Watchdog began as a slot focussing on consumer affairs in the famed magazine/current affairs programme 'Nationwide' and was originally presented by Hugh Scully. It was fading in the late 1970's but was eventually revived by Lynn Faulds Wood at TV-am and became one of the most watched segments of the otherwise hapless Breakfast station's output. Lynn, like husband John Stapleton (also a TV-am reporter in the early 1980's) was utterly fearless and would badger, browbeat, and generally harass the bad guys until they gave up or on occasion resorted to violence. Whatever the outcome it was great television and undoubtedly helped dig TV-am out of its various ratings slumps.
Unfortunately Lynn, like many other talented presenters didn't survive Bruce Gyngell's ill judged and ultimately fatal new look for TV-am and left in 1985 to be followed by husband John less than a year later. Bad news for TV-am but good news for the BBC as the pair resurrected 'Watchdog' and got it in to a prime time slot. With the greater resources and professionalism of the BBC, Lynn with John took 'Watchdog' to new heights.
Sadly, both would leave the show in 1993 to pursue other interests, including starting a family, and Lynn's well publicised illnesses which she would overcome showing great courage. Both now can be found on GMTV, John as a main presenter with Lynn still plugging away at consumer affairs, and doing a better job than her replacements at Watchdog.
Anne Robinson took the helm and the whole show drifted into a kind of poor man's 'That's life.' In place of the solid investigative journalism the whole thing took on a campy air with Robinson and cronies seemingly being the main attraction and the consumer gripes a vehicle for them to display their dubious talents. By the new millennium Robinson was making far too much money on 'Weakest Link' to be bothered and so left to be replaced by radio jock Nicky Campbell and debutant newsreader Kate Sanderson.
Both bring a histrionic air to the show with Campbell attempting a poor imitation of the Jeremy Paxman interrogational approach, and Sanderson alternating between a giggly schoolgirl and a lip trembling drama queen depending on the tone of the particular item. There are other, better shows for consumer affairs these days, Rogue Traders being just one example. There are also better entertainment shows, but for the BBC, this fills a handy half hour after the news and current affairs, and can't hit the budget too much for them drop it. Until they do, I'll keep the remote handy...
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