Entertainment TV Fired up and rarin’ to go, Karl Stefanovic makes an early return to Today
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Fired up and rarin’ to go, Karl Stefanovic makes an early return to Today

Allison Langdon Karl Stefanovic Alex Cullen Tracy Vo
Allison Langdon (with Karl Stefanovic) kicked off the new look Today on Jan. 4: "Welcome to a special edition." Photo: Twitter
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Karl Stefanovic returned early to Today on Saturday for a special bushfire edition in a turn that was workmanlike rather than sensational, circumspect rather than impish.

Karl was restrained, necessarily respectful. And the hard news focus was right in his wheelhouse.

The 45-year-old Gold Logie winner got to remind Anthony Albanese (“Albo”) his flight was being called during a live airport cross, challenge sports reporter Alex Cullen to a “boot scoot off” and praise a Mallacoota local who has been saving koalas from fire-ravaged scrub.

He also stared down the barrel of the camera to deliver an impassioned editorial about Scott Morrison, saying the catastrophic bushfires weren’t the PM’s “fault” but that he had shown a lack of leadership amid the national emergency.

“He was elected by the Australian people to lead. But during this crisis over the past month he has shown a lack of ability to lead,” Stefanovic said.

“To connect with the Australian people who are hurting and who are grieving.”

He was perhaps referencing Mr Morrison’s hapless January 2 visit to devastated Cobargo, where he grabbed a woman who didn’t want to shake his hand then turned his back on her while she was talking to him.

The public, Karl opined, want something “real” from the PM: “He needs to step up and take control.”

Stefanovic and new co-host Allison Langdon, 40, were due to debut on the Nine TV breakfast flagship on January 6, but on Friday the network announced their revamped team would start two days early.

“I mean, it’s certainly not how we envisaged or hoped we’d be starting our year,” Langdon said.

Nine would not comment when asked by The New Daily why and when the launch was brought forward, but a source said it made “perfect sense” given how bosses want to position the re-badged show.

“Karl and Ali got the gig because while they can do ‘light’, their chief role will be to be nimble with breaking news and tough interviews,” the source said.

“Given the public interest in the bushfires, starting on Weekend Today meant they were guaranteed not just something to talk about for hours but a built in audience. Smart move.”

And one that played to Karl’s historic strengths, or at least to how he got his real start at Nine.

“The funny thing is bushfires are what made Karl. He was a no name Brisbane Nine reporter when the bushfires hit Sussex Inlet on the NSW South coast in early 2002,” a second source told The New Daily.

“Some firefighters went down from Brisbane to assist, and Karl was covering them. Next minute, the fire took hold and the town was cut off.

“And there was Karl, the only bloke with a link truck.”

Stefanovic was roped in to do a cross for Today, “and of course he gets on air and f—-g kills it. Karl is tinny, but he’s bloody good,” the source said.

Three years after his bushfire scoop, Stefanovic replaced Steve Liebmann as host of Today.

The new Today launch wasn’t without its problems. In his first spot, Cullen, 39, appeared to have trouble with his autocue and fluffed his lines, having to look down repeatedly at notes while saying, “How good is this.”

In a strong PR tactic, Stefanovic teased former Sunday Night reporter Cullen rather than ignore his ignominious start, saying he “completely and utterly stuffed up his first sports break.”

Cullen laughed, saying “Lucky we started on a Saturday” and “I’m here all year, folks.”

Chipped in Langdon, whose chemistry with Karl was more natural than with David Campbell hosting December 24’s Carols by Candlelight, “We weren’t sure about that.”

Apart from looking at the wrong camera a couple of times, newsreader Tracy Vo was confident but didn’t seem quite part of the gang, although her job is not to entertain but inform.

Stefanovic seemed relieved to get the first day under his belt, admitting “at the start of the show I had so long off last year I’d forgotten how to talk.”

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