"Thanks mate, I'll be having that back..."

The Wiggles have been the nice guys of the Australian entertainment industry for over 20 years. In the last 24 hours they’ve managed to cast a very dark cloud over their relationships and business dealings with the very poor handling of the return of original member Greg Page to the group (and the ousting of replacement Sam Moran).

Five years ago, Greg felt he needed to leave The Wiggles due to a health issue that would cause him to pass out and not be able to perform at gigs. A ceremony of sorts was held showing Greg hand over the coveted yellow skivvy to his understudy Sam Moran, with an explanation that Greg was unable to perform and so was, in effect, retiring. When they handed over the yellow skivvy the first time it was front page news on the New York Times, such is the global reach of their brand.

Yesterday news broke that Greg was back and Sam was out. The group appeared on both Today Tonight and A Current Affair, and while the former took credit for Greg’s return both pretaped stories danced around a few obvious questions:

  1. What’s the condition Greg has (in a previous interview with TT/ACA, he revealed it wasn’t the dysautonomia he’d been diagnosed with to leave the group)?
  2. What of Sam? Really – what’s he doing now?
  3. Why does this all feel so rushed?!

It still left so many other questions:

  1. With the overly sensitive handling of Greg’s handover to Sam, why the rushed/botched/appalling handover back to Greg?
  2. Why did it have to happen now? Why couldn’t it wait until Murray returned from holidays with his family so the group could offer a united front?
  3. Why not hold a press conference and include Sam?

Greg, Anthony Field and Jeff Fatt were interviewed on both Sunrise and The Today Show (as was to be expected) about Greg rejoining the group and just as well the Sunrise interview went OK, link issues aside:

At the end of the piece Kochie raised a valid point about Sam’s business relationship with the group, and blogged his further thoughts accordingly (it’s a great read). Great pointers for other performers looking at stardom. Importantly and in light of Kochie’s comments, according to entertainment reporter Peter Ford Page is only return to the group as a contracted employee, not as a co-owner or part of the management team. That’ll make for some interesting band discussions.

The group’s interview with Richard Wilkins on Today didn’t go so smoothly (and that’s saying something). Sadly it isn’t embeddable, so you can view the whole thing here. It’s definitely worth the view, even if you just get up to the important questions when Richard starts to ask Anthony some of the hard questions about Sam…

Richard: So, what about Sam?
Anthony: What about Sam? Ww… What do you mean?
R: But I guess Sam obviously was an employee rather than a full stakeholder in the Wiggles franchise?
A: I had nothing to do with it really, Richard…
R: Sam was an employee?
A: Yeah, Sam was doing a job. If it was a musical, Sam was doing the role of…
R: Sam was a hired hand.
A: Yeah.
R: I gather this was news to him?
A: Yeah, this was news to him.
R: How did he take it?
A: I haven’t spoken to him, I haven’t seen him. I dunno! I’ve been on holidays!

This was the perfect opportunity for The Wiggles to shut down debate over the entire changeover (it’s noted with some surprise by Anthony later in the interview at the furore this has caused). Instead, Anthony came across at best looking like a blithering idiot; and at worst inadvertently trying to distance himself from what he knows to be a PR bloodbath (“I had nothing to do with it really, Richard”).

If you think this is simply a media beat up, it’s well worth looking through the MASSIVE number of comments on the story at the Facebook page of The Wiggles – 5,562 comments at the time this article is published, and the support for Greg isn’t overwhelming. Remember, while it is the kids that watch it is Mum & Dad who pay for the CD’s/DVD’s/Tickets/Merchandise. They have as much if not more influence over their children and if they think The Wiggles have done a bad thing it’s their call if their children get anymore Wiggles stuff.

While Moran’s involvement in The Wiggles was, at its core, a business arrangement, the public face of it is so much more and the botched responses and shoddy handling leaves the public to scrutinize their responses even closer. No one necessarily expects the four core Wiggles to hang out as friends but it’s a pretty cold day when a fellow performer is replaced because his contract is up and the other members of the team – his bosses – haven’t spoken with him about it.

And what of Moran? Well, depending on any contract conditions he may have regarding his separation and assumed payout from the children’s entertainment juggernaut, he may not be able to speak with the media despite Anthony’s protestations the media go and ask Sam what he thinks of it all. We may never know what Sam thinks.

Or we’ll see the tell-all interview in a women’s magazine or on 60 Minutes any day now. As soon as Sam has a new album to promote.

UPDATE: Anthony Field in damage control mode, speaking with Ben Fordham on 2GB this (Thursday) afternoon. For all the protestation of innocence it all stills sounds pretty lame from the Blue Wiggle. Off guard? Not ready for questions?! In an interview?!?!

UPDATE 2: After being told about a video Sam had prepared for his young fans and going to his website to find it had been removed (possibly due to legal reasons – though now reinstated), I found on The Daily Telegraph a great article about what happened to Sam here. The video included is a lovely message from Moran, and a spectacularly better managed display than his former bosses have been able to muster (and here I found it on his YouTube channel):