Vital Statistics for The Big Breakfast

The challenge

One of the longest running strands on Channel 4’s groundbreaking breakfast TV show, the Big Breakfast, was called Vital Statistics. A very structured five minute piece packed with linked statistics about the theme of the day. Typically I was researching and writing them from scratch the day before broadcast. (And this was in the days before the Internet had really taken off.)

The solution

Rather than have a different team write Vital Statistics each day the producers decided to let one writer do it every day. I was the first to attempt this task – writing it for Johnny Vaughan for three months in 1999. It was the hardest writing gig I’ve ever done. All my statistics had to be verifiable by two different sources.

The creative
I wrote Vital Stats about subjects as diverse as divorce, parrots, chips, The Fonz, cheese and Valentine’s Day.

Here’s an extract from my Vital Statistics on Monday 1st February when Kelly Brook took over the co-presenting role from Denise Van Outen.

JOHNNY: Today’s Vital Statistics are all about first days – in honour of our first day girl – Kelly!
STAT 1: Number of people in the UK starting their first day at work today?
(Last year in the UK 411,000 people started new jobs)

Percentage of those people who will turn up late for their first day at work?
(Of these 182 ‘Johnny-come-lately’s, 73% will blame the traffic and 20% will blame public transport.)

Percentage of new-starters who won’t turn up at all?
(In Britain’s fastest growing industry – computer contracting – programmers are in such high demand that 30% fail to turn up on the first day – because they’ve been poached by another company!)

So if you’re sat at home watching this and you’re supposed to be starting a new job this morning but have no intention of going in, phone or fax us and we’ll pass on the message!