Give me a break
Going to commercial radio has been a baptism of fire for Myf Warhurst, writes Colin Vickery
MYF Warhurst is hoping 2009 is going to be much less turbulent than last year. The bubbly 34-year-old admits that the past 12 months have been a huge learning curve, taking over the Triple M breakfast slot with Peter Helliar and weathering a storm of (sometimes personal) criticism and poor ratings.
Now, though, she feels relaxed and ready to go into year two of Pete and Myf, as well as another series of Spicks and Specks, with quiet confidence.
Last year started well for Warhurst as she toured the country with the Spicks and Specks live show, Spicks and Speck-tacular, throughout January. The tour had brought her closer to Spicks host Adam Hills and opposing team captain Alan Brough.
‘‘We’re all so close because of that tour,’’ she says. ‘‘They’re like my brothers. If I was in trouble I’d give them a ring — they’re quite protective of me.
‘‘I never thought I’d be on stage and to do it with those two, who are so generous, we all became such good mates. I know that I’m going to look back on that time, busy as it was, as one of the best times of my life.’’
Radio wasn’t quite as happy. When word leaked the previous October that Warhurst was quitting her breakfast slot on Triple J to move to commercial station Triple M, the media talked of ‘‘defection’’ and some fans cried ‘‘sellout’’.
Triple M management fuelled the fire when they said the axing of popular morning program Get This with Tony Martin (and produced by Richard Marsland) was because the station wanted to focus resources on new breakfast shows, including Helliar and Warhurst’s.
A big-budget, high-profile billboard-and-cinema promotion campaign (said to have cost $500,000) was criticised by the media and when Pete and Myf finally made its debut the pair sounded tentative.
‘‘People turned against me because of that,’’ she says. ‘‘They thought it (the promotional campaign) was a really big deal. But isn’t that what you do when you get into the commercial world? You let people know that you’re on.’’
The first ratings survey brought bad news — Pete and Myf had dropped 0.1 points to 6.3 per cent, putting them in sixth position.
Warhurst admits it was a shaky start.
‘‘It was a roller-coaster,’’ she says. ‘‘I’d just come off tour and started a new job.
‘‘Trying to get to know someone and developing a rapport— good on Triple M for sticking with us.
‘‘We’d been mates but we hadn’t spent heaps of social time together. Maybe we were trying to work out each other in an on-air sense.’’
Trouble was, the ratings didn’t get any better, despite Helliar and Warhurst settling in as the year progressed. They finished the year with a disappointing 4.7 audience share, down almost 2 per cent from their debut.
Warhurst admits it has been difficult to look at the ratings figures.
‘‘Hopefully more people will tune in and we can build the audience,’’ she says.
‘‘Pete and I walk away from shows thinking we’ve done the best we can. Hopefully that will be reflected in the numbers soon.’’
THE devastating news of copresenter Richard Marsland’s death in early December shattered Warhurst. Even now, she asks not to discuss it.
The year on TV was a different matter. Spicks and Specks continued to prosper despite the absence of The Chaser’s War on Everything and Summer Heights High to bolster its Wednesday night figures.
This year the Chaser team is back for 10 new shows, which will ensure more great ratings. Warhurst says that she, Hills and Brough are set to do the show for many years to come.
‘‘People don’t just watch it, they love it,’’ she says. ‘‘It’s great for us because we enjoy it too. The ABC let us build it. I can’t imagine you’d have that luxury at a commercial network, to slowly build an audience. I don’t think Adam, Alan and I are going to split apart any time soon. I can’t imagine not working with them.’’
Blondie: Pete Helliar and Myf dress up for Shane Warne the Musical.
Myf is hoping for less of a roller-coaster ride this year.
Picture: MANUELA CIFRA