Because the stuff they get up to on Loose Women could give David Lynch a run for his money
There's nothing quite like British daytime TV. Perhaps it's the fragmented, fast-paced style it adopts in order to keep casual viewers glued to their screens, or perhaps it's the fact that it's often watched when you're in a tired or flu-induced daze, but shows like This Morning and Loose Women often play out like some kind of fever dream. One minute, you're watching a woman recoil in horror at the sight of a snowman costume; the next, you're seeing a man take a paternity test in an attempt to disown his ginger baby.
This kind of daytime TV is uniquely British in a way that I find really endearing: it's silly, occasionally a little macabre, it makes fun of itself, and sometimes, it's just a bit shit. Having a 9-5 job, though, I don't get to watch as much of it as I'd like, so I get my dose of daily weirdness from Daytime Snaps: my absolute favourite entry into the emerging genre of "no context screenshots" Twitter accounts.
Run by TV PR guy Nick Walker, the account spits out screenshots that offer completely explanation-free insights into the world of daytime TV. While these days some shows, like the controversy-courting Good Morning Britain, actively seek out viral moments by hosting transphobes and racists on the air for "debates", Daytime Snaps is an example of a more banal and beautiful side of both daytime TV and internet humour. I had a chat with Nick Walker about how he made taking screenshots of bizarre TV moments into an art form, a gentle commentary on British culture, and generally just a really, really hilarious feed.
When and how did you get the idea for this account?
I would sometimes post odd things that I’d seen on This Morning from my own Twitter account. There are TVs on in my office, all on mute, and there’s something about seeing something strange on TV that you can’t hear for context that makes it really stand out. You know that feeling when you’re in a building reception, or queuing in a bank, and there’s a TV on BBC News with no sound on and you’re sort of trying to piece together what is going on? It’s like that.
I can’t really remember what I posted – I think it might have been one with Trinny Woodall on This Morning being cradled by a man in a rock pool. I was chatting to one of my friends about how weird daytime TV is when you can’t hear it, and he suggested that I should do a “daytime TV on mute” Tumblr account. I did think about it for a while. I’ve never really used Tumblr so I started it on Twitter instead.
I started it in September 2016, and really thought that maybe at most a few people I chat to on Twitter and their mates would find it entertaining. It quite slowly bubbled up until one day Greg James spotted it and talked about it on his Radio 1 show, and it went mad from there.
Do you watch loads of daytime TV?
I watch a lot of TV full stop! I’m quite defensive of British TV, because we do make lots of great TV in this country and people can sometimes be like “I don’t watch proper TV anymore” or “I only really watch US scripted shows”, and those people think that’s how everyone thinks, when the truth is TV is still a huge platform and British TV is the bulk of what the average person in this country watches. I sometimes feel like they’re being a bit sneery. Way more people watch The Chase than, say, True Detective, and that’s totally fine. You can enjoy Stranger Things and be a fan of Come Dine With Me at the same time without saying it’s a “guilty pleasure”. I hate that phrase.
Does your account deliberately highlight the surreality of British daytime TV?
Absolutely. I want to capture that “WTF is going on?” feeling you get when you see a glimpse of Bargain Hunt in the dentist’s waiting room. Someone once sent a tweet (to Daytime Snaps) saying, “It’s a shame most of these look photoshopped”. I was oddly quite proud of that, because clearly he thought they were too weird to be real scenes that have happened on telly. If it looks unbelievable it's perfect for Daytime Snaps.
I guess if you’re sick or unemployed or a parent or a shift worker or a student, then daytime telly is actually quite important for passing the hours while most people are at work, and that’s probably why it’s such a lurid and strange part of TV. It has to work a bit harder to stop people from getting bored than peak time telly.
What’s the weirdest segment you’ve watched on daytime TV?
Loose Women do something bizarre literally every day. I think the weirdest was Halloween last year when they were all dressed up in costume – Coleen Nolan was dressed as Pennywise the clown. And then just to top it off they had a discussion called “Has Halloween gone too far?” It was insane.
How do you think the genre has changed over the years?
There are the staple shows like Countdown, Homes Under the Hammer, Pointless that are all still there and I don’t think they change much, but it’s the live shows like This Morning and Loose Women that feel like they embrace the chaos of live TV a bit more these days. I think they like quite that instant reaction they can get from viewers on social media now. Plus, a lot of online news websites are all over daytime TV coverage and the Twitter reaction now too – some titles literally have full time staff watching the daytime shows for news moments. I don’t imagine Piers Morgan would still be in his job if it weren’t for the fact that he brings in loads of headlines for Good Morning Britain. But we can't forget that The Big Breakfast was doing all kinds of brilliant off-the-wall stuff in the 90s, long before social media, so it's part of the daytime DNA I suppose.
It seems like it’s becoming more and more divisive as producers try to create those viral moments online by stirring up politicised debates (especially with Piers Morgan and GMB). is it an aim of yours to capture a more innocent and inane side of daytime TV?
I like to think that I’m highlighting the good stuff on daytime rather than the people on GMB ‘debating’ the human rights of people they don’t know, which isn’t very fun but obviously generates reaction. I’m not really interested in the aggy stuff on daytime like that. I hope that people don’t think that Daytime Snaps is something that punches down. I do stick to the more funny and absurd stuff as much as possible for that reason.
Who’s your favourite daytime TV star?
Martin Roberts on Homes Under the Hammer is just a phenomenon. It’s such an odd show because it’s all about “non-standard construction” and “yields” and all kinds of property jargon like that. And yet there’s something about Martin that’s incredibly cheesy and upbeat – which is perfect for daytime. People such as him and Allison Hammond, Rylan, Lorraine Kelly – they’re all legit national treasures in my eyes.
And who’s the worst?
Piers Morgan is the obvious choice isn’t he? He just takes over that programme with his brash, macho posturing. I imagine the fact that he presents the Britain’s second favourite breakfast TV show keeps him up at night.
Your screenshots capture really bizarre out-of-context moments. How do you choose which screenshots to use?
There are lots of TVs in my office – now, I’ll get colleagues shouting out to me “Nick, Jeremy Kyle is doing a lie detector about pizza!” or something like that. I’ve had a few people message me to say that they use the screenshots in their WhatsApp group with their mates, so I often look out for things that can double up as a reaction post. I like when people send suggestions as well. I do think that Twitter and Tumblr have turned screenshots and gifs almost into a type of art in their own right over this last decade. It’s something quite accessible to everyone.
Which screenshot that you’ve tweeted has made you laugh hardest?
There’s one of Philip Schofield gently cradling a toy demon baby like it were his own son and I think it might be my favourite one ever.