Holly Willoughby’s This Morning return falls flat: Beleaguered ITV fails to win over viewers who slam ‘cringe’ musical opening – after bosses pinned hopes of the show surviving on her comeback in the wake of Phillip Schofield scandal
The 42-year-old, smiling effusively in a black and white polka dot dress, was seen dancing along to a rendition of ABBA‘s Dancing Queen by the cast of Mamma Mia The Party before embracing her fellow presenter Alison Hammond.
But fans were less than convinced about the show of forced bonhomie to mark the end of Holly’s eight-week summer break at her luxury villa in Portugal, with one complaining: ‘It’s too early for this cringefest!’
Once considered a crown jewel of ITV’s schedule, This Morning now faces an uncertain future following Schofield’s departure in May after he admitted to an ‘unwise but not illegal’ affair with a much younger male colleague.
It has now emerged that the show has poached the boss of its rival Channel 4 daytime series Steph’s Packed Lunch as it awaits the results of an external investigation into complaints about the network’s toxic working culture.
Vivek Sharma has been hired from the lunchtime show hosted by Steph McGovern to work closely with under-fire This Morning editor Martin Frizell.
Producers will be desperate to recapture some of This Morning’s pre-Schofield scandal magic, but reactions to today’s opening scene suggest they are a long way off winning over viewers.
One wrote: ‘If there’s a more cringe inducing show than #ThisMorning I’d like to know.’
A second said: ‘They couldn’t have possibly opened the show worse than this’ as another asked: ‘What on earth is this fresh hell??’
Others branded it a ‘cringefest’ and ‘peak cringe’, while another wrote: ‘I’ve had surgeries more enjoyable than this’.
But others came to Holly’s defence and praised her return, with one person writing: ‘Love these 2!!! Finally can enjoy this #thismorning again. Jealous trolls just stop.’
Another agreed, tweeting: ‘Welcome back @hollywills #thismorning’ and a third echoed: ‘#thismorning loving Alison and Holly presenting together’.
Holly took to her Instagram ahead of the show to display her outfit and to express her excitement to be returning.
She wrote: ‘And just like that… it’s back to school… can’t wait to see you!!! @thismorning’.
Today, body language expert Darren Stanton that Holly seemed ‘unsure’ during her first show back, while Alison ‘made presenting look easy and effortless’.
Speaking on behalf of Spin Genie, Darren picked up on Holly’s body language, explaining that she was fidgeting on camera – which is a ‘sign of impatience and nervousness’.
He then explained that he saw the presenter ’tilting away’ from Alison when sitting on the sofa, suggesting she finds Alison’s presence ‘overpowering’.
Darren said: ‘Alison comes across as super relaxed, comfortable and confident. She makes it look easy and effortless. It’s clear Holly depends on her co-hosts when she is presenting, but Alison could own the room.
‘When the pair were standing up and speaking to the camera, Alison had her hands down to her front, while Holly had her hands to the side as well as touching her fingers.
‘This fidgeting is a sign of impatience and nervousness. She definitely comes across as nervous, unsettled and unsure. It’s clear it’s very much new to her and she’s still adjusting.
‘Alison is quite animated, she comes across as super confident, but when Holly sits next to her on the sofa as they present as a duo, we see Holly tilting herself away to the left. This suggests she finds Alison’s presence a bit overpowering. It’s a way of saying, ‘This is too much for me.’
‘Alison is loud, bubbly and confident – and she’s also tactile with Holly. She has very strong eye contact with her. She’s often making jokes and touching her hand a couple of times. This is to show she is here to support Holly.’
He went on to explain: ‘She wants to make her feel supported. Holly hasn’t yet made that gesture with Alison, and that tells me Alison has a much stronger authenticity and rapport with Holly than she has with her.
‘I have seen Holly masking a couple of her smiles. This doesn’t suggest she was lying, but she could be wanting to put on a front to protect how she’s feeling. It shows she isn’t completely comfortable on the sofa. She also displayed a twitching gesture with her fingers, which suggests she wasn’t feeling completely secure at that moment.’
The poaching of top TV executive Vivek Sharma Channel 4 has prompted speculation among This Morning staff that the role of Mr Frizell, the show’s long-serving boss, may be under threat.
An ITV source said: ‘It came as a bit of a shock to some that Vivek was hired to work alongside Martin. They have known one another for some time and have worked together too.
‘But that timing, as the outcome of the investigation is expected, has meant there is lots of talk of people’s futures.
‘You can’t help but wonder if the findings from the review don’t go the way ITV hope then Vivek might get the big job at This Morning.’
ITV’s head of daytime Emma Gormley, chief executive Dame Carolyn McCall and her deputy Kevin Lygo are also under threat of losing their jobs following the Schofield scandal.
