As Carol McGiffin, Lisa Maxwell and Andrea McLean sit down to reveal how Loose Women is getting into the Christmas spirit this year, they reveal the show, which airs every weekday on ITV1, has one rather unlikely royal fan.
The Loose Women are opinionated enough at the best of times but at the launch of their no-holds-barred Christmas DVD, the champagne’s flowing and their tongues are more unrestrained than ever.
The subject of conversation is the Marmite effect the show seems to have on the general public.
For some, their debates on the day’s hottest topics, and discussions about their own experiences, encourage viewers to feel a real ‘sisterhood’ bonding, while male fans enjoy a glimpse into the female psyche. For others, the show is simply banal drivel.
“There is a lot of sneering about the show,” says Carol McGiffin, 51, the show’s longest-serving panellist.
“People like to knock things down and, you know, we did used to win all the awards and now we don’t but it’s not a negative thing. People have their day and we’ll be back up there again one day.”
Awards or not, the ladies can be sure they’ve got one very influential fan – a former presenter at a posh London do also attended by the Queen was pulled to one side be a member of the royal staff and told that Buckingham Palace tunes in to the programme every day.
The show recently went through a shake-up which saw the departure of Coleen Nolan, Kate Thornton and Zoe Tyler and the arrival of Carol Vorderman and ex-Corrie star Sally Lindsay.
“The press make it out like it’s a big upheaval but it isn’t really,” says Kent-born McGiffin.
“People have come and gone for donkey’s years.”
Pocket-sized Lisa Maxwell, 47, who joined Loose Women in 2009, adds: “In order for a show to have been on for years, it has to reinvent itself.
“All we can be is honest, and we don’t try and speak on behalf of everybody. We speak on behalf of ourselves.”
At this point McGiffin begins hooting with laughter. It turns out she’s just caught sight of the Christmas With The Loose Women DVD playing in the background at the very point two of the presenters are stuffing two ‘hunks’ dressed up as turkeys.
The human turkeys are only a snapshot of what fans of the show can look forward to on the DVD.
“There’s also Carol naked,” jokes Maxwell.
“No, it’s just the Loose Women having a bit of a laugh at Christmas. No one will learn anything from it but hopefully they’ll laugh,” says McGiffin.
“It’s what we do every day of the week really,” says Maxwell. “I did think: ‘How can the four of us bang on for 90 minutes and anyone be interested?’ But I thought it was quite entertaining.”
The DVD is raunchier than the lunchtime show. “We get told all the time that the show would be brilliant if it was on later as we could be ruder,” says Andrea McLean, 42, the Scottish former GMTV weathergirl who joined Loose Women as an anchor in 2008.
She’s been sitting at the table all this time but, being more reserved than the others, has little chance of being heard.
“ITV are really quite strict about what you can and can’t say and that didn’t apply so much on the DVD,” Maxwell explains.
Like the lunchtime programme, the DVD was filmed in front of a live audience and the Loose Women stress nothing was re-edited. “It was a case of wind us up and let us go,” says Maxwell.
Talk soon turns to the trio’s own festive plans. McGiffin can’t wait to escape to Thailand with her 29-year-old fiancé Mark Cassidy and a group of friends and family.
“When you’re abroad and it’s all sunny, you don’t feel pressure to get into Christmas,” she explains.
“How can Christmas be pressure?” asks an exasperated Maxwell. “I love it. I’m having my dream Christmas this year because I’ve been in rented accommodation for two years waiting to move into the home I’m going to die in.”
“Merry Christmas!” jokes McLean at the mention of death among the merriment.
“No, I want to die in this house because I love it so much,” says Maxwell. “I want to spend my last days there, sitting looking at my view with a glass of wine in my hand singing Una Paloma Blanca, it’ll be marvellous.”
McLean says she can’t wait for Christmas either. “I think if you have kids, then you can’t help get caught up in it all because it’s such good fun. You pretend you’re doing it all for them but actually you’re not, you’re doing it for yourself.”