Feature

"You keep your hands off those!" Extensive and comprehensive analysis on Phillip Schofield's greatest TV moment

Ali Gray

24th August 2018

In which I spend several thousand words on the most excruciating 18 seconds of Phillip Schofield's professional career.

Phillip Schofield is a man who has been presenting television programmes for as long as you have been alive. Even when he's not on This Morning, racking up monster screen time every day, you get the feeling he's off somewhere recording something else: a skit for an ITV prank show with Ant & Dec; a scripted promo for a Help For Heroes charity appeal; a TV advert where he's mugged off by a cocky sales clerk in an Oak Furniture Warehouse; a 'Good luck with your exams' video to his eldest niece; an Instagram story celebrating his granola breakfast; a to-camera piece apologising that he couldn't make it to the TV Quick Awards to collect his award for Best Daytime Show because he's filming a Bear Grylls special in Wales; a workplace safety video where he passionately and determinedly reminds you to always bend your knees. If he's not on camera, he dies. Shrivels into a husk and dissolves into dust like a victim of Thanos. Phillip Schofield is the shark from Jaws crossed with Derek Zoolander. He's lived his whole life through a lens, like Robbie Williams, or The Truman Show if Truman had presented the Smash Hits Poll Winners Party a record four times.

A man cannot be this constantly camera-ready without confidence. Chutzpah. Apologies for bringing bollocks into this, but: cojones. Philip Schofield has huge, swinging balls, testes so immense they've left two permanent indents on the This Morning sofa; every day, Schofe clangs his bad boys down until they've nestled into their grooves, ready to power his chat. A man with the experience of Schofield perhaps may develop over-confidence: the god-given ability to freestyle, riff, go off script and make beautiful daytime television jazz. The feeling that says, Don't worry, I'll take it from here. It's okay this isn't on my autocue, thinks Phillip Schofield, I know better than the autocue: I'm Phillip bloody Schofield.

This leads us here, to perhaps Phillip bloody Schofield's finest TV moment. Better than his entire stint on TV's Going Live, opposite a gopher puppet. Better than his brutal assault at the hands of Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine. Better even than the time he angrily waved a piece of paper at David Cameron and unwittingly revealed the names of several alleged Tory nonces live on TV.

Phillip Schofield actually became Alan Partridge for one perfect two-second aside.


This tweet went viral this week, but the episode of This Morning it's taken from actually aired in March, 2015. Regardless, I must have watched this 18-second video maybe 40 or 50 times this week. If I could hook it to my veins I would, for it gives me life. Everything about it is perfect. Everything. It is as if it was born from the Creator himself. Hang on, I just need to watch it a few more times.

It is the finest example of an Accidental Partridge I've ever witnessed. Middle-aged TV presenters who are prone to going off-script are the Accidental Partridge type. Madely. Inverdale. Bacon. Wright, Matthew. Wright, Steve. Clarkson, Hammond, May: the trifecta. That Dan Walker guy who doesn't believe in dinosaurs who sometimes does the BBC's FA Cup coverage. Basically any man who has ever shagged someone 20 years their junior because of being quite good at being on telly. The formula goes: Mid-life crisis + powerful broadcasting equipment + massive testicles = Accidental Partridge.

We can never truly understand why Schofield did what he did, but studying his form might help us understand future accidents, Maybe one day we'll be able to prevent John Inverdale from patronising a female tennis player before it happens. We could develop powerful pre-cognitive technology to figure out which geographical area Jeremy Clarkson will insult before he even does it.

Let's try and pin-point exactly why Phillip Schofield's off-the-cuff diss is the most perfect Accidental Partridge ever.
00:00 - The chyron


One does not simply wander into an Accidental Partridge: they require a set-up of sorts - a trap in which to lure the over-confident purveyor of chat. Daytime television is one big chat trap. Imagine how diluted the topics of conversation have to get to be spread across an entire year of television. Homeopathic. You've got hundreds and hundreds of hours of television to fill, and you've already booked Ainsley Harriot, twice. When there are no celebs available and no current affairs to pretend to discuss, daytime TV bookers will look to the great unwashed for entertainment. Britain's biggest [blank]s. Britain's [blank]est criminals. Scum, in other words. Sub-human scum.

Enter Kim Farry, who "shoplifts to fund her lavish lifestyle". I have no idea how someone like this ends up on TV. The pitch must be irresistable: come and sit on our sofa and confess your sins so Phillip Schofield and Amanda Holden can frown at you and absolve you of your petty, twatty crimes. It's the same mindset you seen in people who are too afraid to let a doctor see their genital warts, but are more than happy to let Dr Christian and the Embarrassing Bodies camera crew and 5.3 million viewers look directly down their jap's eye. Mind-boggling.

