Seven days of TV viewing
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