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