Des O’Connor still miffed at ‘Des and Mel’ axing

Today with Des and Mel became one of the most successful daytime programmes in the 2000s, but was suddenly axed in 2006 by ITV with no real explanation given. Co-host Des O’Connor is still baffled by its demise.

The daily live hour-long show was also co-presented by Melanie Sykes and featured music, comedy features and celebrity guests dropping in for a chat. The format proved such a success a short-lived teatime version was also produced and the pair went on to host the primetime British Soap Awards.

Speaking to Steve Wright on Radio 2, Des O’ Connor said, “I still don’t understand it [coming off air], as they’ve never quite got the viewing figures we got.”

The show was produced by Carlton Television from 2002 to 2004 at the former Thames Television studios at Teddington before Granada took over the operation switching the production to the ITV London Studios in 2005 for its final few series, including the later spin-off.

Des, aged 78, fondly reflected on why Today with Des and Mel was a success, “We never fixed anything, it went out live… …The public knew it was real,” adding he’d love for the show to return “I’d like to have another crack at that, it was fun TV and it was real.”

Des had for 46 years in one form or another hosted a regular prime-time series on television. He noted that everyone remembers Michael Parkinson as a chat show host, but Des points out “I hosted a chat show for longer”. His longest running being Des O’Connor Tonight which started in 1977 on BBC Two before moving over to ITV in 1982 where it remained until 2002. He also praises Lord Lew Grade, the boss of ATV Network, for making him an international star with shows such as The Des O’Connor Show – which ran from 1963 until 1971 and Des O’Connor Entertains which ran from 1974 to 1976,

“I had a show for two years prime time [in America] at 8 o’clock every Wednesday night… …We made them here at the ATV Elstree studios and I worked with George Burns, Jack Benny, Bob Hope. I mean just fantastic to see all the great comics, and wonderful stars, it was great.

“And it opened a door and suddenly I was living in a world with no strangers as Lew Grade sold that show to forty-four different countries. Two or three hundred million people a week were watching the show.”

And advice for the current bunch of television presenters “Let the public see that you’re not phoney, that you’re just doing it for real. They’re not fools the viewers, they know. That’s a big microscope that screen, so you have to let them know you’re for real.”

The ATV Des O’Connor series is out on DVD from Network DVD, more details: