Phil and Holly: is this the end for the nation’s favourite duo?

Speculation is rife that the relationship between “This Morning” darlings Philip Schofield and Holly Willoughby is on the rocks, with rumours of behind-the-scenes tension.

The “golden couple of daytime TV” are having a “relationship crisis”, said Anita Singh, arts and entertainment editor of The Telegraph. “This is the duo who have spent the past decade-and-a-half describing each other as ‘best friends’ in gushing social media posts,” said Singh, “who holidayed together each year; and whose giggly on-screen chemistry was for so long a hit with audiences, especially when they partied so hard after winning a National Television Award that they rolled up to work the following morning without having gone to bed.”

But now there are rumours that Schofield is “on his way out” of the show, “ending a 14-year partnership that once looked unbreakable”.

‘Sickly sweet and then sour’

Three recent events “probably explain the ‘strains’ in their relationship”, wrote Andrew Billen for The Times.

The first was when Schofield came out as gay in 2020. “There were suggestions”, said Billen, that the host’s announcement was “less voluntary than he was letting on” and viewers were “surely entitled to wonder whether he had been entirely upfront with them”.

Then, last year, the press accused Schofield and Willoughby of “leap-frogging the queue for the Queen’s coffin”, bringing Willoughby her first taste of bad publicity, and, last month, Schofield’s brother Tim was convicted of sexual offences against children. Willoughby was reportedly angry she had not been warned of it.

A report in The Sun that Schofield has hired a lawyer and a PR expert did little to dampen the gossip.

Now it is Schofield’s “This Morning” career that “is lying in state on a catafalque and the queue to view it currently runs to 10 miles”, said The Guardian’s Marina Hyde. Viewers of Monday’s programme claimed they could feel the tension, although “these daytime shows often have the feel of a hostage video”, she added.

“The nation’s favourite cocktail” is “on the rocks”, said Hyde. It was “sickly sweet at first and then quite sour”.

Just a rough patch?

Television hosts “sentenced to the morning shift face many challenges”, sympathised Billen in The Times, including “being on air at a time when few are at their most social”.

“Getting up in the dark is grim, going to bed early dull,” he wrote. “To additionally be expected to look good, conduct examinations of a dozen guests and feel warmth towards your co-presenter is to ask a lot.” So, “let us hope this is a hiccup, a rough patch in an otherwise blissful Phil and Holly union”.

To make things harder, “viewers have been tuning into the ITV chat show like armchair Poirots, scrutinising every sideways glance or rictus grin for the signs of poorly concealed fury”, said The Independent’s culture reporter Louis Chilton. Schofield has “dismissed the idea of any bad blood between them” and “both presenters have smiled through this week’s broadcasts as if the ongoing tabloid feeding frenzy was a forgotten dream”.

It is a “potentially messy situation” but they “lost their audience’s sympathy months ago” after they skipped the queue to see the Queen, he said. If the rumours are true, “This Morning” will need an overhaul. Given its “peach of a time slot, there’ll be no shortage of presenters queuing up to replace them”, said Chilton. “If only they can make sure to wait their turn.”