Christian Wilkins and model Montana Cox at the wedding. Picture: instagram.com/theprincewilkins
Christian Wilkins and model Montana Cox at the wedding. Picture: instagram.com/theprincewilkins

Karl, it’s time to quit Today

Will Karl Stefanovic's wedding restore his reputation with Aussie TV viewers?

That is the question I have been pondering after the Mexico nuptials between the Today co-host and Jasmine Yarbrough on the weekend.

Stefanovic clearly sees this as the start of a new chapter and closing a door on a rollercoaster two years following his split from his wife of 21 years Cassie Thorburn.

Now he can get on with life and go back to a refreshed version of Nine's breakfast show to be beamed out of Melbourne during the Australian Open tennis in mid-January.

But is that wishful thinking? Will viewers - particularly women - have a change of heart? Will they see his splashy Mexican wedding as a charming love story, or will they see it as a tacky display that seemed to pay no heed to the hurt he'd left in his wake, and the possibility it would only compound that hurt?

Will the paparazzi-fuelled media circus stop? Will the rumours that Stefanovic will be dumped from Today finally go away?

Not likely. For a start, magazines like New Idea are sure to keep running splashy negative articles on Stefanovic for months and years to come.

The obvious reason is that stories on Stefanovic are good for sales but there is something bigger at play.

Karl Stefanovic and Jasmine Yarbrough’s wedding in Cabo.
Karl Stefanovic and Jasmine Yarbrough’s wedding in Cabo.

New Idea is owned by Channel 7 and so can be a useful weapon in the breakfast television wars.

It is no coincidence that Seven has been ramping up the warm and fuzzy stories about Sunrise co-host David Koch loving life as a grandfather just to ram home the contrast.

Stefanovic's ex Cassandra Thorburn is another wildcard. Who knows when she will lob another verbal grenade?

Earlier in the week Thorburn was quoted as telling New Idea that her former husband was a "fake" and an egotist. Thorburn has since denied the giving the magazine an interview but the damage has been done.

There is word that Thorburn could be one of the contestants on Channel 10's reboot of Dancing with the Stars, providing another chance to twist the knife.

The worry for Stefanovic is that he will forever be mentioned in the same breath as Mel Gibson, Paul Hogan, Greg Norman, Bob Hawke and Kevin Costner.

Their reputations were shredded after what was seen as "trading in" the wives who had been there through the hard times for a younger model when they achieved major success.

And now the splashy spectacle of the three-day Stefanovic/Yarbrough wedding celebrations has become a new turn-off for a lot of Aussies.

Nine was hoping that the couple would have had a more low-key event. Instead, with sixteen in the wedding party, a Bundaberg rum bar, Julie Bishop on the decks - it was try-hard Hollywood kitsch.

Julie Bishop behind the decks at the after-party. Picture: instagram.com/corbinharris
Julie Bishop behind the decks at the after-party. Picture: instagram.com/corbinharris

As far as I'm concerned, Today has more problems than simply Stefanovic. Nine CEO Hugh Marks told me recently that the production needed to be sharpened up and in the last week Mark Calvert has been replaced by Steven Burling as the network's director of morning television.

Multiple Nine sources say that one of Today's biggest problems is that it is too Sydney-centric. To them, the constant Harbour City focus is the main reason the show has dropped like a stone in Melbourne and Adelaide.

I would add that Nine and the show were hurt by the circumstances of Lisa Wilkinson's departure - which was shaped in terms of a gender pay gap and female empowerment.

In 2017 there were reports that Stefanovic wanted to quit Today and replace Tracy Grimshaw as host of A Current Affair.

Accurate or not that also hurt. If Stefanovic wasn't committed to Today then why should viewers be?

I am still to be convinced that replacement Georgie Gardner is as popular as Wilkinson.

Stefanovic's criticism of Gardner during his famed Ubergate conversation with brother Peter hasn't helped.

Mexican Marines patrol the beach ahead of the wedding. Picture: Nathan Edwards
Mexican Marines patrol the beach ahead of the wedding. Picture: Nathan Edwards

Viewers will never be convinced that there is any genuine chemistry between Stefanovic and Gardner no matter how much the pair pretends to be pals.

I reckon another hit to Today's popularity happened when weather presenter Steve Jacobs quit at the end of 2016. Natalia Cooper isn't the answer.

Television shows don't go off the boil because of one thing but because of a convergence of a number of issues.

The negativity that has swirled around Stefanovic is certainly one reason for falling ratings but it is not the only factor.

I think Stefanovic's attitude right now is "life is too short to be unhappy". He must feel he has been through the wringer. He is in love and doesn't mind the world knowing.

Stefanovic must also be confident that he has a set of work skills that will keep him employed even if Nine pulled the plug on his Today job.

"The best journalist in Australia, quite possibly the world", as his ex-wife reportedly claimed he described himself, is a step too far, but there is no doubting that he is respected at Nine for his hosting and reporting abilities.

So where to from here? Maybe the best thing Stefanovic could do is quit Today. Shed all the baggage that comes with the job. Move on professionally as well as personally. Shape a new future.

Colin Vickery is a News Corp national TV writer.

@colvick



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