It’s been a rough week over at Nine. The axe has wielded all over the place – even on the parent company itself, PBL, which has been split into two. This will enable James Packer to divest his media interests to focus on what seems to be his main love, gambling. Kerry, at least, liked owning the cricket and – even if it was largely ego-driven – seemed to have some level of interest in quality journalism. (And also in ACA.) Whereas James’ ambitions, bless him, seem not to reach any higher than a whole lot of pokies. And also in the high-finance equivalent, which is getting into bed with private equity.
But in what has to rank as the least surprising piece of television news this year, Jessica Rowe was “boned” from Today, with the news breaking (embarrassingly enough) on the day of the Logies. The only thing about the news that left me confused is why it was reported so widely. It’s about as newsworthy as the headline “Sun rises”. Or the headline which we’ll no doubt soon see – ” Sunrise rises in ratings despite Lisa Wilkinson”.
I couldn’t quite understand why Nine were so eager to poach Rowe in the first place, really. Sure, she was a good newsreader, and had an air of class about her that Sandra Sully has never quite mustered. But reading an autocue with a degree of gravitas and chatting about lifestyle issues are very different skills. And Nine’s inability to recognise this isn’t limited to our Jessica. Check out Peter Harvie’s “Last Word” segment at the end of Nine News – for the first time I actually appreciated Alan Jones’ Today editorials. Harvie is a legendary reporter, but it’s a terrible mistake to assume that means we want to hear what he thinks.
Really, he never should have left…
Sorry, that was a bit self-indulgent, but I enjoyed it. Where was I? Oh yes, Jessica. Look I’m glad she’s on maternity leave, because that’s a much better reason to get up at four in the morning than going on Today. It was a bad call, it’s over, and she’s got a big fat contract for the next 18 months, during which time she’ll probably be drafted back into what was once known as the Who’s Who of News. Where she will perform with aplomb and not have that unfortunate issue of having to think off the cuff. Or laugh. At all. In fact, they should pair her with a co-host who reads all the lighter stories, leaving Jess only to report on tragedies. It’s the only way we’ll be safe from that cackle.
The axe was also wielded on Bert’s Family Feud this week. Which seems a little unfortunate – family feuds are a somewhat difficult subject in the Newton family just now. Bert himself wasn’t sacked, of course. You simply can’t axe Bert, not least because there’s no way the blade would penetrate the toupee. But again, it was a terrible mismatch. Unfortunately, Bert is no Rob Brough. Fortunately, he’s so, so much better than that. Unfortunately, instead of wasting Bert on Feud, Nine will just waste him on 20 to 1 instead.
Nine’s penchant for boning is currently a source of embarrassment. But it should be a source of ratings. The network is the first to have (or, more precisely, waste) an accomplished TV presenter as its CEO. He should combine the two roles in a reality show featuring the network’s now-dim galaxy of stars, where he progressively bones all the dead wood at Nine. I’d tune in to see Kerri-Ann, Richard Wilkins and, best of all, Ray Martin pushed out the door. Magda Szubanski, Sean Micallef and everyone else whose comedy shows didn’t get a chance could come back and re-enact their disappointments over again as well. In fact, watching humiliating sackings is about the only thing that could get me to watch the network at the moment.
If there were any justice, though, the one being boned would be Eddie. Any minute that man spends not hosting television shows (and in his heyday, there weren’t many of them) is wasted. Someone else should fill the CEO hotseat and struggle to restore lustre to the network that can no longer claim still to be the one. So Eddie, arguably the only likeable figure on the network besides Fatty and Sterlo, bone thyself.