Ms Willoughby, 42, is said to be ‘delighted’ to have her close friend Alison Hammond present This Morning with her as she is given the reins to lead the show after co-presenting with Schofield for 14 years until he left in May.
She is hosting with Dermot O’Leary, Josie Gibson and Craig Doyle while Welsh heartthrob presenter Steve Jones will appear on the sofa in the not-too-distant future with ITV bosses excited about their on-screen chemistry.
Sources close to Ms Willoughby, who has spent the summer at her lavish villa in Portugal, yesterday said she was excited to return.
They add she has ‘ridden the storm’ but is aware she has a huge responsibility on her shoulders.
There are deep-rooted fears among bosses that they are not out of the woods yet as the results of the Schofield inquiry are anticipated this month which executives know they will have to publish in full.
Today, Ms Willoughby will be a guest at the National Television Awards despite not being shortlisted for best presenter although This Morning is up for best daytime show.
Schofield resigned from This Morning in May. He admitted he had had a relationship with a much younger man who worked with him on the show, and later lying about it.
In a bombshell statement to the Daily Mail, the veteran TV presenter admitted that he and the man began a relationship that was more than a friendship. The ex-TV presenter describes this as ‘unwise but not illegal’.
Schofield further confessed that he lied to his employer ITV, to his colleagues, his friends and his agents at the management firm YMU.
The scandal created a state of disarray for the show, with it triggering ongoing allegations of a toxic culture behind the scenes.
An independent inquiry into the Schofield scandal remains ongoing, with Eamonn Holmes yet to be questioned despite being one of his most vocal critics.
According to The Sun Jane Mulcahy KC has not quizzed the former This Morning hosts despite the findings set to be published ‘very soon’.
In the months surrounding the scandal, This Morning faced questions about exactly what they knew of the affair, leading to the broadcaster announcing they were bringing the KC to ‘carry out an external review to establish the facts’.
A source told the publication: ‘Eamonn has extensive knowledge of the atmosphere at This Morning and has said before he thought Phil’s affair was “covered up”.
‘The fact he’s not been approached is leading to confusion as he could be key in helping engender change at ITV.
Before adding: ‘If he and Ruth aren’t asked about what they know, it appears the investigation into This Morning and what went on may not be as thorough as people first believed it would be.’
MailOnline contacted Eamonn’s reps for comment.
Meanwhile Holly has reportedly already spoken to the barrister in charge of the independent inquiry.
It is said that the host, 42, has ‘fully complied and cooperated with everything that has been asked of her by the KC’, reports The Mirror.
A source said: ‘Holly was more than happy to do what was asked of her, and explain her position, and what she knew, and what she didn’t.’
Jane Mulcahy KC has been drafted in to lead the external review of the facts surrounding the scandal and is expected to publish her findings in September.
It’s said that Holly is one of a number of people who work at This Morning who’ve assisted Jane with her enquiries.
Meanwhile, senior ITV executives, including boss Kevin Lygo, have also been spoken to amid the ongoing inquiry.
Speaking at the Edinburgh TV Festival earlier this month, the ITV managing director said: ‘She [Mulcahy] has been talking to everybody involved, they take your phone and look at every single text you’ve ever sent, email, WhatsApp.
‘So, everything is available, lots of interviews, talking to everybody and I hope as soon as possible, but probably in September, she will make that public.’
Addressing how ITV handles duty of care, he added: ‘We do, trust me, take it incredibly seriously.
‘We haven’t got anything to hide and if we can adapt and change our process to make it better, then we should do it on a continuing basis.’
ITV bosses have been under pressure to admit what they knew and when about the veteran presenter’s fling with a much younger colleague. They previously refused to answer questions from the Mail about the investigation they claimed to have carried out in 2020 and over whether a new probe would be opened.
Earlier this year, In ITV’s first concession of potential wrongdoing over the scandal, personnel chief David Osborn has informed staff of the review, hoping to quell growing discontent.
Under-fire chief executive Carolyn McCall sent an almost identical letter to Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer, culture committee chairman Dame Caroline Dinenage and TV regulator Ofcom.
Dame Carolyn wrote: ‘You will have seen the significant media coverage concerning Phillip Schofield. As you would expect we take the matter extremely seriously and have reviewed our own records over the weekend.’ She said ITV investigated ‘when rumours of a relationship between Phillip Schofield and an employee of ITV first began to circulate in late 2019/early 2020’.
Her letter went on: ‘Both parties were questioned then and both categorically and repeatedly denied the rumours…
‘In addition, ITV spoke to a number of people who worked on the This Morning and wider daytime team and were not provided with and did not find any evidence of a relationship beyond hearsay and rumour.
‘Given the ongoing rumours, we continued to ask questions of both parties, who both continued to deny the rumours, including as recently as this month.’
