The sun rises for Mel

Once mocked as a ‘mumsy’ TV pre­sen­ter, Melissa Doyle is prov­ing her crit­ics wrong, writes HOLLY BYRNES

The Sunday Mail (Queensland) - TV Guide - - FRONT PAGE -

YOU won’t get Melissa Doyle to brag about it, but if any­one on tele­vi­sion to­day is en­ti­tled to be smug it’s the Sun­day Night host and se­nior cor­re­spon­dent.

Had you lis­tened to her doubters last year, the “mumsy” pre­sen­ter was sup­posed to be lan­guish­ing in the ca­reer wilder­ness right now.

As their con­spir­acy the­o­ries went, Doyle was “dumped” from her week­end news­read­ing du­ties and “de­moted” to rov­ing in­ter­na­tional re­porter and an­chor of Seven’s now surg­ing cur­rent af­fairs pro­gram.

As Kylie Minogue would sing it, ‘I should be so lucky, lucky, lucky, lucky’.

“Oh you’ll never hear me sing, don’t worry about that,” Doyle tells TV Guide, with a laugh.

But with rat­ings for her two block­buster in­ter­views so far this year push­ing her back into the head­lines, she can af­ford to smile.

Her ex­clu­sive sit­down with fam­ily mas­sacre sur­vivor Brenda Lin got the pro­gram off to a strong start this year, av­er­ag­ing 845,000 view­ers (com­pared to ri­val 60 Min­utes au­di­ence of just 658,000 na­tion­ally); while an an­niver­sary spe­cial with the friends and for­mer staffers of the late Diana, Princess of Wales, was watched by 858,000 peo­ple (to 60’ s 662,000 view­ers).

The for­mer Sun­rise co-host ad­mits the spec­u­la­tion over her ca­reer has been frus­trat­ing, choos­ing dig­ni­fied si­lence as oth­ers “jumped up and down”.

“I’ve al­ways been that per­son who would much rather have my work speak for me,” she says.

“If I’m do­ing that now and peo­ple are notic­ing, then great … pro­fes­sion­ally I couldn’t be hap­pier.”

Her warmth and com­posed PRO­FES­SOR Brian Cox was “five or six” when he first looked sky­ward and found magic in the stars. “As long as I can re­mem­ber,” Cox tells TV Guide, “I no­ticed the con­stel­la­tion Orion, which is the eas­i­est to see and [in the UK] comes up in late au­tumn, or the start of win­ter here.” Un­like most small chil­dren, who looked for in­ter­view style dur­ing the Diana spe­cial es­pe­cially drew com­par­isons with broad­cast­ing icons such as Bar­bara Walters and Diane Sawyer, who not co­in­ci­den­tally both honed their skills with stints on break­fast or morn­ing shows.

And at a time when view­ers seem put off by stunt-driven news, and Santa stock­ings or dec­o­ra­tions in store win­dows to mark the ar­rival of Christ­mas, Cox ex­plains it was spot­ting “the red star in Orion, called Betelguese, or ‘Beetle­juice’,” which filled him with ex­cite­ment about the fes­tive sea­son ahead.

His par­ents “weren’t into as­tron­omy ... but they en­cour­aged me, bought me a cou­ple of books and off I went”.

Fast forward 43 years or so, Cox is in Aus­tralia, pre­par­ing to share his life­long pas­sion and phe­nom­e­nal knowl­edge of our night sky in a fas­ci­nat­ing new ABC spe­cial, Stargaz­ing Live.

The “cit­i­zen science” event is based on a BBC for­mat, which en­cour­aged view­ers – 16.19 mil­lion and count­ing – to step out­side and ex­plore the world above them.

The Hu­man Uni­verse host is thrilled by the op­por­tu­nity to delve deeper into the dark se­crets of the south­ern hemi­sphere, pre­sent­ing the live pro­gram over three nights from Sid­ing Springs Ob­ser­va­tory, tired of the sen­sa­tion­al­ist, foot-inthe-door ap­proach of old, Doyle’s softly-softly style – once deemed her great weak­ness – now plays as her strength.

“I re­mem­ber at one point be­ing called ‘mumsy’ and I thought, ‘Why is that a bad thing?’. I’ve now got two teenagers, so if that means I can sit down in front of a young woman [Lin], who is up­set and vul­ner­a­ble and she feels com­fort­able with me, she knows me, she’s met me, but also she’s watched me on tele­vi­sion and got to know who I am … if that makes her feel com­fort­able, then I feel so lucky that I can be there to hold her hand through it,” Doyle says.

“If they’re char­ac­ter­is­tics I’ve al­ways had but were once held against me, maybe now they’re pay­ing off.”

Learn­ing new skills at a stage in her TV ca­reer when many still count ex­pe­ri­enced women out has been in­vig­o­rat­ing for the 27-year me­dia pro­fes­sional.

“I think maybe over the years peo­ple as­sume when you do one thing [break­fast TV], you can’t do any­thing else,” Doyle, 47, adds.

“I al­ways feel like say­ing to peo­ple, ‘Just be­cause you can have a laugh in the morn­ing doesn’t mean I’m not smart and can’t do other things’.

“To be able to get to a point where you can take a sharp left and do some­thing else, learn new skills and push your­self and feel as though it’s been quite a ca­reer change … it’s the same skills, just used a lit­tle dif­fer­ently … I am re­ally lucky to have been given that op­por­tu­nity and I’m lov­ing it.” near Coon­abarabran in re­gional NSW. “It’s al­ways been about try­ing to en­cour­age peo­ple to go out af­ter the show and look up and see the sky in a dif­fer­ent way and [in the UK] it has re­ally worked.”

Sim­pli­fy­ing the chal­lenge, Cox says, “As­tron­omy is prob­a­bly the eas­i­est science to do, be­cause all you need to do is look up.”

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