We all knew something was coming. I thought they’d save the changes to the summer break, but the axe has fallen early…
Network Ten today announced Natasha Exelby has departed its breakfast television program Wake Up.
Wake Up will continue to be hosted by Natarsha Belling and James Mathison, with Nuala Hafner presenting local news for every state. Ms Exelby will remain with Network Ten’s News division.
There will be no changes at Network Ten’s new morning show, Studio 10.
Network Ten Director of Morning Television, Adam Boland, said: “It’s important we get Wake Up right.
“I have said repeatedly that chemistry is everything at breakfast and, right now, I don’t think the balance is correct. It’s up to producers to fix those things.
“I rate Natasha, Natarsha and James extremely highly individually, otherwise they wouldn’t have been there in the first place. I also saw genuine spark during show rehearsals, but sometimes, that doesn’t translate on air. That is nobody’s fault, except mine,” he said.
“Natasha is a dear friend. She is also genuinely talented and will remain a key part of Ten into the future.”
Two and a half weeks in and the tweaks commence. Natasha Exelby is a true personality – Boland said as much himself when he revealed the team after months of auditions and chemistry tests. He’s taking the rap for this decision (as well he should – he’s Executive Producer) and it’s good news to see Exelby will remain with Ten in the News team.
It won’t have been an easy decision either. The cost of reshooting promos and replacing billboards and bus ads would be massive (you can’t leave the old ones up). Add to that lots of noise was made about the announcement of the team and the effort put in to finding them. LOTS of people auditioned, in lots of combinations. This is an expensive case of “you win some, you lose some” right at a time when Ten need the wins.
Changes however are necessary. The effort put in during rehearsals is obvious though haven’t necessarily translated as well now the team are live. The three-handed conversation would sometimes get clunky though that’s not any one host’s fault. Exelby was the first target of criticism likely because she presented her true self on screen and not a filtered/”TV appropriate” persona. She will absolutely bounce back and it wouldn’t surprised me (as Travis M suggested on Twitter) to see her hosting Weekend Wake Up in the near future.
Many have suggested Wake Up should be hosted by Natarsha Belling & Matt Doran (her current sparring partner during News crosses). This is a working relationship they’ve developed over years in the Ten Newsroom and it shines on camera (this move would be a rod for Ten’s back as who would then host their new morning News blocks?). It would also leave James Mathison out in the cold… perhaps he and Tash could run pair for Weekend Wake Up?
It’s not the last tweak/change/refinement we’ll see for Wake Up (or Studio 10). There’s work to be done but these two programs are far from failures. Given time and the right balance on screen the audience will come. The question really is does Ten have the time Wake Up needs? It says it does and Boland and CEO Hamish McLennan have professed they’ll give the morning schedule time to bed in and find its tribe.
March 2014 will be key. If the numbers haven’t proven to be on the increase by then – and that’s after Wake Up/Studio 10 do their special Sochi broadcasts – the very small portion of patience at Pyrmont may well prove to have run out.