Lisa Wilkinson’s sudden exit from The Project during Sunday’s episode comes just days before Carrie Bickmore is also set to depart from the show that has made her a household name.
Bickmore will appear on The Project for the final time next Wednesday, November 30, in what’s sure to be an emotional episode.
There were some marked contrasts between the pair’s farewells – Carrie’s announcement came on October 11, some seven weeks before her last episode. Wilkinson, on the other hand, made her announcement in the final few minutes of last night’s show, revealing that her departure was “effective immediately”.
Her co-host Hamish Macdonald noted that the news would likely come as a shock for many of Wilkinson’s colleagues, who would be learning about it at the same time as viewers.
And while Bickmore is leaving the Ten network altogether, Wilkinson insisted she won’t be going too far, telling viewers she’d be “looking at some very exciting work ideas ahead” with Ten.
Then there was the content of each of their departure speeches.
Bickmore’s October announcement was an emotional affair, as she spoke warmly of the “incredibly fulfilling” job she’s had for the past 13 years.
“It’s no secret that this show has become a second home to me, and I couldn’t be more thankful to everyone that has been involved on and off screen,” she said.
“It has been a long journey. I started the show when Ollie, my son, was one, and he’s now 15, which is crazy. And I want to spend more time at home. I want to have more family dinners,” Bickmore continued.
Wilkinson’s speech last night was far more pointed, as she appeared to lay blame for her departure on negative media coverage.
“The last six months have not been easy, and the relentless targeted toxicity by some sections of the media has taken a toll not just on me, but on people I love,” she said.
“Don’t get me wrong. I’m not above criticism, far from it. I’m human, and I don’t always get it right. None of us do. But by god, I’ve tried. I’ve given this job everything I have. And I hope you at home know that.”
Wilkinson’s controversial June Logies speech, which contributed to the trial of Brittany Higgins’ alleged rapist Bruce Lehrmann being delayed, landed her in hot water and was met with a barrage of criticism.
During last night’s speech, Wilkinson also noted the exodus of experienced female presenters who have quit their high-profile TV jobs this year, putting the call out to “Leigh Sales, Tracy Grimshaw and Carrie Bickmore” to join her for a drink sometime soon.
Bickmore and Wilkinson’s respective departures from The Project raises questions about just who exactly could fill each of their shoes. The Project’s low ratings frequently made headlines this year, and now the show will head into 2023 without its two highest-profile female stars.
Bickmore had been the sole remaining original Project host, and her 13 years on the show turned her into a much-loved household name and Gold Logie winner.
Wilkinson’s tenure on the show was shorter and more dramatic: She was poached after a messy exit from Nine’s Today show in 2017, and in the past 12 months has dominated the headlines with a string of controversies, including the fallout from her tell-all memoir, her stoush with a tabloid photographer, and her Logies speech.
Amid all this, a prediction from entertainment reporter Peter Ford that this isn’t the end of The Project’s staff churn.
“There will be more ‘shock resignations’ in the next two weeks,” he tweeted ominously last night. “How coincidental so many people all decide at same time they ‘need a change’.”
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