your doorstep" outside broadcasters, often turning up live and unannounced at an unsuspecting viewer's house, while rooms within Lock Keeper's Cottages featured the zany aliens Zig and Zag and video games guru Ben the Boffin.

On the night of 31 December 1999 a mammoth eight-hour live broadcast took place from Lock Keepers' Cottages to herald in the new century. "The Biggest Breakfast Ever" was hosted by Johnny Vaughan and Liza Tarbuck and featured many classic moments and 'best of' features. Even eight hours of airtime was not enough. The show's producers got Channel 4 to extend its broadcast time by half an hour to fit in the premiere of the competition "Wonga" (a large-scale version of Jenga). The winner of the game had been told to 'stop steadying the stack' on numerous occasions, but was still allowed to play and eventually won £100,000. It was a prize game that returned to the show many times in its final two years, but never again was anyone allowed to blatantly break the rules of the game.

Owing to the nature of the filming, much of the crew could be seen on screen. This led to them getting nicknames, such as 'Sturdy Girl', (regularly asked to shake her head so that her hair would be hurled around whilst music played and the camera zoomed in and out). 'The Carpet Monster' was revealed in the "Doctor Who" Special to have been an extra, playing a deadly clown, in the Seventh Doctor story The Greatest Show in the Galaxy.

The show also used gimmicks such as live weddings to attract viewers. The first one was in 1993. This featured Jamie and Mandy from Catterick in North Yorkshire, who also returned after their honeymoon.

A "The Big Breakfast" board game was released and also a fruit machine featuring popular games from the show.

"" eventually replaced "The Big Breakfast" as Channel 4's morning programme, following its axing on the 29 March 2002, although there was some time between "The Big Breakfast" ending and "RI:SE" beginning. "RI:SE" went on to take increasingly low ratings, and despite undergoing a revamp, was shortly axed. Channel 4 has since not had a studio-based morning programme, although Dermot O'Leary fronted the show "Morning Glory", which was given a short run in early 2006 but not picked up.

Channel 4 have since replaced "Morning Glory" with "Freshly Squeezed".

Main Presenters

* Chris Evans 1992-1994
* Gaby Roslin 1992-1996
* Keith Chegwin 1995-1996
* Mark Little 1994-1996
* Paul Ross 1994-1995
* Richard Orford 1995/1996/1997
* Zoe Ball 1996
* Rick Adams 1996-1997
* Sharron Davies 1996-1997
* Johnny Vaughan 1997-2001
* Denise van Outen 1997-1998 / 2000-2001
* Kelly Brook 1999
* Liza Tarbuck 1999-2000
* Amanda Byram 2001-2002
* Richard Bacon 2001-2002
* Paul Tonkinson 2001
* Donna Air 2001
* Mike McClean 2001-2002
* Lisa Rogers 2001-2002

* The most regular of the stand-in presenters for Chris Evans and Gaby Roslin were Danny Baker (1993-4) and Dani Behr (1994-5). Baker stood in while Evans was working on the first series of "Don't Forget Your Toothbrush".

Features Presenters

* Bob Geldof 1992 (Interviewer)
* Paula Yates 1992-1995 (On the bed Interviewer)
* Zig & Zag 1992-1998 (The Crunch) / 2002 (Alien Alarm)
* Ben The Boffin 1992-1994 (Master Blaster)
* Lily Savage 1995-1996 (On the bed Interviwer)
* Vanessa Feltz 1996-1998 (On the bed Interviewer)
* Johnny Vegas 2000-2001 (Morning glory)


*Peter Smith 1992-1996
*Phil Gayle 1996-2000
*Jasmine Lowson 2000-2002

Games and features

Pun Down

A look at the best puns in the headlines of that day's newspapers, especially popular in the Johnny Vaughan era. On Fridays this became the 'Pun of the Week' when the best pun from the whole weeks newspapers was revealed.

Question About the Clip

Before most advertisement breaks a clip from an upcoming TV show or movie would be shown, a question being asked by one of the hosts about it; the answer would be revealed after the advert break, along with details of the show or film. This feature would result in the production team chorusing "Don't phone, it's just for fun!" which was a Chris Evans creation, initially used on his radio shows before he shot to fame on The Big Breakfast.

