Jane Houston on the early days of This Morning and going to Disneyland

I can remember when Granada were awarded This Morning, we all thought it would last six weeks. Taking crew every day on a coach to Liverpool, and that it wasn’t going to last. And here we are however many years later, and it’s still going strong. But it felt like it was… the same crew did the show all the time, so it was very much a family. 

It was hard work for the PAs. It was very hard work. It was only two of us. So we would get on the coach at seven o’clock in the morning, there was a huge mobile phone that you had that you used to get the timing because they’d been editing all the various inserts overnight. The daily producer would ring you on the coach, give you all the timings. So you’d sit on the coach with your running order, working out your timings. And then working out how long you have left for the live interviews and the phone and stuff like that. So by the time you got to Liverpool, you could go to the daily producer and talk them through how long you have left and things have changed. Obviously, things change while you’re on air. You get to Liverpool about, I don’t know, just probably just after eight. Have some breakfast, and then…

 I think we used to go do a bit of rehearsing beforehand, but we also shared the control room with Granada News. So there was this ridiculous sort of shuffle where the This Morning vision mixer director and PA would have to get up out of the seats, stand up, let the news team in, while they did their bulletins twice, every day. A lot of them was while you were actually on air with This Morning. So that was ridiculous. And I used to often say, “Why don’t we just do the news bulletins as well?” but they wouldn’t let us; it was political, that decision. So, then you’d do the live show. 

So we used to alternate. One PA would do Monday, Wednesday, Friday and the other two would do Tuesday Thursday, and then obviously the next week would alternate. So in the afternoon, you do your clearing for the show you’d just done, while the other PA would be doing typing the running order, putting all the preliminary typing, and typing the script for the next day. And quite often the scripts were coming in really late. So the bus would leave with the crew in the afternoon at three o’clock. I don’t think Sue and I ever got on that bus to go back, because we’d never finished the work. The scripts were never ready. So they used to have to get us taxis back at night, which must have been a ridiculous expense from Liverpool all the way. But we couldn’t drive, because we needed to be on the phone on the way over. 

So then they got us a secretary to type the script, which helped a little bit, but we were still there quite often very late at night. And somehow into the role became on the way home, delivering the script to Richard and Judy at home, because they’d gone home.

 So every night, we’d turn up at their house in Manchester with the script. And one of us would stay in the taxi because Richard and Judy would always invite us in as well. We’d be like, “No, no, no, we’ve got to go.” But quite often they wanted to discuss the script or anything. So we had quite a good relationship with Judy and Richard, but it wasn’t sustainable working like that. We were just working ridiculous hours and the overtime was just… I mean, we earned fortunes. 

But I did get to go to Disneyland with This Morning, which was an experience. So we were doing it sort of as live. We flew out to… well, the director and two of the… the director, one of the producers, and two researchers had gone out a few weeks before to get a lot of items together. And then the This Morning editor and I flew out about a week before we were due to do the programmes. And then Richard and Judy flew out on the Friday after the last show, because there was no break, they were doing all the shows. And they brought whole family with them because Disney had said that part of the deal was they wanted it to be a family experience. So the twins, Jackie and Chloe, came too. And the nanny and the hairdresser. Everybody. The whole entourage. But it was just the most surreal experience. Because we started off on the Monday, we were recording the shows, but as live. So we could only stop when we got to commercial break. The first quarter of an hour on the Monday morning we were doing Mickey Mouse’s This is Your Life. And so we sat in an OB scanner, the director and I, and we had an American vision mixer. And behind us were 12 Disney executives sat there and we started out, we started, and they’d all seen the script beforehand. And then doing Mickey Mouse’s This is Your Life, and Judy asked Mickey Mouse, a question and he replied and they were like, “No, no, no, stop, stop, stop. You can’t do that. Mickey Mouse can’t speak.” So, so we had to stop. And of course, every time we stopped, we had to go back to the beginning and that, and it was, it just took a long time to do the programme, and we were eight hours behind the UK. 

So by the time we finished recording it, we then have just about enough time to satellite it back for it to go out. But we’d got so far behind because of the Disney execs that literally it was going out, the first part was going out just as we were sending the last part. So we couldn’t send it all in one go, we were sending it in bits, and the PAs had to type a VTR sheet. Do you remember it had carbon copies on it? And I still, I’d taken those to America with me. And I don’t know, I must’ve been faxing them back because I can’t remember, but I didn’t have time to do them. So I was literally on the phone to central control room. Jim Grant, Lee Child, I can remember talking to him and giving him the timing, each part timings over the phone, saying, you know, putting the first part out while I was still giving him the timings, it was, it was horrendous. And one time we got so far behind, we couldn’t get the programme to the airport to be satellited. I think can’t remember why, but we went to LAX to satellite that, but we didn’t have time to get to the airport. And so the Disney exec said to me, because I was in charge of all this technical stuff, because I was the only sort of Granada technical person there, so they said, “Never mind, we’ll, we can get it back for you.” And they took me through one of the attractions and through a door in the back. And there was a full-scale like, control room and TV studio that they had behind the scenes that they’d never shown us. And we satellited it back from there, and that’s what we did then for the rest of the week, thankfully, so there wasn’t a mad dash to the airport afterwards. But it was all pretty scary and pretty last minute. 

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