Phil was eliminated from Dancing On Ice after a tense skate-off with Ulrika Jonsson, losing out in a unanimous 5-0 verdict from the judges.
We speak to Phil to get his thoughts on the elimination, the competition between the remaining contestants and his glory days as newsreader on The Big Breakfast. Oh, and his reaction to judge Jason Gardiner's harsh words...
So how does it feel to be out?
"I'm fine. It's funny, people have been really quite solicitous, they ring you and say 'how are you, how are you?' like I've been in a war or something. I feel quite good, it's actually quite a relief, I think, to get your life back. Part of you is disappointed at being knocked out, and so early in the competition. Nobody wanted to be out first, the biggest dread is over - I didn't get knocked out first and I didn't fall on my arse! I'm already ahead of the game. Now it's one of those things where you look at it and say 'been there, did it, they said thanks but no thanks' and you say 'okay, fair enough'."
How would you judge your own performance on the night?
"Hard for me to say because I haven't watched it, I feel real dread of actually watching myself again, because it's one of those things... when you first work in radio and you hear your voice it's a real shock, you move into telly, you see yourself, it's a bit of a shock. Seeing myself move was a complete revelation because I just had no idea that that's the way I move. I find watching it back traumatic, so the only times I've seen it while the show has been on is while everyone else was seeing it, during the playback on the night, and you kind of look at it and think 'oh, is that what I look like?' That's very unfortunate."
Did you know you were going when it came down to you and Ulrika? What goes through your head as you prepare for the skate-off?
"This week was less traumatic than last week. The first week in rehearsals...every rehearsal, even though you know it's a rehearsal - when they picked two out at random, nobody wants to be in that last three, you don't want to be there, you just don't. We were bottom of the board, I had pretty much resigned myself to being in the skateoff, so it was no great surprise. By that time, you get a chance to do it again and you do your best, and that's alright. There's a part of me that says 'we get to do it again, let's see how well we can do it.'"
It's a bit of a shame, because almost every one of the judges said you were the most improved contestant, week-on-week. Bitter sweet to go on good comments?
"No, I'm glad that I was getting better, but the fact is that the others were getting better faster than I was, and that's just the way it is!"
Why did you agree to do the show?
"It was learning to skate... first, they said, you'll lose a load of weight. Gaynor [Faye, last year's winner], went down three dress sizes last year, and I thought 'I could do with losing a bit', plus it's one of those things where - I'm in my early forties, I'm forty two, and the stuff you'll do now is not that new, it's what you already know with a bit of a twist. This was so completely off my radar that I thought it would be interesting to be in a situation that I probably haven't experienced since I was a child or in my early twenties - having to learn something from scratch, knowing I'm not stupid but knowing things...thinking 'I can't do that', but 'oh, I did it!' Learniing something from the ground up."
How well did you get on with your partner?
"We got on fine, I think the clashing that you see is the clashing of people who are good at what they do wanting to master a new skill. It's more frustration with themselves at not giving what we feel is a good enough account of yourself, because it is something that is so completely alien to you. That's the frustration, lashing out. Natalia and I got on really well. She was quite strict with me, and her big thing was form, so even while I was learning to put one foot in front of another, she was watching that and watching the other stuff that goes on with my body, with my posture, with my arms, with my shoulders. So there's a hell of a lot to actually think about when you're learning to skate, because it's not just the legs, it's the whole body, it's the look, it's everything that gets involved. Jason made a comment on the second show about my upper body, he said 'it moves around a lot'. I was shocked, it does move around a lot! It's like a tree in a forest during a gale, just gently swaying. I had no idea that that's how I actually am. So there was a lot for both of us to think about and there's a lot for Natalia to teach me and keep her eye on. So I thought - given what she had to work with, she did quite a good job!"
Did you find there was a problem with the height difference between you and Natalia?
"I don't know about that, because height is a funny thing. If you're doing it well, you're working to your advantage because it means you hold lines better. One of our required elements in the second programme was a spiral, and if you're holding the leg steady and straight and still it looks much better, but if you are wobbling, it's magnified, so there are pluses and minuses, the good things are magnified - but the bad things are magnified. It's awful."
Do you have anything to say back to Jason? He was quite harsh after both performances...
"I have nothing to say!"
How about his comments about your facial expressions? I think his exact line was that your mouth movements were "quite unsightly"....