Question of the Day

A phone-in feature encouraging viewers to provide humorous answers throughout the morning to a pertinent (or occasionally inane) question. At one point it was accompanied by a fanfare, apparently played on the trumpet by "little Ted" beneath the camera (in fact a member of the team waving a toy trumpet in shot). One morning's question was "What should the BBC do to improve "EastEnders"?", and one viewer suggested adding Barbara Windsor to the cast; this actually occurred shortly afterwards.

uper Hints

"Your indispensable guide to a "better" life!", this feature appeared during the early years of the show; in it celebrities would give various simple but useful hints for such issues as cleaning or keeping food fresh.

treaky Bacon

'Streaky Bacon' became a regular feature, in which Richard Bacon would get a member of the public out of their house to 'streak' along their street wearing nothing but bacon-covered underwear in order to win a large supply of bacon from their local butcher.

Vital Statistics

'Vital Statistics' was another common feature, particularly in the Johnny Vaughan era. These would often relate to a news story, a guest or a topic they had discussed, such as "Doctor Who" on their Doctor Who Special.

On the Bed

A key feature for the first five years was the "On the Bed" interview. Paula Yates (then wife of Bob Geldof, whose company produced the show), and later Paul O'Grady (as Lily Savage) and Vanessa Feltz assumed the role of interviewer. One of the most infamous on-air moments was Paula Yates' open flirting during an interview with Michael Hutchence as a prelude to their affair.

More Tea, Vicar

A repeating feature in the Johnny Vaughan, Denise van Outen era, in which an erratically filmed, fast-mo video clip of a line of tea cups is shown to a call in viewer. Vaughan, dressed as an Anglican vicar, and van Outen, dressed as a nun replete with false teeth and an inferiority complex, then explain the rules. The caller guesses the number of tea cups shown in the video lead in, with Vaughan responding "More tea, vicar" if the number is too low; "Less tea, vicar" if too high. If the contestant guesses the correct number within the time limit, a prize is forthcoming. Van Outen was particularly good in this as the ugly nun who would occasionally speak up only to be shouted down as an abomination by the goodly vicar Vaughan, complete with flashing lights and thunder effects called down from above.

The lyrics to "More Tea, Vicar" were as follows:

:"More tea, vicar":"More tea, vicar":"More tea, vicar":"Guess how many cups"

From Me Shed, Son

The inventor of the wind-up radio, Trevor Baylis, would join Johnny Vaughan in the shed to discuss innovative new products. Vaughan tended to make fun of Baylis for being in his late fifties/early sixties and was a traditional grey-haired man in London.


A Jenga-style game, followed by various shouting and anarchy, with fans and the Wonga Lawyer. The show famously went over 27 minutes for a game once, with the Millennium Big Breakfast actually being commissioned extra time for Wonga.

The Friday Song

Each Friday the two main presenters and the whole crew would gather in the hallway for The Friday Song. The song would look back at events that happened on the show each week

The lyrics to the chorus went as follows

""Singing, wakey, wakey, wakey rise and shine,"
"The Big Breakfast is the only way to dine,"
"It's your number one big breakie"
"So get it down your neckie,"
"And stick with us from seven until nine!""


* One Lump or Two?
* Sunny Side Up
* Pots Stop
* Telly Rellies
* Get Your Kit On
* Show Us Your Behind
* Court With Your Pants Down
* You Pet
* Spot the Sausage
* What's in My Pants
* What's Your Job, Bob?
* Yanks for the Memories
* Bring Home The Bacon
* Get Your Nobbly Nuts Out
* Egg On Your Face
* Young Fogey
* The Brian Moore The Merrier
* Pushy Mum
* Why
* The Vincent Price Is Right
* Housey Housey
* Wheel Of Fish
* Stop The Mop
* Chicken In A Basket
* Moving The Goalposts
* My Lenny, Um, Gnome
* Whose Washing Line Is It Anyway?
* Ice One Cyril
* License To Lurk