Maybe they think it'll be the kick up the arse they finally need to rid them of their bad habit. If everyone knows about their criminal lifestyle then it becomes too big to put back in the box. It's a cry for help. The first step on the road to recovery. The path towards understanding. I'm not a bad person. I just need help. Help me, Phillip Schofield. Help me.

No. You are


I mean, it's not even accurate. I don't know many shoplifters personally - although I did have a racket going for a solid year back in my early teens, whereby I'd nick a Push Pop and a pack of Fruit Gums from my local Martin's Newsagents every day on the way home from school: I digress, this isn't about me - but surely Britain's 'Most Shameless' shoplifter wouldn't be confessing her crimes on national television? That shows quite a high degree of actual, tangible shame.

There are shoplifters out there, I imagine, I re-iterate, I don't hang with that crowd any more, that are quite happy to preserve their anonymity and continue going out on the rob, gaily snatching confectionary, or other items I suspect, without a care in the world, certainly with no intention of ever sharing details of their kleptomaniacal tendencies with, say, Eamonn Holmes.

00:01 - Phillip Schofield's closing heartfelt wish for the future


One of the great things about this video is that it starts off perfectly innocuously, with Schofield doing his 'concerned everyman' act: the slight lean forward, the positive twang in his voice, the faint hint of patronisation, the hands, non-threateningly placed on the lap. It's all tremendously professional: you're watching a master of his craft at work.

"
"
"I hope, I hope that someone's watching who decides that maybe they'll take a risk with you and give you that chance that you need..."
All those words, but he might as well have said "There there. It's going to be okay." A Schofield sofa closer gives one hope for the future; says that even the most damaged of us are not beyond help; that you too, sinner, can be saved, and his gentle voice and pitying eyebrows are the first steps towards repentence. Go forth now and be free.

Britain's Most Shameless Shoplifter visibly relaxes. She shifts in her chair, loosening the tension in her back she didn't even know she was carrying. The interview is over. It's over! You did it! And it wasn't even that bad! The important thing is, you overcame your fears, and confessed to your less-than desirable lifestyle, and got through it unscathed. This, surely, will make you a better person. You actually feel... lighter? Is that possible? If you can get through an interview with Phillip Schofield without being pilloried and embarrassed, you can do anything. Anything.

"Thanks, Kim. Thank you very much."

The interview is over. And relax.

It's funny, obviously, because we know where this is going.
00:09 - The Accidental Partridge proper


Who knows where it comes from. Deep from within that beautiful cavernous silver skull of his. The next section of the show is boring: a segment on kitchen gadgets. That sort of stuff plays well with housewives but is a snooze for all other demographics. This morning's show has clearly peaked with the shameless shoplifter, who didn't seem nearly shameless enough for Phillip Schofield's liking.

Hang on. Hang on a minute.

If only there was some way Phillip Schofield could combine the two thoughts in his head. It's called a 'link', isn't it? What better link could there possible be?

"
"
Don't miss our guide to some of the weird and wonderful kitchen gadgets-
Time seems to stop.

Fuck it. He's going all in on the shoplifter. This is definitely an excellent idea. Light-hearted but fun. The stuff TV Quick awards are made of. Holly Willoughby would laugh at it. Holly always laughs at the things he says. He has a proven track record in ad-libbing and an awards section on his Wikipedia page that guarantees this off-the-cuff remark will be a winner. Even if they wanted to, producers couldn't stop him. They've been holding him back. The people deserve Phillip Schofield: Uncut. He's performing a public service if anything. He's basically up there with firemen.

It's go for launch. Standby.

(A quick pivot towards the shoplifter, and a finger point for good measure)

"
"
-You keep your hands off those...
Brilliant. Absolutely nailed it. "Hi, I'm Phillip Schofield, sorry I can't be there this evening to accept the award for Services To Banter, because I'm living on a higher fucking plane from the rest of you."

As a joke, it's solid. Maybe a 6 out of 10 for delivery, a 4 for content but it's a strong technique. It's the kind of joke that'd you'd love to be able to make, if only you were Phillip Schofield. Like how when you're sat talking to someone and there is only one subject matter you can think of on the table - maybe it's a gigantic mole on their forehead, or the fact they once killed a man, or they are boss eyed - and you know that you can never, ever say anything about it for obvious reasons, but your brain still comes up with a gag anyway, for a private audience of one, and you chuckle internally without giving anything away, quietly mentally dispensing the brilliant joke you just made but can never tell anyone.

Phillip Schofield did that, he just said it out loud. To every single person in the country.
00:16 - The reaction shot


There was a way that Britain's Most Shameless Shoplifter could have taken the sting out a diss like that: smile, chuckle or make any sign of levity. Laugh, and then everyone's just having one big funny joke together. Schofield gets off scot-free and we all learn a little something about weird and wonderful kitchen gadgets. A little smile would have gone a long way. Ha ha! I am indeed a scamp who enjoys jokes at my expense! Lucky I'm Britain's Most Shameless Shoplifter! We're just havin' a LAUGH, aren't we?

