Channel Ten has started promoting Lisa Wilkinson’s new gig on The Project panel with a series of humorous ads poking fun at the veteran television host’s many accomplishments.
Wilkinson, 57, left her role as host on Channel Nine’s Today breakfast show in October last year following a pay dispute and announced her new senior hosting and editorial role at Ten shortly after.
The scripted ads, which went to air on Wednesday, show Wilkinson’s fellow panellists Waleed Aly, Carrie Bickmore and Peter Helliar conducting a faux job interview with their incoming co-host.
“What can you bring to The Project?” Aly asks Wilkinson, “For example, I have a gold Logie,” he jokes.
Wilkinson responds by describing herself as, “a journalist, broadcaster, mother, former magazine editor, youth campaigner, women’s advocate, and a member of the Order of Australia”.
It’s the first time the mother-of-three has officially identified herself as an advocate for women after it was revealed she walked off the Today show because she was not being paid the same as her male counterpart, Karl Stefanovic.
Asked whether her passion for women’s rights would be a key focus during Wilkinson’s hosting duties, a Channel Ten spokesperson said it was “too early days to say that”.
While the spokesperson confirmed Wilkinson would appear on the current affairs series this month, no specific debut date was given.
In addition to co-hosting The Sunday Project and the show’s Thursday and Friday episodes, Wilkinson will be executive editor of Ten Daily, the network’s new website.
Regarding Wilkinson’s prominence on the panel, the spokesperson said she her screen time would be weighted equally with her fellow hosts.
“It’s always been a four-personal panel,” the spokesperson said.
A second, slightly shorter ad asks: “In 2018, guess who’s coming to The Project?”
As a hapless Peter Helliar attempts to guess the identity of the new team member, Wilkinson sits across from him in mock bemusement.
James Manning, editor and publisher of Mediaweek, said Wilkinson rattling off her heavy-hitting achievements beyond journalism could be an attempt to reposition The Project as a more serious news show.
“[The Project] certainly needs a ratings lift and that serious harder news qualifcations that she has plus her stature in the community – which she alludes to – are things that could drag in an audience that isn’t currently there,” Mr Manning said.
However, Mr Manning conceded the ad “looked a bit awkward”.
“That job interview thing – like she had to apply to them – it’s probably just some scriptwriters came up with but … I wouldn’t be surprised if social media commentary is pretty negative, although there’s a lot of love for Lisa.”
He predicted Wilkinson would be tasked with “more powerful commentary and analysis” but her main challenge was making the show’s Sunday instalment a ratings hit.
“It’s only been reintroduced relatively recently and it’s been performing pretty poorly in the ratings because a lot of people didn’t know it was there,” he explained.
As for whether this could be a chance for Wilkinson to finally secure a Gold Logie – her former right-hand man KArl Stefanovic claimed one in 2011 and Bickmore and Aly are both past winners – Mr Manning said he “wouldn’t read too much into it”.
“It couldn’t hurt [for her to win] but it certainly won’t do much for ratings.”