So­nia’s big­mis­sion

There are good rea­sons why So­nia Kruger left a suc­cess­ful show for a very risky one, writes Colin Vick­ery

Herald Sun - Switched On - - Front Page -

SO­NIA Kruger has taken a mas­sive risk switch­ing TV net­works to host Big Brother — and she knows it. The 46-year-old had been with Chan­nel 7 for 14 years when she de­cided to move to Chan­nel 9 last Novem­ber.

Kruger’s witty one-lin­ers had helped make Danc­ing with the Stars one of the jew­els in Seven’s pro­gram­ming crown – a rat­ings win­ner for more than seven years.

She could have coasted on that Danc­ing suc­cess for years, but was be­gin­ning to feel stale.

The 10 Years Younger in 10 Days makeover show, which Kruger hosted in 2009, lasted one se­ries. Af­ter that, op­por­tu­ni­ties at Seven dried up.

Nine came call­ing at the right time; a rebooted Big Brother the lure. Kruger bit.

‘‘ It (the de­ci­sion to switch net­works) was about get­ting out of the com­fort zone I was in,’’ Kruger says.

‘‘ I re­ally didn’t want to look back in a few years time and think ‘ I should have pushed my­self a bit harder. I took the easy op­tion and stayed (at Seven) and kept do­ing the same thing ( Danc­ing)’.’’

But there is no guar­an­tee a re­vamped ver­sion of Big Brother will work in 2012.

The orig­i­nal Big Brother was canned by Chan­nel 10 in 2008, af­ter eight sea­sons, due to ‘‘ au­di­ence ero­sion’’.

That is a po­lite way to say the show, which had been hosted by Gre­tel Killeen in its hey­day, had turned into an em­bar­rass­ment. At its peak, in 2003, Big Brother av­er­aged 1.7 mil­lion view­ers. By the eighth

sea­son, hosted Still danc­ing: ads fea­ture So­nia Kruger and a team of ‘‘or­di­nary Aus­tralians’’ do­ing the shuf­fle. by Kyle Sandi­lands and Jackie O, that fig­ure shrank to fewer than one mil­lion.

Big Brother’s in­creas­ing raunch earned it the nick­name ‘‘ Big Brothel’’. In 2006, thenAus­tralian prime min­is­ter John Howard asked for Ten to axe the show af­ter the ‘‘ tur­key slap’’ in­ci­dent, when two male con­tes­tants were evicted for al­legedly sex­u­ally as­sault­ing a fe­male house­mate.

Nine not only has to re­vive in­ter­est in Big Brother, it also has to change peo­ple’s per­cep­tions of the show — erase the ugly mem­o­ries — and that won’t be easy. Nine is busy Ajay Rochester, crashed in the rat­ings and was shunted to GO! within a fort­night.

Kruger is cross­ing her fin­gers that Big Brother will be more Block than Bag­gage.

‘‘ One of the rea­sons The Block has been so suc­cess­ful is that it ap­peals to a broad age range,’’ Kruger says.

‘‘ I guess that is the chal­lenge for us — to make Big Brother ap­peal­ing to ev­ery­one from kids to peo­ple my par­ents’ age.’’

That means no raunch, no tur­key slaps.

‘‘ I made it re­ally clear (to Nine) from the start that I’m not in­ter­ested in a show like the old ver­sion of Big Brother,’’ Kruger says. ‘‘ They were re­ally clear about the fact that it would take on a new flavour.

‘‘ In the past, the peo­ple who have cut through (been pop­u­lar) on Big Brother, and gen­er­ally been there un­til the end, are the peo­ple that are true Aus­tralian char­ac­ters.’’

Morn­ings is Kruger’s in­sur­ance pol­icy if Big Brother goes pear-shaped.

Nine’s morn­ing show, which pre­miered in Fe­bru­ary, has been climb­ing the rat­ings.

Kruger and co-host David Camp­bell were slot­ted into Morn­ings af­ter Nine jet­ti­soned Kerri-Anne Kennerley.

Kennerley didn’t go qui­etly. In Fe­bru­ary she de­scribed Nine’s Sydney head­quar­ters as ‘‘ full of wild an­i­mals’’ and likened the net­work to the Con­cor­dia pas­sen­ger ship.

‘‘ They veer off course, hit the rocks, try to right them­selves and sink, and the cap­tain gets off first — so let’s see how their year pans out,’’ Kennerley said.

Kennerley was kinder to Kruger, say­ing she is ‘‘ a ter­rific girl and I sin­cerely wish her all the best’’.

Kruger ad­mits it was an un­com­fort­able time.

‘‘ It was a tricky sit­u­a­tion be­cause I re­ally like Ker­ri­Anne a lot and I have a lot of re­spect for what she has achieved in the in­dus­try,’’ Kruger says. Big Brother, Chan­nel 9, Mon­day, 7pm

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