Anyone concerned about the comparative blandness of breakfast television need look no further than the furniture. The sofa has a lot to answer for.
Sitting beside someone on a sofa induces a feeling of togetherness. Almost a case of “we are on the same side”. With that mindset in place, it is more difficult to conduct a demanding or confrontational interview. For a start, there is the basic body language, neither interviewer nor interviewee sitting square on the seat but each twisting to face the other and thereby subconsciously accommodating the other.
Sitting authoritatively on a sofa is not easy. Too often a relaxed, sofa-induced posture can lead to any excess body weight being pushed upwards into the chest, neck and jowls. Many politicians now realise that years of free lunches and late-night bar visits can only be disguised by leaning forward urgently on the sofa, some even apparently at risk of toppling forwards.
Contrast this with the web cam view of John Humphrys in action on the Today programme. The body is inclined forward, directly towards the interviewee. Eye contact is head-on and so is the questioning. On his desk, ready to hand, are his weapons, the background notes necessary to nail the victim – sorry, interviewee.
If you have any doubt about the bromide effect of the breakfast TV sofa, just imagine John H or Jeremy Paxman conducting their interviews from an Ikea three-seater.