Dear Ben, I feel as if I can call you Ben, rather than Mr Shephard, because I feel as if I know you quite well. I see you at least three times a day; I often see more of you than I do my own husband. Neither me or my husband are wholly comfortable with this arrangement but we don’t see a way out of it.
When you bounced onto our screens in 1998 presenting The Bigger Breakfast, I was a mere slip of a girl still at school and, to be honest, not aware of your work (being at school is an inconvenience if you’re a fan of breakfast television). However, over the years you’ve taken up residence on my ‘list of presenters I quite like to watch’ list. You’re in good company; Dermot is on there, Philip Schofield, James Corden…you get the picture; funny, non offensive, a little bit cheeky. I quite like Ninja Warrior, I like when you’re on This Morning but three hours a day, more if Good Morning Britain is on, is too much, Ben: this has to end. I’d very much like to break up with you.
Now, I know you have children (your Wikipedia page suggests that you have two boys, but we all know how accurate Wiki is so you could have seven sons and sixteen daughters) so I know you will understand the slight
obsessions fascinations that children will have from time to time. My eldest was delightfully obsessed with Toy Story; he would want the DVD on all the time, he wanted the toys, the bed covers, the stickers…and we indulged him because we love Disney and it’s normal that kids find delight and familiarity in these little obsessions. After a few months he moved onto Monsters Inc then Wreck it Ralph and currently he quite likes the Lego Movie.
Honestly, we try to limit their screen time. Both of our boys go swimming, they’re out in the garden in all weathers, we’ve got buckets of Lego and building bricks, a library full of books and more crayons than Crayola. Our eldest is happy to be entertained in other ways most of the time but the youngest is a different beast.
This is where we have our problem, Ben. Our youngest is 2 1/2 and for the past year he has been obsessed with you. Obsessed. He calls you ‘Daddy Tipping Point’ (he also calls Holly Willoughby ‘Mummy Honey’ but that’s a whole different letter) and here in lies the issue.
You see it’s not just you he’s taken a shine too, it’s that bloody programme you present: Tipping Point.
Now, don’t for one minute think that I don’t like Tipping Point, I do, I mean, who doesn’t? A game show based on 2p slot machines? Genius! I like that it’s been made more interesting with the mystery and double counters and of course, the £10,000 jackpot counter. It’s a nice, easy watching tea time show. Except it’s not. It’s a tense, energy fuelled rollercoaster of emotions and to be honest, I’m not sure I can take it any longer.
Let me rewind; my mum and dad mind the kids while we’re at work and After a long day my dad just wants to relax with a brew and watch an hour of television, unfortunately this time coincides with when my youngest, Little Panda, seems to have injected baby speed and is at his most energetic. So the obvious thing to do is to make that hour of unwinding time as exciting as possible for Little Panda so he’ll sit relatively still and allow grandad to finish his brew in a heavily negotiated and compromised state of peace. This was the start of the obsession. I mean, it’s nice that they have this time together but Little Panda has taken this to a whole new level.
When he wakes up his first words are ‘Tipping Point’ when he drifts off to sleep at night he mutters ‘Tipping Point’ to himself, anything that looks like a shelf that things could possibly fall off is a Tipping Point, coins are Tipping Points…the list goes on, Ben, on and on and bloody on. He says the words ‘Tipping Point’ about thirty billion times a day. He wants to watch it, we bought the game for our eldest for Christmas which Little Panda has decided is now ‘his’ and he plays with it constantly (at least we’re getting our money’s worth; £14.99 well spent I feel) he wants to play the game on my phone, he wants to watch it on YouTube, he even found a video of you behind the scenes of the show and has watched that about twenty five gajillion times too. When he gets hold of my phone I end up with three hundred photos of either the television (obviously only when Tipping Point is on) or his Tipping Point game. Do you see my problem, Ben?
We have tried everything from a total Tipping Point ban (tears, tantrums and an increase in the number of times he said ‘watch Tipping Point’ by a good 3000%) to limiting him to just the 4pm episode (also tears and also a steady increase in ‘when Tipping Point time?’) and then finally just letting him watch as much as he wants (the easier option but leads to the additional problem of Tipping Point overload. For us, that is, not him.) I just don’t see a way out. You either have to make Little Panda your official Tipping Point mascot or you have to stop making the show. It’s been a year now, Ben, enough is enough. My husband wants to be the only one called ‘daddy’ in our house, he doesn’t want to share the title with you any more.
Ben, we like you, we really, really do but we have end it. Your presence in our house is unhealthy and I really think we should quit while we’re ahead; before I start to hate those twinkly eyes, before the sound of your voice starts to grate on me and before I want to extract my own eyeballs at the sight of you and your jackpot counter. What I’m trying to say is, I don’t want to put you on my other list; you know, the one with Piers Morgan and Simon Amstell on it. No one wants to be on that list.
Help us, Ben, help us to cure this obsession. We’re going on holiday to Tenby in May and there is an arcade…with 2p machines. I fear we’re only £2.50 away from creating a gambling addict.