'You don't want to chop and change a successful product'
Jeremy Vine may be taking over Channel 5’s daily current affairs programme — but fans needn’t worry they’ll miss The Wright Stuff. It’s much of the same show, he tells Gemma Dunn
Jeremy Vine is mulling over the title of his new show. It's been in talks ever since he was announced as the presenter of Channel 5's new daily current affairs programme, back in June, following the departure of Matthew Wright.
"You know, it's so funny, we had, I think, 34 different possible names, and we ended up with the one which was 'Jeremy Vine'," admits the TV and radio broadcaster.
What else was at play? "Well, 'Vine o'clock', 'Vine at nine' - but the trouble is, it's not at nine - 'Show with Vine', 'Vine in the morning', 'Vine in the afternoon'. Every single possible name!" he quips.
"And there's nothing that rhymes with Jeremy!" he argues.
"So in the end the whole thing just dissolved into my name, and I thought it was a beautiful moment actually."
He recalls the point at which someone showed him the new show graphic with his name on.
"I thought 'okay, this is real now'," he remembers.
"So there's something joyous about having one's name in the title of a show. But when your name actually is the title of the show, then that is strange."
Vine (53), who joined the BBC in 1987 and has since been an integral player at the broadcaster, will host the much-loved live show, which tackles the biggest news, issues and stories from around the UK, transmitting for 120 minutes every morning.
And he's the first to admit taking over from his predecessor Matthew Wright (right), who was at the helm of 18 successful years in The Wright Stuff studio, is an "intimidating" prospect.
"Matthew was very, very, very good at what he did, and he brought the show from nothing over 18 years to something where it's totally a fixture in the TV landscape," reasons the Surrey-born star.
"But I'm very excited about joining Channel 5 because it's just been morphing into something that's really exciting. I mean people who don't know it wouldn't expect, for example, Michael Palin to be on it doing a documentary on North Korea; Jane McDonald, all the brilliant stuff that she does; and Suzannah Lipscomb to be doing history now.
"So it's going to be just fun," he says simply. "The guy who runs Channel 5, Ben Frow, I went to see him, and he said, 'I just want you to enjoy yourself'.
"And I thought, 'God, what a lovely thing for your new employer to say'."
Has he received any advice from Wright, himself?
"Do you know, I haven't spoken to him since (but) I'm hoping to have a chat with him at some point," he confides.
"I felt a bit wary of ringing him because I thought he probably just didn't want to have the conversation," Vine follows.
"But he's left his jackets in the dressing room, and they almost fit me, so if he doesn't get them, I might consider putting them on," he jokes.
"But no, I will give him a ring. I've always got on well with him, I just don't know him that well."
Back to his show, then. And Vine, who also presents Eggheads, is adamant that long-time fans will recognise his show from its forerunner.
"We are going to be straining at the beginning to show people how it continues from what Matthew's left," he insists.
"So the show, the set and the format, even some of the panellists, and the story choices and the editorial...
"When you've got a very successful product, you don't want to be chopping and changing.
"I think that can sometimes be quite destabilising, so I would say to people who watch it, 'Come and join us on September 3 and you'll find it's still there'. The same show."
Content-wise, Vine, who will continue his reign as the host of his popular weekday BBC Radio 2 show in addition to this appointment, will flit between the important issues which get people talking and the less-serious subjects which make people smile.
"It's funny I just brought in my Radio 2 menu from today," he tells.
"So it's: Jeremy Corbyn anti-Semitism; being mugged in a place you know and love, where you can't go back to the park anymore; the doctor who got manslaughter, should she practise again?; the pensioner who said there were too many Spanish people in Benidorm..." he says, reeling off the list in his hand.
"And I thought, 'That's an absolute classic. You could do all of those on Channel 5, and it's just one story will definitely leave you laughing, and one story will probably leave you crying.
"But it's just enjoying the argument," he insists. "We're quite an argumentative country.
"And in a way I think that's how we rub along with each other, we discuss everything we talk about, everything we argue about, and this show is part of that."
Of course, guest stars will help rally the debate. But who would Vine like to see on the show?
"The perfect guest for me won't be available because I've wanted to interview him for years, but maybe he'll read this," begins Vine, who shares two daughters with his journalist wife, Rachel Schofield.
"It's the guy who crossed the tightrope between the Twin Towers, featured in the film Man On Wire. Philippe Petit was his name.
"Whenever we have someone in Radio 2 on work experience and they say, 'What can I do?' I say, 'If you can book him, you can end up working here'. So yeah, if we can get him that would be lovely!
"It would also be nice to do Theresa May; she's not very visible at the moment in interviews and I think part of that is they're mid-negotiations and they have to keep their cards close to their chest.
"But the news is just full of amazing people," he notes.
"I mean, who was the person the other day who complained that one of the beaches in Cornwall was no good because it was too wet? Why not get them on?" he asks. "There's a never-ending supply."
Jeremy Vine launches on Channel 5 on
Monday September 3
Jeremy Vine may be taking over Channel 5's daily current affairs programme - but fans needn't worry they'll miss The Wright Stuff. It's much of the same show, he tells Gemma Dunn