We should be grateful that Britain's Most Shameless Shoplifter still had a little more shame left in the tank. The camera cuts to the guest, stony-faced, still processing the gag, deliberating over its contents. She'll be sat there for a while. She's probably still there. Mugged off for all eternity. Turned to granite by a Phil Schofield slam. Merked into rigor mortis.

Ironically, she'll probably never thieve again; not once more will she pull the old 'Can I exchange this for store credit, I didn't get a receipt' scam, for the fear that someone will remember her, notice her, recall her as that gargoyle that was turned to solid rock at the altar of chat. Forever haunted by the silver-haired spectre of Phillip Schofield, clanking his chains, floating ethereally above the John Lewis returns desk.

I cannot over-emphasise how quick and perfect the cut is here. Imagine the glee in the control room. The director instinctively asks to go back to Camera 2: GET BACK ON HER. The vision mixer complies instantly, without even thinking. You'll notice that we cut back to the shoplifter before Schofield has even finished composing his diss. This was a real-time, ultra-high pressure, exorbitant-salary-justifying money shot. It's so beautiful I want to cry. You can't teach that kind of flex: the instinct to just know that magic is happening, and that you need to get the best coverage possible. Majestic.

Let's just drink it in one more time.


Not even a hint of having any of it.

Bonus point: the slight snigger from whichever person filmed the video on their phone, soundtracking the moment Britain's Most Shameless Shoplifter was assassinated live on TV, like if the Zapruder footage had canned laughter on it, then cut away to the Curb Your Enthusiasm theme tune.

00:17 - Phil's dawning realisation


Make no mistake: this is the look of a man who knows he's absolutely fucked it.

You can see the ego draining from him like an open wound. The flecks of panic in his now-arched eyebrow scream 'rescue me'. In seconds, Phillip Schofield's world has come crashing down upon him. Bury me with Gordon the Gopher, the look seems to say. Bury me when I was at my happiest.

The forward lean, before meant to be welcoming and warm, now looks shifty as fuck, like he's trying to bolt from the scene of a crime. The hands on the lap are like buckets collecting sweat, perspiration staining his perfectly pressed chinos. His life, flashing before his eyes. Flashbacks of Carter, running amok on the stage: those young punks got the better of you, Phil, everyone knew it then and everyone knows it now. If Phillip Schofield's hair wasn't already white, this would have turned it.


The expression, now a flesh approximation of the :/ emoji. No real human face has ever manifested the :/ emoji so perfectly until this moment. The look should be familiar to any Dad who has ever realised they've driven past their turning on the motorway just too late: there goes the right thing to do, there, right behind me, gone now, getting further and further away, almost a distant memory now, but you can't let the family know, they can't know you've absolutely fucked it. The only thing missing is the comedy 'gulp' sound, which you can add yourself.

Amanda Holden sits next to him, mute as she was for the whole ordeal, smiling benevolently. Schofield's TV trophy wife: his Melania. Complicit, yes, but kept at an arm's length from the crime. No jury would convict her. She'll be welcomed back into the public's heart over time. You're going down for this, she smiles, but you're not taking me with you. I'll survive: I'm Amanda bloody Holden.


00:18 - The final look to camera


As if you needed further proof that this clip is one of the funniest things ever recorded to the medium of video, I give you: the final look flung to camera by Britain's Most Shameless Shoplifter, still reeling like she's been rope-a-doped by daytime television's Muhammad Ali.

Again, the camera work is exquisite. We cut to a wide shot, as if to exemplify how small Schofield feels, how inconsequential his career to date now feels. The distance between the hosts and the guest seems huge now, a chasm, a universe. The set dressing is atrocious: something like an unholy cross between the Overlook Hotel, a branch of IKEA and a post-ironic Shoreditch craft beer factory. Lime green cushions clash with the blushed red faces of all involved, as Schofield wipes the guilt off his hands, waiting, frantic, for his producer to throw him the look that says We could get sued for this, Phil: sued by Britain's Most Shameless Shoplifter.

And then, just when you think the whole wonderful comedy sketch is over, Kim Farry, Britain's Most Shameless Shoplifter, turns to face the camera - a camera which, I'm pretty sure she had no idea was the one currently broadcasting - and offers a look of bemused despair. It's fucking heartbreaking and hilarious at once. The comic timing is devastating.

The look says everything. It says: Can he do that? It says: Who's actually in charge here? It says: Is it over yet? It says: Is this what going viral feels like? It says: Just kill me, here, now, kill me dead, for what is even left.

At that moment, Britain's Most Shameless Shoplifter is all of us, bobbing around on sea of uncertainty, looking this way and that for an explanation, knowing full well there's no answer forthcoming, no life-raft to cling to. The hopelessness is palpable. Profound, even. Phillip Schofield just pulled her pants down on live television, and we're still talking about it three years later.

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