The Courier-Mail

Costa is all for grow­ing an au­di­ence – and the beard too

- HOLLY BYRNES NA­TIONAL TV WRITER GAR­DEN­ING AUS­TRALIA, ABC, SATUR­DAY, 6.30PM Climate Change · Ecology · Australia · Tasmania · Gardening Australia

It’s one of the most vex­ing ques­tions con­fronting Gar­den­ing Aus­tralia host Costa Ge­or­giadis, with his an­swer long po­lar­is­ing ABC au­di­ences.

Not cli­mate change, or the min­ing of prime agri­cul­tural land, but the “habi­tat” he’s been nur­tur­ing for close to 24 years now: whether to man­scape his mag­nif­i­cent beard.

“As has been said,” Ge­or­giadis tells Switched On, “I don’t have a beard, a beard has me.”

“I’m not a fan of the hedged look, or prun­ing,” he ex­plains. “When you have a species you need to let it ex­press it­self and my va­ri­ety is what it is. I just don’t see my­self with clip­pers and blades, cre­at­ing shapes. Topiary, fa­cial topiary is not my go.”

All jokes side, the for­mer SBS pre­sen­ter ad­mits he was shocked by the “bru­tal” per­sonal at­tacks he re­ceived from some view­ers when he took over as host from Peter Cun­dall four years ago.

“When I first started with Gar­den­ing Aus­tralia it was pretty full-on be­cause it was change and any change is dif­fi­cult to deal with, let alone in a more con­ser­va­tive en­vi­ron­ment where you had this un­kempt feral ... how can our ABC al­low this?” he re­calls.

The beard was the big­gest is­sue: “I know some peo­ple can’t get over it and con­stantly come up and say, ‘please, can’t you just trim it? Can’t you just this, can’t you just that?’ It’s kind of funny. When you move into a public space, sud­denly (the beard) be­comes public as well.”

The crit­i­cism was am­pli­fied by the in­evitable com­par­i­son of the two men – Cun­dall, the cardi­ganed, fa­therly fig­ure who fin­ished ev­ery episode with his sign-off “that’s your bloomin’ lot for this week;” and Ge­or­giadis, a younger, gre­gar­i­ous Greek-Aus­tralian with the look of a Tas­ma­nian devil and the energy of a thou­sand so­lar pan­els.

“I feel what Peter did was sec­ond to none… he is a leg­end, an icon in his own right. Now, I’ve come on board be­cause we needed to start a new di­a­logue for this au­di­ence and the au­di­ence we want to grow,” Ge­or­giadis says. “There’s a younger crowd look­ing for some­thing dif­fer­ent and what we need to do is tell sto­ries with a new an­gle, a new edge.”

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