As telecasts go, last night’s Logies was curiously distant, a sort of pastiche of presenters, presentations and acts that failed to gel to make it a cohesive whole. So it will come as no real surprise that TV viewers voted with their remotes and turned off.
The average of 1.718 million for the Logies proper from 8pm to at least 11.30pm was the lowest audience since 1995, although the 1.86 million in 2002 came close.
But it was a long way from the 2.03 million average for the 2006 broadcast and the peak of 2.41 million in 2001. And seeing the TV audience has grown since 2001 and 1995, it was in fact a much smaller share of the available viewing audience. The frocks section: the red carpet rip-off of the Oscars, had its lowest audience since starting in 2004: just 1.541 million viewers from 7.30 to 8pm.
The lead-in was Nine’s new program, The Lost Tribes which averaged less than a million viewers: 991,000 and was beaten (995,000) by the Big Brother warm up program from 6.30pm. That will disappoint Nine which had sunk a lot of money into The Lost Tribes.
Nine had a big win on the night and could go close to winning the week but the network needs to take a very hard look at The Logies and, if necessary, import external producers and skills. Nine clearly doesn’t have anyone capable of overseeing such a large production and making sure it’s trim, taut and watchable.
And on the subject of capability and television, Jessica Rowe was a rather petite gorilla in the corner of the Crown Ballroom last night, scene of the 49th Logies.
Normally she would have been attending with husband Peter Overton and as on air talent. But she is a new mother and of course her circumstances had changed rather suddenly Saturday evening, according to her former employer, the Nine network.
Everyone knew what had happened to her, but no-one dared mention it. Too much bad karma and a bit of “there but for the grace of God go I.” Commercial TV is a vain and rather appalling industry.
And yet last night we had a Gold Logie winner in Kate Ritchie who reaffirmed the simple and innocent side of the industry: that after nearly 20 years of slaving away, the Home and Away veteran was finally rewarded by viewer/readers of TV Week, young females in the 16 to 39 age group.
But Rowe’s fate was a reminder to everyone in the room of the essential shallowness of commercial TV and those who manage it.
Left unsaid in all of this is the fact that she was just one of five female co-hosts who have fronted Today in the past 18 months. No mention at all as to whether the performance of male co-host Karl Stefanovic has been a factor in Today still chasing Seven’s Sunrise. But he’s a bloke in a channel full of blokey, NRL and AFL culture.
The way Nine got rid of Rowe was less distressing than the reported boning comments of last year but it was tactless nevertheless. She was boned by Nine (not necessarily Eddie McGuire) simply because they didn’t have the guts to do something earlier.
Nine was desperate to make sure than Rowe’s husband, Overton of 60 Minutes, wasn’t offended by the treatment meted out to his wife, so they tried to keep the whole unsavoury process quiet and without rancour. He showed considerable class last night in paying tribute to her steadfastness.
Late on Friday Nine decided to bite the bullet and Rowe was gone, told she wasn’t wanted back on the Today from 21 May, when she was supposed to return from her maternity leave.
Of course Nine couldn’t help but be its usual self. Nine was obviously hoping that the proximity to the Logies and the timing would mute the reaction. It didn’t and the reports went down the ‘boned’ route.
But Nine was also its usual double dealing self: while it was negotiating with Rowe it was talking to Lisa Wilkinson, who co-hosts Seven’s Weekend Sunrise on Sunday mornings which is the most popular daytime chat program.
Wilkinson has rejected an offer from Seven to co-host, with Larry Emdur; the Monday to Friday 9am post Sunrise program Seven is about to introduce to take on Nine’s Mornings with Kerri-Anne and 9am with David and Kim on Ten.
Nine has also been chatting to Kelli Connolly who has been filling in the female co-host’s chair at Today since Sarah Murdoch left. Why Lisa Wilkinson would want a five day a week gig on Today when she found it tough thinking about the second Sunrise program is beyond me.
People at Today meanwhile are not very happy with the way Rowe was white-anted by some people. She did it tough at Nine and was publicly humiliated by Eddie McGuire and his mate Jeff Browne in the now infamous Mark Llewellyn affidavit.
She left Ten controversially but that was no reason for people at Nine to start undermining her almost immediately. Rowe was out of her depth on Today but that was as much a function of the move to hire her by former CEO, Sam Chisholm, as anything.
The other thing Wilkinson should remember is the instability at Today Show: Rowe, Murdoch and Connolly and then her if she takes the bait being dangled by Nine.
Four female hosts in 18 months (five if you include Tracy Grimshaw, now at A Current Affair but on whose time on Today that Sunrise zoomed past): that’s a recipe for disaster if the ratings don’t kick higher and quickly.