This week, I continue the whole It Takes Two / impending fatherhood adventure, from May, 2006. If you’ll recall, I’d scored a job writing a new celebrity game show (/ reality show?) called It Takes Two. The show was being shot LIVE each Sunday night in Melbourne, and I was living in Sydney at the time. To add to the complications, my wife Judi was pregnant, and suffering from quite severe hyperemesis, which meant that she was nauseous, depressed and pretty much bed-ridden for the majority of her pregnancy. Each day I was away from her weighed heavily on my mind.
NOW READ ON…
The production flew me down to Melbourne from Sydney for two or three days each week, and put me up in a hotel a few doors up from the studio. This was essential, because these were very, very long days (and nights), often ending at 2 or 3 in the morning, once I’d added in all the latest additions, revisions and feedback to the current version of the script, from all the various Powers That Be and all the on-air talent.
Speaking of on-air talent, the show was hosted by Grant Denyer and Terasa Livingstone.
Grant, who currently hosts the successful reboot of Family Feud on the Ten Network, was on a roll when he came to host It Takes Two. He’d been doing the weather as part of the Seven Network’s Sunrise team for years, and was now stepping into Seven’s Sunday night 7:30 time-slot in this replacement for Dancing With The Stars… having just won Dancing With The Stars a few weeks earlier. Same network, same time slot! He was a natural fit, and a very good choice for this role. And a lovely bloke, to boot. Always cheerful, helpful and very smart too.
Joining him as co-host was Terasa (pronounced TerAYza) Livingstone; an Australian actress, model and presenter who’d just come back from America, where she’d booked some impressive jobs, including a gig on Lost. Terasa had started out many years before on the Seven network as a children’s presenter, so this was something of a homecoming for her. She was bright, bubbly, a great improviser, and the camera loved her. I thought she was a great choice for the role; she also had a great rapport with Grant, and was very charming to work with – never precious.
I do, however, remember one ‘controversy’ during the run of the show which really shook Terasa’s confidence. After each performance by one of the duos, it was Terasa’s job to interview them in the green room “backstage”. In one of these interviews, Terasa asked one of the female celebrities about her chosen charity. (As per Dancing With The Stars, each competing celebrity nominated a charity that received donations from the show on their behalf.) The celebrity named her charity, and said it was significant for her because her father had recently passed away of an illness, and the charity did work in that field. On hearing this, Terasa looked down the barrel of the camera and said something along the lines of “Aww. Hi Dad! Love you, Dad!” It seemed to be intended as a shout-out to her own father (who would have been watching), reminding him that she loved him. And perhaps reminding us all how precious our fathers are.
But that was not how the (live) viewing audience saw it. The backlash was swift and widespread. Was Terasa ignoring or dismissing the death of the contestant’s father, by saying “hi” to her own? Or was Terasa somehow, bizarrely, sending a greeting to the contestant’s dead father? Whichever way it was received, Terasa couldn’t win. She was viewed as insensitive, as thoughtless… when all she wanted to do was send a warm greeting to her own dad. Granted, the execution was flawed, and it was live television, so there’s no second chances to go back and correct these things, but I do remember the next day seeing Terasa at the production office, looking absolutely shell-shocked. We all bolstered her up, and told her we understood her intentions, but she seemed genuinely mystified as to how people could think those things about her. I really felt for her. Terasa was a kind person, and that result was a million miles away from anything she ever would have intended. She soldiered on brilliantly, and did the remainder of the season expertly, but I can’t help think that incident was something of a turning point for her. I remember wondering at the time how her comment would have gone over with an American audience. I’m sure they would have got her intention straight away, and would have thought it was a nice warm moment. I sometimes think we Australians are too cynical by half…
Next week, as I wind up the It Takes Two saga… a rock and roll legend, a big moral dilemma, and the denouement of it all. And this and more, right here, next Tuesday!