If you like to linger at the magazine section in Tesco, you may have spotted a curious alternate celebrity reality in which the stars of ITV daytime inhabit a cruel netherworld of misery and pain, destined to lurch from crisis to crisis for all eternity.
These dramas all unfold on the pages of the “traditional” women’s weeklies, which have long since discarded knitting patterns and soap star covers in favour of often extremely tenuous tales of utter torment, with lurid headlines worked up from the most flimsy of interview lines.
AND IT IS ALL ABSOLUTELY AMAZING.
This is a world where a headline on a story about former This Morning host Judy Finnigan that reads “Judy told: I’M LEAVING YOU” could mean anything from the total collapse of her marriage, to husband Richard Madeley announcing that he is “leaving her” for 10 minutes while he pops to the shops for another bottle of wine.
The inventiveness of the editors of Bella, Best, Woman and Woman’s Own is hugely impressive, and I am in awe of their ability to create compelling, gripping coverlines each week from perhaps three interesting words in a dull interview or an out-of-context Loose Women soundbite.
These headlines are always accompanied by a grainy, blown up paparazzi pic or screen grab of the story’s subject looking either demented, drunk, dying or, if they get very lucky, all three at once.
I do wonder if the readers of these magazines ever feel a bit cheated when they turn to the features inside and find that they’re rather less earth-shattering than the covers might have suggested. But they’ve all tried to abandon this approach for more traditional cover shots and less lurid tales, and they’ve all gone back to the tried and tested shots of poor Judy looking like she’s been dragged through a hedge backwards, then forwards, then backwards again, so there must be some method to the madness.
And it is utter, glorious madness. Here are some of my favourites from the last year.
CAROL’S NEW START
Well they said it wouldn’t last when Loose Women’s Carol McGiffin got married to the much younger Mark Cassidy, and it looks like they were right. He may have stayed loyal throughout her cancer ordeal, but this Bella front page seems to suggest that she’s now moving on with her life – alone.
Not quite! Turn to page 8 and you’ll find that Carol and Mark are still very much together, and settling into their new, rented flat, having sold Carol’s old place to get away from all the bad memories it now holds. The champagne they drunk was to say goodbye to the old gaff. And the reason they’re renting and not buying is that they’ve looked at a few new places but can’t pick as they “want different things” from a new house. Phew!
END OF AN ERA: THEIR LAST CHRISTMAS TOGETHER
Say it ain’t so? Our beloved Richard and Judy can’t really be calling it quits after all these years, can they? Readers of this issue of Bella would certainly think so.
But don’t worry! The “end of an era” they’re talking about is the era of their daughter, Chloe, still living in the family home, meaning it will be the “last Christmas together” for the three of them. Well thank goodness we’ve cleared that up.
Whenever I see This Morning, it looks like Holly Willoughby and Phillip Schofield are having the time of their lives, always happy and thrilled to be working together. So could they really be concealing a bitter, simmering mutual hatred from unsuspecting viewers? These pictures would certainly seem to suggest so.
It’s OK, everyone, there’s been a terrible misunderstanding! Phil and Holly aren’t talking about each other at all, they’re BOTH moaning about the diva behaviour of actress Jennifer Laurence, who had a “showdown” with a South American TV reporter at the Golden Globes. But you can see how the confusion might have occurred.
RUTH BLASTS: ‘HE DOESN’T CARE!”
Oh, that Eamonn Holmes! I’ve always had him down as an unfeeling brute, and this Woman’s Own story just proves it once and for all. I can only imagine what horrendous cruelty he’s been inflicting on long-suffering Ruth Langsford.
Oh, wait, hold on! I’ve just read the interview and it turns out that, despite their “riotous on-screen bickering” Ruth and Eamonn get on famously. In fact, Eamonn is so secure in the relationship that “he doesn’t care” when other men try to flirt with Ruth, as she herself is not flirtatious at all. Panic over!
