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Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - Dvds - DEB­BIE SCHIPP The 7PM Pro­ject, 500th episode TDT, Mon­day, 7pm

CRIT­ICS said they’d never make it. And The 7PM Pro­ject – a light-hearted look at the day’s news – did ini­tially strug­gle for an au­di­ence in 2009.

As hosts Dave Hughes, Car­rie Bick­more and Char­lie Pick­er­ing ( pic­tured) found their feet, there was plenty of spec­u­la­tion over whether it would last. But given the sum­mer non-rat­ings pe­riod of 2009 to set­tle in, it found a solid viewer base.

To­mor­row night The 7PM Pro­ject clocks up its 500th episode. The show will cel­e­brate, ac­cord­ing to Bick­more, by pop­ping the cham­pagne corks and breath­ing a mas­sive sigh of re­lief.

Bick­more and Hughes ad­mit there was pres­sure early when the show be­gan and was not an im­me­di­ate hit.

‘‘ We were happy to get through a week,’’ Hughes says. ‘‘ That pres­sure never re­ally came off. We just started to not care as much about it.

‘‘ You just re­lax with it and per­son­ally I be­came a bit more Zen about the whole thing.’’

Bick­more says many net­works wouldn’t have given it that chance.

‘‘ I think there’s al­ways some­thing in the back of your head that’s al­ways like, ‘ Do they re­ally mean they’re stick­ing with us or are they stick­ing with us for an­other week?’ ’’ she says.

Hughes says one of the high points for him from 500 episodes was a re­cent in­ter­view with the Dalai Lama.

‘‘ Hav­ing a show like this gives you the op­por­tu­nity to in­ter­view peo­ple you never imag­ined you would get a chance to,’’ he says. And the co­me­dian didn’t at­tempt a joke with His Ho­li­ness, un­like Nine’s Karl Ste­fanovic, whose ef­fort fell flat when the Dalai Lama didn’t un­der­stand.

Bick­more has taken most plea­sure from the show’s ‘‘ power of good’’ sto­ries.

‘‘ They are the sto­ries that have pretty much left me in tears or just feel­ing so elated,’’ she says.

‘‘ We had one about a fam­ily that was look­ing af­ter a young boy with cys­tic fi­bro­sis which I loved. It’s just a col­lec­tion of sto­ries with ev­ery­day peo­ple do­ing ex­tra­or­di­nary things that have been the high­lights for me.’’

Hughes says those sto­ries ‘‘ make you re­alise that wor­ry­ing about the daily rat­ings or what some colum­nist has writ­ten about you is in­signif­i­cant’’.

The pair say the re­cent ap­pear­ance of St Kilda school­girl Kim Duthie show­cased The 7PM Pro­ject ’ s ver­sa­til­ity.

‘‘ It wasn’t a high­light or a low­light be­cause you weren’t sure how to feel about it,’’ says Bick­more of the story, in which Duthie tried to with­draw her own al­le­ga­tions of an af­fair with AFL player man­ager Ricky Nixon.

Af­ter air­ing the ini­tial in­ter­view, the pro­gram showed footage of Duthie’s postin­ter­view con­fes­sion that she had just lied to the panel with the words ‘‘ ev­ery­thing I’ve said I’ve lied about’’. ‘‘ I would call it a high­light,’’ Hughes says. ‘‘ I’ve never had so many text mes­sages af­ter an in­ter­view. We did cre­ate a real mo­ment of tele­vi­sion there which you don’t get very of­ten.’’

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