Ten is hoping to change the way viewers start their day with two new morning programs. Guy Davis speaks with some of the movers and shakers behind Wake Up and Studio 10.
The early hours of the morning are shaping up as one of the most competitive timeslots on Australian television.
On the commercial networks, Seven and Nine have been duking it out for years, their breakfast programs Sunrise and Today locked in an ongoing rivalry.
And Ten’s recent effort to compete or even carve out its own niche with the shortlived Breakfast in 2012 was an ill- fated experiment.
But the network isn’t dwelling on the past. In fact, for a while now it’s been developing an allnew approach to the dawn timeslot, recruiting producer Adam Boland – perhaps best known for his revolutionary re- tailoring of Sunrise a decade ago – as its director of morning television.
And Boland clearly means business. Not only is he taking
Ion the Sunrise/ Today duopoly with the new breakfast program Wake Up, but he’s also going up against Nine’s Mornings and Seven’s The Morning Show with a panel program titled Studio 10.
Fine- tuning both shows in the lead- up to their November 4 premiere, Boland has been getting into work around 2am each day, keen to ensure no element of the
Rowe: “I can’t remember the last
time I’ve had so much fun.”
new programming escapes his gaze.
“Why am I doing this again?” he said with a laugh.
“Well, the freedom of breakfast television is something that can be hard to surrender. There’s actually something quite addictive about it. You need to know a little about everything, and you can never get bored. You walk out at the end of the show elated or deflated – and either way you’re exhausted – but you can’t wait to do it all over again.”
Boland says a lot has changed in terms of viewing habits and perceptions since his Sunrise stint, and he wants Ten’s early programming bloc to reflect that.
“We want to reflect 2013 going into 2014, and we want it to be young at heart,” he said.
“The initial challenge we set ourselves is creating something that is still mainstream but that’s also different in the way that people are consuming news differently.”
In the case of Wake Up, that can be seen in everything from its line- up of presenters – Natarsha Belling, Natasha Exelby and James Mathison ( or Tarsh, Tash and Matho, as they’ve been nicknamed) – to its innovative studio location with its backdrop of Sydney’s Manly Beach.
“We wanted it to genuinely look different,” said Boland. “And I don’t get sick of looking at the beach. We had the most beautiful sunrise I’ve ever seen last week, and we captured that, then two days later we had a vicious storm tear through the place and it looked just as spectacular. Mother Nature is a terrific producer. It’s stuff you can’t design but it just makes the show.”
Chemistry between the hosts is something else that makes a show, and Boland worked long and hard to find just the right mix of people
for Wake Up and for Studio 10, which will have a regular panel of presenters made up of Ita Buttrose, Sarah Harris, Jessica Rowe and Joe Hildebrand.
“Chemistry is so important, and these shows live or die on the ability of these hosts to have a genuine conversation, one that is halfinteresting to people other than them,” Boland said.
“I think for that to happen we needed people who complemented one another – not necessarily agreed with one another but didn’t always disagree with one another.”
That is certainly the case with Wake Up’s trio of hosts ( the show also features Nuala Hafner as its Melbournebased newsreader), with Belling, Exelby and Mathison clearly having found a natural, bantering rhythm.
And Exelby, a news reporter and frequent guest on The Project, admits that she and Belling in particular “definitely come from different worlds” but their chemistry, even before actually auditioning together, couldn’t be denied.
“Adam overheard Tarsh and I talking in the make- up room and figured there might be something there,” she said.
“We didn’t feel as if we were auditioning; we were just having a very organic conversation. And it went from there. It’s just that intangible thing. With Tarsh, there would be many issues we don’t necessarily agree on but there is a mutual respect and a friendship there. And a lot of laughter.”
Rowe, returning to a fulltime television role as part of the Studio 10 line- up after six years of juggling part- time work and the raising of two small children, has much the same opinion.
“Sitting together for two and a half hours a day, every day, talking about a massive range of topics, well, you often don’t have a chance to do that with your closest friends,” she said.
“It’s lovely to have that opportunity. We’re all very different people in terms of our views and opinions but we do like each other and we do get on.”
Like Wake Up, Studio 10 aims to offer what Rowe calls “plenty of light and shade”.
“We’re talking about everything from the very serious to the very light,” she said. “Being a panel- based show, there’s room for what Ita has to say, what Joe has to say and what Sarah has to say.
“It’s a conversation, and the conversation is going to be different every morning. I can’t remember the last time I’ve had so much fun.”