DON’T LEAVE ME
Now we’re finally getting to the nitty-gritty! Looks like Jane McDonald’s financé has finally had his fill of her and has packed his bags. Whatever will poor Jane do now?
Well nothing at all, actually. It turns out that SHE’S the one who went off to Blackpool to star in Cats for a few months. And her thoughtful fiancé visits as often as he can to support her. “Ed came to see me the other day and I was like, ‘Don’t leave me’!” she wailed. Aww, bless!
WHAT’S HAPPENED TO JUDY?
Judy may have made it though the festive season with her marriage intact but she’s not out of the woods yet. According to Best magazine, she hasn’t been seen since the tinsel came down. She’s MISSING! This is serious stuff. I can’t believe I didn’t see all the coverage of major TV star Judy Finnigan going missing on the national news, and had to catch up in Best magazine a month later.
A quick skim through the story reveals that Judy is not in fact “missing” at all, she’s just not been seen (except when she has been, such as a trip to the pub three weeks ago). Judy vanishing off the face of the earth does seem a bit unlikely, especially as there seems be a photographer hiding in the hedge opposite her house 24-7, waiting to snap her unawares every time she so much as puts the bins out.
Oh, Fiona Phillips! What on earth can you have done to warrant a headline like this? Were you dancing on tables at 3am? Discovered in a clandestine nightclub clinch with an oiled-up go-go boy? Spotted ringing a next-door neighbour’s doorbell in the dead of night then running away? The mind boggles!
Oh what a surprise, it was none of those things, you just had a glass of wine too many and had to “beg for forgiveness” after missing a friend’s party the following night. I think I prefer my version.
WELL! Fiona may not have had to a drunken fling, but Fern Britton has been caught bang to rights. She’s even confessed! I’m shocked, I don’t mind admitting – I thought her marriage to This Morning chef Phil Vickery was one of the strongest in showbiz.
Guys, GUYS, you’re not going to believe this but when you actually read this “breaking news”, it turns out she’s talking about an affair that happened in the 1990s when she was married to someone else altogether. Well, now I just don’t know what to think.
OUR ‘MAKE-OR-BREAK HOLIDAY”
After all Richard and Judy have been though (or all they’ve not been through, I’m not really sure any more), a lovely trip sounds like just the ticket! I’m still worried for them though – a “make-or-break holiday” sounds quite dramatic. I’m really rooting for this pair now, so I hope it all goes well.
I’m happy to report that this make-or-break holiday DID go well – WHEN THEY WENT ON IT IN 1984. So well, in fact, that they subsequently got married and had two more children. You can expect the lowdown on all that in the 5th February 2036 issue of Woman’s Own.
HOLLY’S PLAYING WITH FIRE
Willoughby again, and this time she’s definitely up to no good. What will we find when we delve between the covers? A sleazy affair? A long-term drug addiction? Rampant kleptomania? A secret second family in Hartlepool?
I’ve looked and looked and looked and this headline is so tenuous that I’m still not sure what it refers to. My best guess is that they think going out three times in one week is a bit much. Apparently it it just physically impossible to get to the ITV studios for 8.30am without suffering a complete physical, emotional and marital collapse if you’ve been to the cinema or had a few glasses of rosé the night before. As we saw the other week, Holly is quite capable of drinking and dancing until dawn then presenting This Morning half-cut in the previous night’s clothes, so I say let her play with fire. Let her eat fire, if that’s what she fancies!
WE DON’T WANT TO LOSE HER!
Judy’s looking quite well here, unlike most of the pictures of her these magazine delight in printing. But if this headline is to be taken at face value, her cheerful, relaxed smile belies the tragic truth – she’s dying! Richard, as you can imagine, is terrified at the thought of losing his beloved.
Nope, it’s just about Chloe moving out again. Sorry if I worried you.
- If you think these magazines look great, and they really are, why not slip one in your trolley next time you’re doing the weekly shop? I work in the magazine industry and I’m not joking when I say that every single sale counts. You’ll be keeping people like me off the streets of an afternoon, if nothing else.