That’s the spirit
Carols co-hosts Lisa Wilkinson and David Campbell put a tough TV year behind them to bring festive joy, writes TIFFANY DUNK
AS the TV year comes to a close and Channel 9 stars Lisa Wilkinson and David Campbell prepare to take their long-awaited holidays, the tradition of hosting Carols by Candlelight on Christmas Eve offers the perfect sign-off – especially given the year they’ve both had.
From covering endless election cycles here and overseas, to an onslaught of tragic news stories, it’s been a tough year to be in the news business.
Add in your co-hosts coming under some pretty intense scrutiny – Karl Stefanovic’s marriage split and Sonia Kruger’s call for a Muslim ban – and it’s no wonder they are all yearning for a break.
“I think we all have to be honest, and say that 2016 was one of the toughest years on record,” Campbell says. “There was a lot of bile that rose to the surface.
“We’ll all be glad to get this year behind us and start afresh. We’ve learnt a lot of lessons this year and I think those lessons culminate on Christmas Eve.
“One of the great things that you can say about the holiday period is that everybody is nice to each other. We need to look at Christmas as a hard restart.”
Wilkinson agrees it’s been a big year, but for the Today host it’s been one with plenty of personal pay-offs.
Having beaten Sunrise in the fivecity metro ratings and come close to toppling them nationally, Wilkinson says the kudos for the show has been “coming for a long time”.
“It’s taken 10 years of Karl [Stefanovic] and I being together and the gap consistently closing every year. We’ve been working hard and made the viewers our No.1 priority,” she says.
Wilkinson still pinches herself that she has what she calls the best job in television – and co-hosting Carols by Candlelight for the second consecutive year with Campbell is the icing on the cake.
“I reckon I have more smiles per minute during that show than at any other time during the year,” she says.
This year’s performers include Dami Im, The Voice winner Alfie Arcuri, Marina Prior, Shane Jacobson and perennial kids favourites Hi5.
Campbell is well aware of the thrill that comes with being asked to take the stage on Christmas Eve. In fact, he says being asked was the moment he knew he’d well and truly broken into the entertainment industry.
“The first year I was asked, I was doing [the stage musical] Shout and I couldn’t believe my luck,” he says.
“I thought, ‘I’m going to sing on Carols – I’ve made it’.
“It’s up there as one of the most iconic shows on TV.”
Campbell isn’t alone in his regard for the telecast, with Wilkinson saying everyone gives it their all.
“As we become more disconnected in society, that moment on Christmas Eve is when people remember what that connection feels like,” she says.
“It’s a really significant night for people to take pause and remember what Christmas is about … it’s a special feeling you don’t have on any other night of the year.”