There’s been a lot written and said about the demise of The Circle. Everything from a quite direct article from writer Marieke Hardy to the somewhat pragmatic/contrary from media commentator Peter Ford.
When the whole thing blew up a week ago, especially when everyone expected news of the cancellation of Ch10’s under-performing Breakfast instead of the news The Circle was to go, you’d think someone had cancelled Christmas.
There is no question that The Circle made a connection with younger mums and spoke intelligently to them, laughed with them, cried with them. The hosts assembled by Executive Producer Pam Barnes in Chrissie Swan, Yumi Stynes, Gorgi Coghlan and Denise Drysdale chatted with each other on-screen in a way that welcomed the viewer onto the couch with them. All four were never afraid to make fun of themselves and the regulars that sat on the couch with them all joined in the fun (sometimes at their peril). In fact it was the inclusion of regulars like Meshel Laurie, Colin Lane, Aleisha McCormack & Marc Fennell that added taste and colour to the mix, bolstering the show’s draw.
It was nominated for four Logies in 2011 and won two – Most Popular Light Entertainment and Swan for Most Popular New Female Talent (both audience voted categories). It was light, enjoyable, live, Australian-made morning television that employed lots of people who are now out of work, and that is absolutely a shame.
The commercial reality is The Circle was a distant third in the morning TV ratings always. Sure, there were spikes up, though they were few and far between. Commercial morning TV is about ads and infomercials and with low ratings the show couldn’t draw big dollars for either, though the brand was strong and always looked good as a part of a sales pitch. Everyone knew what The Circle was – for good and bad.
The Circle weathered it’s share of storms in its short 30 month life. Chrissie Swan and Denise Drysdale both left at the end of 2011, though the line-up had covered lengthy maternity absences before and this wasn’t intended to be a big deal (many did suggest this was the beginning of the end for the show). In February 2012 Yumi Stynes & George Negus caused controversy over their comments on footage of Victoria Cross recipient Ben Roberts-Smith in a swimming pool. Both apologised though the damage was done with many advertisers abandoning the show due to the negative publicity.
Channel 10 were certainly in a bind. Their commitment to Breakfast is costly, as it was with The Circle (though the latter was far less expensive to make), and one show had to go so that the Network could maintain a reasonable balance sheet. Breakfast isn’t drawing anywhere near decent numbers yet either but it would be a massive hit to the Ten brand to cancel their foray into breakfast television after only six months. These things take time, and given the latitude offered The Circle shouldn’t the same be offered it? Hardy’s comments place the blame at Breakfast host Paul Henry as as passionate a supporter she may be, the venom is misdirected. He’s an easy target but not the person who signed off the cancellation of The Circle.
Starting today the Ch10 morning line up offers: Breakfast shortened by 30 minutes; children’s program Wurrawhy; US female-focused talk show The Talk; a revamped Ten’s Morning News; and US entertainment/gossip programs Entertainment Tonight & The Insider. From The Talk onwards it’s all a lot cheaper that what The Circle cost to produce, and therein lay the dilemma: with a show that realistically not many people watched and wasn’t paying its way, why should it be kept on air when it could be easily replaced with content that can come third for half the price?
People connected with The Circle. Not a lot may have sat down and watched it every weekday morning, but a lot of people knew what had happened on it every day. It needed a champion within management to go into bat for the show, to believe in it, but they never materialised. The show was a great nursery for upcoming TV talent and Barnes encouraged the entire team to deliver a great show, every day. A show that talked with viewers, not down to them. Intelligent women saying intelligent and entertaining things. The loss is as much this as viewers losing the daily catch up with a bunch of friends – be they on a TV screen or in the studio – laughing, crying and chatting with them.
Farewell The Circle, and all who sailed in her. You’ll be missed more than Ch10 management may realise.