Entertainment & Arts

Robert Peston's ITV show debuts to mixed reviews

Robert Peston Image copyright ITV
Image caption Robert Peston's new haircut was a highlight of his debut Sunday morning show for some reviewers

Robert Peston's new ITV Sunday politics talk show has received mixed reviews following its debut this weekend.

The BBC's former economics editor launched Peston on Sunday with guests including Chancellor George Osborne and documentary maker Louis Theroux.

The Guardian's John Crace said the changes of tone "felt a bit amateur hour", and the Telegraph's Ben Lawrence felt Peston "looked uncomfortable".

However, the Times praised Peston's "sharp" questioning and chatty tone.

Peston left the BBC earlier this year to become ITV News's political editor.

But it has been his solo Sunday show that has been much-anticipated, with conjecture over how it would compete with rival the Andrew Marr Sunday morning politics show on BBC One.

Marr's show, which goes out an hour earlier, included interviews with Prince Harry and Justice Secretary Michael Gove.

Peston's other debut guests included Tony Blair's former aide Alastair Campbell and former employment minister Esther McVey.

Lawrence said the show "did not start well" and highlighted the relaxed set and style.

"Fans of daytime TV may have found much to admire in the pastel-shaded set, but it jarred horribly with the serious journalistic tone," he said.

'False bonhomie'

He noted the laid-back approach extended to Peston's own appearance, which included an open-necked shirt and "that lank haircut beloved of arts undergraduates".

Meanwhile, despite the lack of ceremony, Lawrence said Peston's discomfort was evident in the way he "whizzed through the show's topics while evoking the false bonhomie of a warm-up act".

The discomfort, he said, was contagious, with Campbell sporting "a face like a bulldog chewing a wasp" and McVey dropping her croissant.

Meanwhile, Crace also chose to be tongue-in-cheek about Peston's "much-hyped Nicky Clarke haircut" and the "CBeebies atmosphere" of the show.

But while Peston seemed near to "hyper-ventilating" with nerves ahead of the first commercial break, things were completely different on the show's return, he said.

"Suddenly the whole show began to - if not make sense - at least click into gear," he said.

Having been lulled into a sense of security before the break, Mr Osborne was not ready for Peston suddenly "going for the jugular" over the economy, said Crace.

"Osborne tried to rescue the situation but could only dig himself in deeper by resorting to platitudes.

"By the end he couldn't wait to get out of the Peston's playpen."

'Energy medal'

Also writing in the Guardian, Mark Lawson was won over by Peston's obvious nerves, which showed a "touching vulnerability that may have usefully undercut, for some viewers, the allegations of arrogance that have sometimes haunted the broadcaster".

He also focused on the differences to Marr's show, pointing out the contrast of Peston's audience-friendly touches to Marr's serious "button-holed" approach.

These touches included a "book club" and a digital screen, to display messages such as tweets, nicknamed "Screeny McScreenface".

In the end, Lawson was not totally satisfied or displeased by Peston's show and chose to ponder on its future.

"Although Peston and Marr are not going head-to-head, there must still be a question over whether Sunday morning can sustain two news overviews," he said.

"Despite showing promising signs, amid inevitable first-morning nerves, of being lively and likable, Peston on Sunday risks winning the energy medal but losing the ratings war to the tie-knotted, old technology Marr."

Quentin Letts in the Daily Mail seemed to agree.

'Big chair for the fuller figure'

Letts was scathing of the relaxed elements to Peston's show, including the "glasses of orange juice and a bowl of croissants which, as ever, went uneaten" and the set's "funky glass desk".

But overall he concluded: "On the day, Marr's editorial content outperformed Peston but Pesto himself was arguably the more fascinating compere."

Lucy Fisher, writing in the Times, said Peston's informal approach "put Mr Osborne at ease, making for a more interesting insight into the relaxed politician's personality than is usually achieved".

Nonetheless, Peston "spearheaded a sharp line of questioning in his interview with the chancellor putting paid to critics who worried that the media operator might appear too much of an SW1 insider".

And turning away from the professional commentators, the Radio Times asked the audience what it had thought of the show.

Recalling Peston had previously told the listings magazine he "wanted to interview politicians in a new, revealing way", it asked readers on Monday: "Did he fail, or do exactly what he set out to do?"

Hannah Skeggs was happy, tweeting: "Like Peston on Sunday format. Live feedback combined with calm interview style = cup of tea Sunday viewing."

Tony Colville agreed but found it hard to take the show entirely seriously: "Peston is a great way to wake up on a Sunday with a hangover. Awkward George interview, heckling quietly from the back."

Matthew McEvoy went further, joking: "Disappointed that Peston on Sunday is a political show. I was looking forward to seeing some Italian cooking."

Meanwhile, deputy Labour leader Tom Watson seemed impressed and angling to be invited on as a guest.

"Like the studio look of Peston on Sunday, particularly the big chair for the fuller figure."

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