The sun rises for Mel
Once mocked as a ‘mumsy’ TV presenter, Melissa Doyle is proving her critics wrong, writes HOLLY BYRNES
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.”