"It's one of those things. You have to look at the facts of what he said. For me, if the worst thing he has to say about me is that I had a bit of a weird expression, I kind of think 'so what', you know? In the second programme he talks about me swaying my upper body. He's quite right. As far as the way he said it - we all know that in essence he's trying to be Simon Cowell, and it must be quite a nightmare trying to be someone else. Simon Cowell is Simon Cowell, and if you're trying to be Simon Cowell - well, good luck to you! Nobody wants to be the guy who has to be someone else."
I think you're right, he clearly just wants to be the baddie judge that everyone boos - it's a good role to play!
"The baddies in the films are always the core roles. In something like this, if that's the role you choose, I think you have to be original. We watch him and we think 'you're trying to be Simon Cowell'. That's no good - you don't want to be anybody else, you want to be the first, the original, yourself."
Who do you tip to win?
"I think it's anyone's game. Clare has clearly started in the lead, but when you look at the leaps and bounds - Duncan, that first dance was phenomenal, when you look at Lee and Kieran...the lifts they were pulling off, they're lifts you expect the professionals to pull off. It's anyone's game. Clare clearly started out as the leader, but Lisa also has to be in there. The time that Lisa spent on the ice is time well spent, because she can do the footwork, do the dancing, she can do the intricacy, but between those four, you've got people who are going to continue to improve at a phenomenal rate."
The British public do like a person with a journey...
"I think we do, don't we, we like people who have perhaps started off a bit crap and then got better. Most of us are in that situation, when you look at the films, falling down, but you pick yourself up off the ice and then you find yourself moving without falling, and I think most of us...I can't think of anyone who hasn't been through that journey."
Who do you think is the most competitive?
"I think we're all competitive. I think what was nice about it was that we were all potentially competing in there with ourselves...what was interesting was [that] the competitive element was there, but it was hugely collegiate, hugely supportive. Everybody wanted everyone to do well. You wanted yourself to be the best, but that's natural - you're there because you wanted to be the best, but it was hugely supportive and I would say everyone's competitive, because you just want to give of your best."
Who do you reckon is next out?
"The interesting thing is that it's not just the judges, it's the public as well. The public will decide."
Just to go slightly off topic for a minute. You were part of the 'dream team' on The Big Breakfast a few years ago, albeit confined to a small box in the living room. How do you look back on those days now?
"It was a great team. There's no getting away from the fact that that was one of the best things I have ever done. It was great, they were a great team to work with. It's very sweet of you to call it the dream team - me, Johnny, Denise - and then Liza. No, that was great, I look back on that with great fondness, and not only the on air stuff, but because most of the time I wasn't at the house, I was at ITN. I worked with a bunch of guys and girls at ITN and it was just such a joy to come to work - it was like being back in the sixth form again, only you're a bit older and you all have money. So it was a laugh while we were putting the bulletins together, then we'd go on air and we'd do the banter with Johnny and Denise and Lisa. Then we'd finish that three minutes and come off air, prepare the next bulletin, have a bit of breakfast... it was like being back in the sixth form. It was fantastic."
Do you still keep in touch with Johnny or anyone else from the show?
"I kept more in touch with the ITN crowd, yeah. I've spoken to and met up with Johnny, Denise and LIsa from time to time, but I was based at ITN."
How do you find being interviewed? Is it weird, as a newsreader, having the situatiion turned on your head?
"Yeah, I don't like it - really, I have to force myself to do it. It's part of the job, as it were, but I would much rather be asking the questions. It's a weird thing. I would much rather be invisible."
So what are the plans for the future?
"I've never had a plan - well, actually, I have, but I haven't had a plan for about ten years. My plan was to get out of radio and into telly. Once I got into that, I got the Big Breakfast, and since then I've been just seeng what turns up. Life is good, because I'm a freelance, so until the beginning of this year I was working at ITN, and I'm going to go back to them and see if there's any work to be picked up there. I shall just see what's next. I don't know, I'm doing a bit of writing, I'm working on a screenplay. I quite like my life at the moment. I've just finished this thing and you think 'that was my life for the past few months. Oh'. I don't have to get up and skate any more - what do I do now? Oh, there was that thing I was supposed to be writing. I'll dust that off...we'll just see what else turns up."
Going to keep on skating?
"I plan to give it a bit of a rest, but I've got my own boots, so that's an incentive to kick out and give it a twirl. I can't see myself going out there and poncing up and down Somerset House. I've got some boots - I'll have a bit of a skate from time to time, but it's not my new hobby."
It must be nice to know you can just do that - and easily now, too!
"That was the thing, and right from the start I thought 'can I do this and not disgrace myself'. 'Yes, I can' and I didn't! Tick, well done!"
Thanks for chatting, Phil!