Carrie Bickmore’s big TV admission
CARRIE Bickmore wasn't certain she'd ever work in TV again after The Project's first episode.
And the popular presenter has her old mate, comedian Dave Hughes, for instilling that fear.
"I remember Hughesy stood up [after the first show] and said, 'Well, that's my career over!'" she laughingly recalls.
"And I thought: 'Well, if Hughesy thinks it went that badly then I am probably never going to work again.' Every week after that was a bonus. I just wanted to enjoy it for as long as it lasted."
And last it has. This week The Project clocks up 10 years on air. And Bickmore has been there for every one of them.
The star returned from maternity leave last week just in time to celebrate the show's milestone with co-hosts Waleed Aly and Pete Helliar.
The mother-of-three is the only one of the show's original line-up left on the desk. Aly replaced original host Charlie Pickering five years ago and Helliar stepped in for Hughesy not long after that.
Helliar admits that everybody was a little confused by The Project when it began.
"I remember interviewing Charlie Pickering on air for Triple MMM and saying, 'What's the show all about? and him saying, 'I don't know,'" Helliar said.
"It was pretty funny. Then I asked him off air and he said, 'We actually don't know.' I thought he was just playing it up. I think they were still working it out."
Helliar believes The Project's success is an example of perseverance paying off.
"The story of Channel 10's commitment to the show has become TV folklore," he explains.
"The knives were out for it really early. The fact that Channel 10 heroically stuck by it should be a model for TV networks to look at what you can do.
"If you sometimes ignore the outside noise. If you know you've got a good product, let it settle and stick with it."
A decade on from that first shaky start, Bickmore confesses she still gets nervous.
"Sometimes we will be halfway through a show and I'll suddenly think, 'S*** I am on live TV,' and then the butterflies will start," she says.
"I think the day I stop getting nervous is the day I've stopped caring."
And there's a lot to get nervous about with live television where anything can and does go wrong, as Bickmore knows all too well.
One of her favourite moments on the program was when the autocue and video packages failed. Without missing a beat, Bickmore read the headlines from her written notes while her co-hosts acted them out with hilarious results.
Let's just say Waleed Aly doesn't have a future in mime artistry!
The Project's unpredictability is part of what its fans enjoy. It also helps that the show secures some of the most-sought-after interviews on Australian TV.
But it's also fair to say it took viewers, and even Bickmore herself, a little while to understand the show's unique blend of comedy and hard news.
"It took me a while to get used to the gear changes between talking about a death toll overseas and introducing an interview with Miley Cyrus," she says.
Bickmore believes the show's ability to keep reinventing itself is a large part of its ongoing success.
So too is the chemistry between its hosts because, Bickmore says, "A show like this wouldn't work if we weren't a team."
Co-host Aly says the warmth between the panel members even extends to his relationship with Steve Price, despite the clear gulf between their views.
"I get on really well with Steve," Aly says.
"We have got a lot to talk about because we follow the same team (Richmond). I love talking to people about subjects we disagree on. I find it far more interesting to have a conversation with someone who doesn't agree with me on every topic."
Aly has never been shy about expressing his views and while many of his editorials, including a powerful speech about the Christchurch terror attack and a personal anecdote about his son's autism diagnosis, have gone viral it's never been his intention to generate online attention for himself.
A lawyer, academic and journalist, Aly never set out to be a TV star. His road to becoming a prime-time host winner is due to what he describes as an "unfortunate habit of saying 'Yes' to everything".
Which is why, when the Channel 10 show's producer asked Aly to fill in for Pickering, who was sick, the father-of-two didn't hesitate, even though he was suffering from jetlag.
"Afterwards I was thinking how terribly it all went. I remember thinking: 'Well, Waleed, you've just discovered you can't do that [host].' But the producers were really happy."
Aly has now been hosting The Project since 2015 and has won Gold and Silver Logies for his work. He was nominated again this year for the Gold.
He isn't the only one packing Gold. Bickmore won hers in 2015 while producer and occasional panellist Rove McManus has an impressive 16 Logies in his cabinet, three of them Gold.
"Rove told me it (the Gold Logie) needs regular polishing," Aly says.
"But mine is hidden in a cupboard somewhere at home so I don't get a big head looking at it all the time!"