I remember the 2001 News at Ten, simply taking the 11.00pm Nightly News and moving it to 10.00pm, and putting Sir Trevor at the helm, and that was it. No thought or care about the bulletin, just shift it to 10.00pm three nights a week. Pathetic.
Well, the general point about the return of News at Ten in 2001 was that there were now two news programmes on ITV in primetime (as the ITC's definition of it was 6-11pm) which had never been the case on ITV before. And it was still the news, at ten, which is what it was supposed to be, I don't know what else they were supposed to do.
It's fair to say that while the end of News at Ten the first time was a big event, the brand was flagging a bit by the end. In Giles Smith's book of his newspaper columns on sport on TV, he reviews the media coverage of the sacking of Glenn Hoddle as England manager in January 1999, and there's a bit where he refers to Hoddle being interviewed on News at Ten and saying his beliefs were too complicated "to discuss in two or three minutes on a TV show", and Smith says that a few years before you would have called News at Ten "a news programme" but it was now, as Hoddle suggested, "a TV show". Actually I was a bit sadder about the ending of the 5.40 news because that fitted into my schedule nicely and I always thought it was a suitably bright and breezy bulletin.
Such a fascinating period, though. Opening the Radio Times for the first week with the news at eleven was such a surprise, the ITV schedule was absolutely stuffed with new programmes and specials. In fact the Sunday of that week was the big one for ITV as they had an hour-long Corrie, imperial phase Millionaire and A Touch of Frost and they all got absolutely enormous ratings and blew BBC1 off the screen. I really feared for BBC1 at the time, actually, and on the Monday of the relaunch at 9.30 they had Animal Police which was a grim docusoap about the RSPCA which a week later was relegated to a late night slot, so it looked like BBC1 were in a right state next to the swaggering ITV.
Of course as it turned out, those brilliant ITV schedules only lasted a few weeks, and indeed the problems were apparent on day two when they showed the Cold Feet-style drama Wonderful You at 10pm and it absolutely died on its arse and got appalling ratings. But I would say that, under David Liddiment it was quite an exciting period for ITV and they were quite daring with what they showed and were eager to experiment, and they were very good at creating big events through scheduling, Millionaire is the perfect example. Certainly it seemed a huge leap forward from the rather mundane schedules under Marcus Plantin where you'd have a drama at 9pm nine times out of ten and it all got rather predictable. There was a proper swagger about ITV in those days and I watched it quite a lot, and they did try hard to find good slots for comedy and so on. I mean, obviously they had money coming out of their ears in those days, which helped.
The news at eleven could have worked, it wasn't that bad an idea, and ITV did say they'd done research that said viewers were more interested in watching the news earlier in the evening and so they pumped up the 6.30 one quite a lot. But it turned out most of the stuff they put on at ten just wasn't good enough. The whole reason why they moved News at Ten was because BBC1 was getting seven million at ten o'clock with things like They Think It's All Over and The Frank Skinner Show, and they wanted a piece of that. But they never found anything, even when they poached Frank Skinner.