This got me thinking about rankings for Australian morning television hosts. Who had the most engaging on air persona and who could juggle light with the shade?
Hopefully the list won’t cause too many arguments.
20. Mike Walsh. Pioneered early breakfast television on Australian television in the late 1960s with Today on GTV9. Although his tenure was short lived he’d go on to become the king of daytime variety television as host of The Mike Walsh Show.
19. Clive “Robbo” Robertson. Robbo’s unconventional, droll approach to the news and issues of the day was already well known to 2BL ABC radio breakfast listeners when he became host of 11AM in the early 1980s. Seven executives quickly realised he was being wasted on daytime television and appointed him to their troubled late night news service where he became a late night icon, turning the timeslot into an unlikely ratings battleground.
18. Gordon Elliot. A six year stint as founding presenter of Good Morning Australia propelled him to a successful career in the US where he continued in breakfast television as a whacky feature reporter on Good Day New York.
17. Grant Denyer. Grant’s upbeat personality and ability to engage with people from all walks of life across Australia saw him become a popular presence on breakfast television. He pioneered the permanent roving weatherman role that was emulated by the competition and continues to be a mainstay of the format. Two grueling stints as Sunrise weatherman led to an enduring career on Australian television.
16. Bert Newton. Managed to turn a mid morning advertorial show into a vehicle for his humour on Good Morning Australia (AKA The Morning Show). In the process he revived his career and endeared himself to a new generation of viewers with his cheeky personality, rapport with guests and antics with the Ten crew.
15. Karl Stefanovic. Probably the most controversial figure in the history of Australian morning television. Known as much for his misdemeanors as his ability to cover news in a personable manner, Karl proves the viewers love to wake up to the freewheeling, cheeky antics of a naughty boy.
14. Sarah Harris. Once the linchpin of Studio 10 as the main host and moderator, Sarah now finds herself at the helm of a sinking ship most viewers have now abandoned. She would clearly shine as the main host of a breakfast television news show. She should take the opportunity if it ever presents itself because she’s wasted as the Irishman’s dance partner on Studio 10.
13. Sue Kellaway. The former model and PR queen proved she was more than just a pretty face by pivoting into a reporter/presenter role on NZ television. Her smarts and easy style were noticed by Australian television executives who brought her to Australia in 1981 when breakfast television was being revived. She was so good on Good Morning Australia, Kerry Packer poached her to host The National Today Show in 1982.
12. Ann Sanders. Didn’t let the disappointment of losing the co-anchor chair on Seven Nightly News Sydney affect her and embraced a new role as presenter of 11AM winning plaudits for her series of stories on the “children of Chernobyl”. A mainstay of Seven News for decades, she is now considered to be the Queen of morning television news.
11. Allison Langdon. What took the execs at Nine so long to realise Allie’s combination of sass and serious news sense was the missing piece of the puzzle that fit perfectly next to Karl?
10. Roger Climpson. Pioneered late morning news as the founding host of 11AM in 1975. Roger was on air barely a month into the shows run providing rolling coverage of one of the biggest political stories in Australian history- the dismissal of the Whitlam government.
9. Kerri-Anne Kennerley. A decades long fixture on Australian daytime television and a TV Week Logies Hall of Famer. A career as a cabaret singer and a brief stint as an actress changed course when she replaced Sue Kellaway as co-host on Good Morning Australia in 1982. She outlasted many male co-hosts during over a decade with the show and went on to present morning shows on Nine and Ten.
8. .Steve Liebmann. A cool, calm and authoritative presence in the morning for decades as host of Today and Seven’s 11AM.
7. David “Kochie” Koch. The stuffy finance journalist whose nerdy, daggy dad persona endeared him to audiences and turned him into an unlikely breakfast television star.
6. Jim Waley. Setting the news agenda for the week ahead and bringing some culture to Sunday morning television during a two decade stint at the helm of Kerry Packer’s “baby”, Sunday. Waley’s gravitas and experience came to the fore during the hours he spent at the newsdesk on the morning of September 12, 2001.
5. Lisa Wilkinson. The perfect foil to class clown Karl Stefanovic. Lisa’s experience as editor of magazines and years at Seven as host of morning shows were perfect for Today as they struggled to adapt to the expectations of modern breakfast television viewers who demanded more light and lifestyle and less heavy reporting of the news.
4. Melissa Doyle. Mel’s relatability to modern women was her greatest asset. She embraced Boland’s direction for the show and truly connected with the audience by sharing her life as a young mother and delivering coverage of serious news with sincerity and professionalism.
3. Tracy Grimshaw. A former presenter of National Nine Morning News, Tracy had huge shoes to fill when she replaced Liz Hayes on Today in 1996. She proved herself anchoring rolling coverage of some of the biggest stories of the 1990s, presenting marathon live coverage of the rescue of Stuart Diver at Thredbo and delivering news of the death of Princess Diana to Australian viewers on that Sunday morning in 1996. A steadying presence on breakfast television during some bumpy times for Today.
2. Ian “Roscoe” Ross. Toiled away at his craft for decades at Nine in the shadow of industry greats before emerging as a legend in his own right late in his career when he took Seven News to number one for the first time in decades. Known to a national audience as the respected newsman who brought them up to date with what was happening in the world while they slept, his charm, wit and personality were often on display during exchanges with the hosts and banter with weatherman Monte Dwyer.
1. Liz Hayes. Brought her country girl charm and a sense of fun to Today at a time when the show was known to be very formal and “starchy”. She countered the hard newsman edge of her co-hosts perfectly and had great chemistry with the entire team. She effortlessly balanced serious interviews and the formal news aspects of the show with the lighter, less serious fare, most notably when the show was “on the road”.