It smacks of desperation and may take some public gritting of teeth, but Nine should give poster boy-turned-problem child Karl Stefanovic back his job on Today.
A suited Stefanovic fronted to the network in his four-wheel-drive on Thursday, looking ready to fist bump someone. Word was he was meeting with Nine bosses including Hugh Marks, said to want the Gold Logie winner back in the chair.
That buzz was met with very tight lips by Nine, but the time is nigh to either confirm or deny the man they axed last year has done his time in the naughty corner and can be wheeled back out, all shiny and keen.
Nine sacked its highest-paid star from Today not because chiefs were unhappy with his onscreen performance, but because middle Australia got all judgey about his personal life.
He was the same old Karl on the show – blokey, silly, serious when required. Didn’t matter. Viewers decided to apply a moral prism to something they really knew nothing about, Stefanovic’s divorce, and turned off.
Now, the vulgarity of Karl’s Mexican wedding behind us and his penance done on ghastly This Time Next Year, the coast is clear for Nine to get their Lazarus back on the Today set if they have any interest in saving the show.
That’s an interesting decision in itself. With the world grabbing its news from phones, breakfast TV is hardly the juggernaut it was and Nine could go counter-intuitive and let Seven and the ABC have the field while they spend money elsewhere.
They won’t. So they need Karl, if he can be bothered getting up every day again at 3am.
It’s sad that in the whole land there’s apparently only one man inherently appealing enough to drag audiences back, but the devil we know is a neat solution for everyone.
Nine already has his bank details. He knows which camera to look at. He’ll be a novelty factor for a while. His ex-wife has stopped piling on him.
I wonder if Nine didn’t always have a sneaky plan to re-instal Karl once he was no longer paparazzi catnip. They just had to play a long game and wait for his glittery, smarmy charm to be missed.
From the start, the earnest pairing of Deb Knight and Georgie Gardner lacked the X factor. Their credentials meant nothing in the face of their fruitless battle to manufacture Karl’s effortless watchability.
As it stands now, Today is like the last season of Family Ties.
Not even the addition of a cute little brother – you can interchange guileless Tom Steinfort and sparky Stevie Jacobs there – can remove the stench of doom.
While Nine was powerless when having to punish Karl because the tribe had spoken, its wider problem with its morning slate lies with the network and its hirings alone .
This is the organization that can’t quite cut ties with its news boss’ BFF Richard Wilkins, who for decades has disguised his lack of professional discernment with his fabulous voice.
It’s the channel that rolls out Leila McKinnon on A Current Affair when Tracy Grimshaw – who the Nine gods should give thanks for every day – needs a break from chasing lenient judges.
How’s this for an idea? Get rid of Gardner, Knight, Steinfort and Brooke Boney, hire Sylvia Jeffreys back as newsreader and sign up Melissa Doyle as Karl’s co-host.
After the axing of Seven’s Sunday Night, Doyle might be looking for a gig. Breakfast TV is second nature. Her personal life is spotless. And she made Kochie look good for years on Sunrise.