- Comment: Where to now for Ten?
- Belling's tears as they 'hug it out bitch'
- Comment: Rivals have no fear of replacements
Against the stunning backdrop of Queenscliff Surfclub, the cast and crew of Wake Up hugged, cried and drank Veuve champagne and Corona beer after the curtains fell on the final episode of Ten’s now defunct breakfast show.
Although many of the production crew and behind-the-scenes team, from sound engineers to camera operators, producers and make-up artists, were on contracts and as freelancers were facing no job next week, there were still genuine smiles and warmth through the tears.
“It’s a sad day and I think everyone who has worked on this is going to look back and think its one of the best gigs they have worked on. From 3.30am to the strike of 8.30am people were laughing and smiling and there was a great energy, I hope everyone remembers how much we smiled,” a philosophical co-host James Mathison told Fairfax Media. He is on a contract with Ten.
Holding his little girl, Luca, who had been brought to the studio for the last few minutes of air-time by his wife Carlie, Mathison joked on air in trademark form, "let's not make it a navel gazing circle jerk", and said he was choosing to see the positive side and the team should be more than proud.
“In many ways we knew what was happening but we felt that as long as we were proud of what we did, no matter what was happening outside of here with the network, we were always proud of what we were doing, it was almost secondary [what was going on outside]. I think we were getting close to that translating to viewers and we were so amazed by the outpouring of support online by viewers."
Mathison said he felt given more time the show would have resonated and found a larger audience and that the debacle in the first few weeks, which saw executive producer Adam Boland take sick leave and then leave the program and their third co-host Natasha Exelby dumped, things would have been different.
"Oh absolutely [it would have found a larger audience]. The trouble was I think a lot of people made up their mind in the first four weeks," he said.
"We had so many problems in those first four weeks just simply getting a show to air that focussing on what the show was and what the stories were fell by the way side.
"We were putting out spot fires. So by the time we were hitting our straps a lot of people had already made up their minds and it's very hard to change them again."
He said if people had tuned in, they would have seen a different show in the past few months to other breakfast television offerings.
"I'm sure anyone who has watched in the last four or five months would have seen it was different. What was different is we really believed doing things with heart was important."
We were putting out spot fires. So by the time we were hitting our straps a lot of people had already made up their minds and it's very hard to change them again.
With a Zen-like attitude, Mathison will, for now, focus on his young family.
"Family puts things in perspective, when you've got your family it's all okay. I'll miss the team. I always try and remember you’re exactly where you're meant to be. You try and control everything but sometimes you have to allow the universe to take you wherever it wants you to go.
"We think we know what's best for us. But often life has a way of showing us that isn’t necessarily true."
Like Mathison, Natarsha Belling admitted her own young family was keeping things in perspective. Breaking into tears throughout the morning (she lost the bet with co-host Mathison), Belling's final words were to thank her mum for "holding my hand" during the past two weeks.
She was also putting on a brave face and managing to laugh, knowing her family and young sons were keeping everything in perspective in a way only children can.
She told a story about her son Hugo's response when she sat him down to tell him mummy would no longer be hosting Wake Up: "I wanted to let him know - as I knew he might face something in the school playground - and he said very seriously, 'What does this mean for me?' He was worried that because he and his brother Harrison get to share and play on my iPad during the morning 5am conference call he would not get to have the iPad anymore! It was a classic."
Despite her personal sadness Belling said she was heartbroken for her colleagues at the network and that "the heart had been ripped out of Ten" with recent job losses announced.
At the soiree Manly Mayor Jean Hay also made a speech saying it was a "sad day for Manly".
"It's a wonderful legacy for the club and we've had a lovely relationship with James and Tarsh. During the Christmas carols last December we had the biggest crowd there has ever been on Manly Oval because of those two wonderful people. I wish you all well and I hope we can keep in touch."
The captain of Queenscliff Surfclub farewelled the team, saying they had been more than welcome.
"You guys had a big go. Obviously it didn't go as well as you wanted it to - but you're always welcome here… And training for bronze gets started in a few weeks!" he joked.
And so it ended as it started: with great enthusiasm, genuine warmth, smiles, a few laughs, a great team and a brilliant sun-filled backdrop.
Fairfax Media columnist Jo Casamento was a regular guest on Wake Up.