But this week sources close to the former production assistant said he insisted he was never asked about the relationship by ITV.
Further questions emerged when Eamonn Holmes, who presented the Friday edition of This Morning until 2021, claimed the young lover was ferried to work from Schofield’s home in ITV taxis – after the assistant and Schofield enjoyed ‘playtime Thursdays’.
Dame Carolyn’s letter ended: ‘We have now instructed Jane Mulcahy KC (Blackstone Chambers) to carry out an external review to establish the facts. She will review our records and talk to people involved. This work will also consider our relevant processes… and whether we need to change or strengthen any.’
Ms Mulcahy, 62, earlier this year represented the England and Wales Cricket Board as it brought a charge of alleged racism against former England captain Michael Vaughan, who was later cleared. She also acted for former BBC China editor Carrie Gracie in her successful equal pay fight.
It was recently reported that Schofield has hired a team of wealth management accountants to look after his finances after he admitted his ‘beloved’ TV career is over.
Records at Companies House suggest that the This Morning star’s financial affairs will now be managed by Sedulo, a London-based firm that helps clients with a high net worth grow their wealth.
The presenter admitted he would likely never work in TV again, admitting in an interview he had ‘lost everything’ following the exposure of his ‘unwise but not illegal’ affair with a much younger colleague, plunging ITV into a crisis.
working in television.
His real estate firm – Fistral Properties Ltd – is registered with the company’s London office, and will likely become his primary source of income now, the Mirror reports.
On Sedulo’s website it claims to be defined by its ‘financial and wealth management’.
It tells prospective clients: ‘Our vision is a service that is more professional, more personal, and more efficient — a service that is delivered by talented, dedicated, and highly qualified people who share this vision—always aiming to reduce your stress and give you peace of mind.
‘Whether you’re a successful entrepreneur or business owner or you’re starting out on your own, it’s never too early to seek sound advice. Whatever stage of your business journey you’re at, we’re here to support you.
‘By helping you to accumulate or preserve wealth, we ensure you have the confidence to face life’s big moments – now and in the future.’
Schofield’s business affairs were previously managed by YMU who helped craft his career and make him millions.
Full timeline of the Phillip Schofield crisis
Monday April 17 2023
Both Schofield and co-presenter Holly Willoughby should have been scheduled to return on air together after the former took leave to appear as a witness at his brother Timothy’s trial, where he was convicted of child sex offences.
Phillip responds to his brother’s charges by saying he ‘no longer has a brother’.
Despite Schofield returning as scheduled, Willoughby is absent after contracting shingles, which sees her off air for a week.
Wednesday May 10 2023
The Sun reports Schofield and Willoughby are ‘barely speaking’, as ‘insiders’ claim their relationship had ‘cooled’ and issues had ‘rumbled for some time’.
Thursday May 11 2023
Schofield hails Willoughby as his ‘rock’ while admitting ‘the last few weeks haven’t been easy for either of us’.
Monday May 15 2023
Schofield and Willoughby continue to present This Morning together, but viewers are worried by an apparent loss in chemistry between the pair, who continue discussing headlines, with neither making statements regarding an apparent ‘feud’.
Saturday May 20 2023
Schofield confirms his departure from This Morning with immediate effect, having hosted the show for more than 20 years.
Sunday May 21 2023
Following Schofield’s departure, ITV confirms that Dermot O’Leary and Alison Hammond will take over presenting duties for the next instalment of This Morning on Monday May 22.
Meanwhile, Holly Willoughby takes early half-term leave. She is expected to return to the show on Monday June 5.
Monday May 22 2023
In the first This Morning show since Schofield’s departure, his former colleagues Hammond and O’Leary praise him for being ‘one of the best live television broadcasters this country has ever had’.
Friday May 26 2023
Schofield admits to having a relationship with a much younger man who worked with him on This Morning, and later lying about it.
In a bombshell statement to the Daily Mail, the veteran TV presenter admitted that he and the man began a relationship that was more than a friendship. The ex-TV presenter describes this as ‘unwise but not illegal’.
He also admitted lying to The Mail on Sunday, the Daily Mail’s sister paper, which first exclusively described his relationship with the younger man earlier this month.
In his grovelling apology, Schofield said: ‘I am making this statement via the Daily Mail, to whom I have already apologised personally for misleading, through my lawyer who I also misled, about a story [sic] which they wanted to write about me a few days ago.
The Mail is aware of the younger man’s identity, but has chosen not to name him.
Saturday May 27 2023
Responding to Schofield’s statement regarding his affair, an ITV spokesperson said: ‘Further to our statement last night, ITV can confirm that when rumours of a relationship between Phillip Schofield and an employee of ITV first began to circulate in early 2020 ITV investigated.
