Richard and Judy back with book show featuring Elton John autobiography and Sally Rooney's Normal People

One of the country’s most-loved couples return to Channel 4 with Richard & Judy: Keep Reading And Carry On. The presenters talk to Georgia Humphreys about marriage, their love of books, and filming in lockdown.
Richard and Judy have a new reading show on Channel 4. Photo:  Ian West/PARichard and Judy have a new reading show on Channel 4. Photo:  Ian West/PA
Richard and Judy have a new reading show on Channel 4. Photo: Ian West/PA

Richard Madeley and Judy Finnigan are used to being in each other’s pockets.

The husband-and-wife duo have worked together since they met in 1982 (they both worked for Granada Television at the time), including over a decade as the presenters of ITV hit This Morning.

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So, they’re the perfect people to advise couples on how to cope whilst stuck together in lockdown, during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Richard & Judy: Keep Reading and Carry On is filmed from the home of Judy Finniga and, Richard Madeley. Picture: PA Photo/Channel 4/Frankie Jim.Richard & Judy: Keep Reading and Carry On is filmed from the home of Judy Finniga and, Richard Madeley. Picture: PA Photo/Channel 4/Frankie Jim.
Richard & Judy: Keep Reading and Carry On is filmed from the home of Judy Finniga and, Richard Madeley. Picture: PA Photo/Channel 4/Frankie Jim.

“In all marriages, things can occasionally get tense, and you can get a bit snappy with each other – especially if you are together 24/7,” suggests Essex-born Madeley, 63, who married Mancunian Finnigan, 71, in 1986.

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The chatty pair’s latest project is a five-part Channel 4 series, Richard & Judy: Keep Reading And Carry On.

Filmed from the couple’s North London home, it will see them reveal their best reads, and interview – via video link – celebrity guests and writers, such as David Walliams, Jo Brand, Adam Kay, Clare Balding and Judge Rob Rinder.

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When we speak on the phone, it’s the day before they start filming – and just under a week until the first episode.

“It was completely out of the blue; Channel 4 only approached us about a week ago, to ask if we’d do it,” reveals Finnigan. “It will be very strange… I think there are two cameramen, they’re the only people in the house with us, obviously keeping huge social distancing at other ends of the room.”

Madeley adds: “It will certainly be the first time we’ve been talking to cameras with the cameraman in Hazmat clothing behind it!

“At the end of each day, they’re going to sterilise the room that we’ve been using as a studio – our back-living room. And when they leave, they’re going to do a real deep clean.”

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They did have concerns about hygiene and safety at first, he admits.

“But the production company that’s making the programme, they make [BBC documentary series] Hospital at the moment, and they’re actually filming in a coronavirus ward, so they’re fully up to speed with all the protocol we need to do. So, we’re not worried about that at all now.”

With so many of us staying home at the moment, it certainly seems the perfect time for a show like this (which Madeley is keen to emphasise is not a “strait-laced book programme”, instead calling it a “chat show with celebrities, writers, books at the heart of it”.)

Page-turners which will be featured include Sir Elton John’s autobiography; Me, Sally Rooney’s Normal People – which has recently been televised by the BBC – plus Lee Child’s latest Jack Reacher novel.

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“For anybody who doesn’t get the time to read very much, we’ve now got the best chance in the world,” notes Finnigan.

“It’s very relaxing, can completely remove you from any anxieties that you might be feeling, any worry about the future. If you just get wrapped up in a book, and wrapped up in someone else’s life, and a completely different kind of experience, it’s really, really good for the brain.”

Richard & Judy: Keep Reading And Carry On starts on Channel 4 today.

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