The Bigger Breakfast

Usually during the summer months, half-term and other school breaks, as well as some Bank Holidays Channel 4 would extend the Big Breakfast to run from 7am until 12:30pm. [ [ BFI | Film & TV Database | The BIGGER BREAKFAST ] ] The expanded format featured regular Big Breakfast content from 7-9, as well as a variety of other programing interspersed with the Big Breakfast presenters from 9 until 12:30. Programing featured during the block was primarially composed of reruns of Channel 4 programing and US imports. The lineup changed on a regular basis, some series featured on the Bigger Breakfast over the years: [ [ YouTube - The Bigger Breakfast - Startup ] ] [ [ YouTube - The Big Breakfast - Linked Closedown ] ]
*Johnny Bravo
*The Monkees
*The Crystal Maze
*California Dreams
*Planet Pop
*Batman (1960s live action series)

Lock Keepers' Cottages

Almost uniquely for a live British TV show at the time of its creation, The Big Breakfast was filmed entirely from a real house. Located alongside the Hertford Union Canal, in east London, the property became informally known as 'The Big Breakfast House'. Filming would frequently take place within the large grounds of the property and the closely surrounding area.

Built in 1947, the property originally composed of 3 cottages which housed the lock keepers, toll takers, and navigation operators of the Old Ford Locks in Bow. By the time of purchase by the program makers, Planet24, in 1992, the property had become Grade 2 listed and had remained unused for around 2 decades. Extensive renovation work saw the transformation of the 3 cottages into one large 3 bed roomed property, specifically fitted for use as a TV studio. The exterior character of the property was largely unchanged. During the first 4 years of the show, the given address for the house was number 2, Lock Keepers' Cottages. The '2' was later dropped.

In 1996, due to the declining popularity of The Big Breakfast, the house was transformed in an Art Deco style makeover. The original brickwork was virtually entirely covered over with a smooth rendered finish which, by the time the re-launched program aired, was painted crisp white. Two large balconies now adorned the front and rear. The only untouched exterior features, recognizable from the shows original styling, were the four brick chimneys and the roofing. The legality of this extensive makeover could be questioned, as it contradicts the rules imposed by its Grade 2 status. The work carried out is purported to have cost around £2million, largely funded by its sale to the shows parent company, Channel Four Television.

Structurally, the house largely remained in this style for the rest of the TV series' life. The only notable structural alterations occurred over the 2 years immediately following and included the removal of the front balcony, the partial removal of the balcony to the rear, and minor alterations to the styling of the doors and windows.

However, the character of the house was altered through several artistic makeovers to both the interior and exterior. The exterior was painted bright yellow, later a light brown similar in shade to the original brickwork, followed by a faux red brickwork effect which was painted onto the render. The latter style became the final look of the house, during the show's final 3 and a half years.

Cottages since "The Big Breakfast"

In November 2002, eight months after "The Big Breakfast" was axed, a fire destroyed a significant proportion of the first floor of the cottage the show was filmed in. A large part of the roof was also destroyed in the blaze. The fire was suspicious as there was no gas or electrical supply to the building.

Since the fire, extensive renovations have taken place to restore the house, and it is now used as a family home. The house was bought for little more than half the original asking price of £1 million at £550,000. The house was slashed in value due to the fire of November 2002.

The house has now been fully renovated, but they maintain a high perimeter fence around the house. Some of the well-recognised aspects of the house remain; the sun burst wall, the red brick paint effect and the white picket fence.

The newly renovated house features in the BBC Two show "Neneh and Andi Dish It Up", BBC Three's "Singing With the Enemy", and most recently "Too Fat To Toddle" on ITV1.

The cottages are located about 200 metres from the planned site of the main Olympic Stadium, to be constructed for the 2012 Olympic Games. In 2005, the cottages became part of the Compulsory Purchase Order for the Games ( - item 239), giving rise to speculation that the building may be demolished. However, some outline plans have indicated the immediate location of the cottages and gardens as being unchanged.


External links

* [ "The Big Breakfast"] at
* [ Bow Locks - A Big Breakfast fansite]
* [ Recent pictures of the house from]

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