Comm Games Stuff Up: Big pay off in Jo’s risky move
WHEN Channel Seven host Johanna Griggs launched her takedown of the Commonwealth Games' Closing Ceremony, she didn't realise the bold move was setting herself up for something bigger.
In an unscripted moment of on-air candour, Griggs - the affable, easygoing host of family-friendly Better Homes & Gardens - proved she's not just a relatable mum-of-two who froths about DIY renos and can talk sport. She's bold, opinionated and fearless. In two minutes, she gave a gutsier and more authentic moment than anything we've seen all year on any breakfast television show.
The 44-year-old's lashing on Sunday night was gobsmacking in the best possible way. While her co-host Basil Zempilas described the lacklustre and heavily panned Closing Ceremony as "disappointing", it was Griggs who kicked it up into gear and began tearing it apart.
"I'm sorry, you're being way too polite," a visibly enraged Griggs said live on-air before going on to criticise the decision not to show athletes entering the stadium. "I'm furious."
In a final blistering example of the failure, she told viewers: "There's no athletes in here. I've never seen the stadium so empty. It's so wrong, Baz."
Griggs' comments came as a surprise. As host of lifestyle shows Better Homes & Gardens and House Rules and as the steady hand guiding a lot of Channel Seven's sport coverage, she's the last person anyone expects to rock the boat. And it's because of this that her decision to articulate what many Australians were thinking had such cut-through. The ripples Griggs - who began her broadcast career at Seven in 1993 after retiring as a champion swimmer - created indicate something bigger: We want more.
The moment also served as a reminder.
It takes a moment like this for a network to realise the value they're sitting on. Channel 9 experienced it last year after Tracy Grimshaw quietly and expertly eviscerated Don Burke in her interview following sexual harassment allegations. It seemed viewers and network bosses were reminded - and almost shocked - that the veteran presenter could do such an impeccable job. A job she's been doing for more than three decades.
"I think the obvious thing for me is after seeing a devastating interview [Burke's] at the end of last year is to have more Tracy in the program," A Current Affair's new executive producer Steve Burling told The Australian in February.
Given the traction Griggs' comments received in the days that followed the Closing Ceremony, it would be perplexing if Seven bosses weren't thinking of how to extract the searing, intelligent candour of their family-friendly host and inject it around the network.
For hosts like Grimshaw and Griggs, their skills aren't newly acquired. With the restraints of network television - and in the boundaries of what programmers think audiences want - they're not given the opportunities to expand and get messy like their male counterparts. They're not concerned with using their personal lives to grab headlines and they're also not seen as typical, out-of-the-box prime time commercial talent. With Nine's recent push - following the Burke interview - to nab Grimshaw the Gold Logie at this year's awards, perhaps it's a sign television networks are beginning to sit up and hear the message.
For Griggs, her edge has always simmered beneath the surface. She gave a taste of it when - accepting the Logie for Better Homes & Gardens in 2011 - she took aim at Karl Stefanovic for declaring his then-wife Cassandra Thorburn had the "best arse".
"Karl, we don't have bum and boobs jokes - it's just nice family viewing," she said sharply in her own speech.
And on Sunday night, Griggs again decided to show this edge. She was both applauded and criticised for her comments. Making her takedown even more refreshing was seeing her stand by her words in the days that followed. She publicly railed against those who didn't agree - including fellow personalities and industry figures.
In a TV world with too many commentators without a single opinion, Griggs showed us she has a lot to say and isn't afraid of the trouble. It would be a shame if Seven don't let her give us more of this.