Karl Stefanovic’s redemption show
EXCLUSIVE: Like those who pledge to make radical change on Channel 9's lifestyle makeover show, This Time Next Year, its host and network prodigal son, Karl Stefanovic, has a chance at his own redemption story.
There's the challenge of rehabilitating his battered reputation after that nasty, public divorce; the fallout from his lavish remarriage to a younger woman; and last but not least, his shock dumping from the breakfast show he had anchored for almost 14 years.
The ratings of Nine's revamped Today show are a testament to the impact his departure has had on the program - with Sunrise winning bragging rights for another year, and Today's audience figures spiralling to record lows.
With Nine News bosses said to be considering sending Stefanovic back to the breakfast slot - perhaps, in a roving senior reporter role - his prime-time reappearance on This Time Next Year could be the litmus test they need to measure whether viewers are ready to welcome him back on the box.
As formats go, it's not one that is setting the world abuzz, but rather provides for some feel-good viewing in a menu of reality programming that often plays to the worst in human nature rather than the best of it.
For his part, Stefanovic makes for an empathetic host, keeping things solemn when they need to be for those facing heart-wrenching medical mountains to climb; before showing off his larrikin side, throwing down with a wannabe pro-wrestler; or cheekily teasing a hapless singleton, who took on 100 dates over 12 months in her quest for love.
He's endured more than his share of slings and arrows over his own romantic life - with mate Tom Gleeson and even Kerry O'Brien using Stefanovic's ugly divorce as fodder at this year's Logies awards.
It hit a decidedly off note in the room of Stefanovic's peers, even those who have made much fun at his domestic distress.
While he drew some of the criticism on himself, after a spectacular own goal gossiping in the back of an Uber with brother Peter, they both paid a high price for that faux pas.
Moving to Sky News as its breakfast host and the front man for the network's impressive documentary series on Lawyer X, Peter has forged a new path to great success.
His big brother, whose talent as a broadcaster has never been in doubt, is being put to work by Nine on its radio network, 2GB - as both a penance and perhaps potential next step for Karl, as fewer doors open to him.
This Time Next Year is not the serious journalism platform that a one-time US correspondent and network star, who long aspired to a full-time role on 60 Minutes (before he was party to sledging the show in the back of that ride share).
But it's when he comforts a couple, whose desperate battle to have a child has left them $75,000 poorer and grieving the loss of three failed IVF attempts, that will go some way to winning back fans.
When he wishes the couple continued love and hopes "life gives you a bub," it's a redemptive moment, a genuinely touching one, with a happy ending just a sliding door away.
For them and maybe even Karl.
This Time Next Year returns 8.40pm, Monday, August 12 on Nine.