Willoughby takes to Instagram to vent her anger about the situation, saying Phillip lied to her about the affair. ‘When reports of this relationship first surfaced, I asked Phil directly if this was true and was told it was not,’ she wrote on Instagram. ‘It’s been very hurtful to now find out that this was a lie.’
Sunday May 28 2023
Former This Morning resident doctor Ranj Singh says ‘the issues with This Morning go far beyond’ Schofield and describes it as ‘toxic’.
He states he ‘took his concerns right to the top of ITV’, with a spokesperson responding that, although the broadcaster was ‘sorry’ to hear his comments, an investigation found there was no evidence of bullying.
Monday May 29 2023
Elaborating on his claims regarding the antics of Schofield, Mr Holmes said: ‘Thursday was playtime when he and Phillip would hit the town and then he obviously stayed overnight. There are records to show that he was brought in the next day separately in cars paid for by ITV.’
Schofield subsequently took to social media to defend himself and the show he presented for more than 20 years
Posting on Instagram, Schofield stated: ‘Now I no longer work on This Morning I am free to say this. I hope you have noticed that it is the same handful of people with a grudge against me or the show who seem to have the loudest voice. This Morning is the best show to work on, with the best people. In all the years I worked there, there was no toxicity’.
Tuesday May 30 2023
Claims emerged that Schofield’s younger lover received a financial settlement from ITV.
The Daily Mail is told that he was given a payment following the end of the on-off relationship, which Schofield described as ‘unwise but not illegal’.
ITV insiders said bosses at some level must have known about any payment. One added: ‘There have been numerous pay-offs at ITV and they have always had to be arranged and sanctioned by people of some seniority.’
Wednesday May 31 2023
A clip of Schofield downing whisky with his younger lover on the set of This Morning reemerges.
The Christmas-themed segment, which aired in 2016, saw Schofield and Willoughby trying out alternative advent calendars while Schofield’s lover – w as a runner on ITV – was in the background dressed as an elf.
With Schofield delighted by the ‘smooth’ drink, he turned to his festively dressed lover and asked, ‘Do you want some?!’
After the younger man took a sip, he joked: ‘Let’s get the elf smashed!’
On May 31, ITV were forced to call in investigators to get to the heart of the Phillip Schofield scandal.
In a humiliating climbdown after a crisis staff meeting, the broadcaster said it was bringing in a barrister to ‘carry out an external review to establish the facts’, plunging the future of This Morning into doubt.
Thursday June 1 2023
Jane McDonald is announced as Schofield’s replacement to present the British Soap Opera Awards at The Lowry in Salford.
Meanwhile, it is revealed that Schofield is selling the flat where he used to spend ‘Playtime Thursdays’ with his younger lover, it has been claimed.
The former This Morning presenter, 61, and his wife Stephanie, 59, are said to have put the ‘immaculate’ two-bedroom penthouse in south London on the market for £1.2million – the same price they paid in 2012 when it had just been built.
A listing appears to show the asking price has now been reduced by £100,000.
It is also revealed that the former This Morning star’s eldest daughter Molly only found out about her father’s statement to the Daily Mail in which he admitted lying over the relationship with the man just minutes before the story broke.
Friday June 2 2023
Phillip Schofield says he is too frightened to go out as he fears he will be spat on in the street following his departure from the show, in a lengthy sit-down BBC interview.
He also reveals that he will not use social media again following the fallout from the affair.
Monday June 5 2023
Holly Willoughby returns to This Morning for the first time since the affair, saying she felt ‘shaken, troubled, let down and worried’ about the events that led to Phillip Schofield’s departure from the ITV programme.
Eamonn Holmes launches a fresh attack on Phillip Schofield, insisting he doesn’t believe the former ITV star’s claim that he has made ‘one mistake’ in his 40-year career.
Speaking on his GB News programme, Phillip’s former colleague Eamonn called for ‘anyone watching today who has kissed Phillip Schofield, let us know’.
Tuesday June 13 2023
Willoughby appears to snub her former This Morning co-host in a string of social media posts.
The presenter, 42, uses her Instagram Stories to post a beaming selfie with temporary co-host Dermot O’Leary.
Wednesday June 14 2023
ITV boss Dame Carolyn McCall admits she failed to launch a formal investigation into Schofield’s affair when rumours emerged within the network. The chief executive is among three broadcast bosses grilled by the Culture, Media and Sport Committee in the wake of the presenter’s departure.
Saturday August 26 2023
Reports say Holly has spoken to the barrister in charge of the independent inquiry into the Schofield scandal.
Saturday September 2 2023
A trailer for the channel’s new daytime schedule, which starts on Monday, shows Ms Willoughby smiling for the cameras as she prepares to take to the famous This Morning sofa.
Monday September 4 2023
Holly returns to This Morning following her long break, with viewers calling the moment ‘cringeable’.