“Do you know what really annoys me? Wrapping paper.” And just like that, with one seemingly meaningless quip about Christmas presents, the Eamonn Holmes era of GB News truly began. The veteran broadcaster, having jumped ship from ITV after 15 years, joined his old mucker Isabel Webster for their first GB News breakfast show together, having promised he “would not change”. And – wrapping paper and all – he was good to his word. If you like Holmes, you’d have liked this. Mostly.
It is easy to poke fun at Holmes, but the real value the Northern Irishman brings is the ability to make a silly aside about how wrapping paper winds him up – and fireworks and people who don’t wrap up warm in the winter and having to call binmen “bin operatives” – seem totally natural and in keeping with the tone of a semi-serious morning show. Holmes brings several things to GB News that it sorely needs – star dust, of course, a bit of gravitas, a sprinkling of humour. But, most importantly, he shows how to have personality as a TV anchor without being a windbag.
If you haven’t watched GB News in a while – the embarrassing glitches are mainly gone, the production values are far less village panto than they used to be and the studio looks like it would just about stand up in a strong breeze. The breakfast show remains a curious mishmash of half-hearted rolling news, upbeat roving reporters and jolly banter between the hosts. The whiff of cheapness remains, but it’s fading.
The constant marriage of fact and viewer opinion gives the show the feel of a radio phone-in, rather than a traditional TV breakfast show. The constant straining for strong opinion from everyone, all the time, on everything, is quite a stressful viewing experience. Holmes is the perfect man for the job, puncturing the anxiety with an amusing story about his school bus being blown up by terrorists (no, really). Things getting a bit heavy? Well, do you know what really annoys Eamonn? Wrapping paper.
Holmes, for his part, seemed a little subdued, possibly down to a desire to prove that this really was a just another day – “no change” – and possibly because it sounded like he was carrying a heavy cold. He seemed, literally, quite stiff too, which we can put down to the chronic back problems he has suffered of late. If I could make one suggestion to Holmes, it would be to not look at his phone while his guests are talking, even if it is to find amusing texts from his wife.