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.’’