Seven days of TV view­ing

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - FRONT PAGE - DEB­BIE SCHIPP

THREE decades is a mam­moth mile­stone in tele­vi­sion, and as the To­day show cel­e­brates that his­toric mark this week, hosts Karl Ste­fanovic and Lisa Wilkin­son ( pic­tured) count them­selves among the luck­i­est peo­ple on tele­vi­sion.

Oth­ers have served longer – Ste­fanovic’s seven- year ten­ure is a far cry from orig­i­nal male host Steve Lieb­mann’s two decades, and Wilkin­son’s 5 ½ trails Liz Hayes’ decade.

But the pair knows why their fore- run­ners stayed so long.

‘‘ Break­fast TV is the most fun you can have on tele­vi­sion,’’ Wilkin­son says.

The fact the hosts have seen a resur­gence in the pop­u­lar­ity of the show since they paired makes those 3.30am starts worth it.

They are hon­oured that a show they grew up with – and never imag­ined they’d be part of – has en­dured in an in­dus­try not renowned for longevity.

Iron­i­cally, join­ing the show that has made them house­hold names al­most didn’t hap­pen. For Ste­fanovic, the role came in 2005, when he had re­turned from a stint in Los Angeles with Nine to take up a po­si­tion with 60 Min­utes. He was blind- sided when told Lieb­mann was leav­ing To­day and was asked to step into the role. ‘‘ It was like ‘ what?’, Ste­fanovic says. ‘‘ I’d come home for 60 Min­utes. To­day was in trou­ble, Sun­rise ( Seven’s break­fast jug­ger­naut) was do­ing well and had passed us. It was like be­ing shown the best car in the lot and then be­ing taken to the worst one and go­ing ‘ that’s all you can af­ford’.’’

Ste­fanovic jumped into the driver’s seat re­gard­less and it be­came ‘‘ the best ex­pe­ri­ence I could have ever hoped for’’.

‘‘ It’s taught me so much about tele­vi­sion.’’

For Wilkin­son, join­ing To­day came at a time when ‘‘ there’s was no earthly rea­son I should move ex­cept for sheer blood­y­mind­ed­ness’’.

It was an en­counter at the Lo­gies in 2007, while she was still with Seven host­ing Week­end Sun­rise, but had the of­fer from Nine on the ta­ble, that sealed the deal.

Wilkin­son woke on Lo­gies morn­ing to dis­cover news of her hav­ing talks with Nine had hit the news­pa­pers.

‘‘ If there’s one day in the year you don’t want to be the TV gos­sip item of the day, it’s Lo­gies day,’’ she says.

‘‘ I hadn’t de­cided where I was go­ing to go. To­day was in a rough patch and Sun­rise had found its feet. They were the me­dia favourite and To­day was the me­dia punch­ing bag.’’

On a dash to the toi­let, try­ing to make it back into the room be­fore the com­mer­cial break ended, the doors closed and Wilkin­son fell short.

‘‘ So I went to have a drink at the out­side bar and there was Larry Em­dur,’’ she says.

‘‘ I asked could we talk about some­thing else. He said ‘ no, that’s not pos­si­ble’, grabbed the guy stand­ing be­hind him and said ‘ Lisa Wilkin­son, meet Karl Ste­fanovic’.

‘‘ I missed the next two com­mer­cial breaks be­cause we just started talk­ing. From that mo­ment we just made each other laugh.

‘‘ The beauty of this show is that we can change in an in­stant. One minute it’s en­ter­tain­ment, the next we are bring­ing the big sto­ries of the day and the fact the au­di­ence trusts us with ei­ther is a priv­i­lege.’’

TO­DAY, WIN, week­days, 5.30am

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