O what a TV flop!
Nearly a decade ago, Channel Seven programmers were keen to give a stunning Gold Coast girl air-time. Jacqueline Last, nowadays better known as Jackie O, soon proved the point that being photogenic doesn’t mean you’ll be good on TV.
Screen presence, that certain je ne sais quoi, is an indefinable quality that draws the viewer in and makes you keep watching. The weird science of video lens calibration that captures you in a sequence rather than a single shot is a unique beast.
Audiences can smell a dud a mile off. No matter how stunning or controversial someone might be, if they don’t have screen presence the viewer will revolt. As they did in droves, when the initial audience of 1.2 million watching Jackie O and Kyle What’s-his-name’s first TV show diminished to just 200,000 near the end of the show. That, after a 1.4 million lead in. Apparently Channel Seven have short memories.
In 2002 Jackie O was then being groomed for a doomed series called Undercover Angels. It was a cute concept based on Charlie’s Angels theme with the three beautiful Channel 7 angels going out delivering good deeds. The show also featured Ian Thorpe. It bombed.
Stubbornly, the network persisted with Jackie O. The men at the top decided that if the viewers weren’t taking a shine to her on-camera then clearly the audience should have more. Some in-house produced channel 7 lifestyle/reality shows at the time had to have a “surprise visit” from Jackie O, which was soon dubbed “scheduled spontaneity” and possibly put her in the running for a Logie for “Best Actor in a Reality Series”.
Jackie and her producer would turn up and give away dishwashers etc to a needy family. Jackie was accommodating, professional and cheerful. It’s hard to reconcile that person with the “cackling enabler” present during the attack on the news.com.au journalist.
The last radio personality to do well with a blockbuster TV series based on their radio show… well, was Bob Dyer’s Pick-A-Box circa 1957. Yet for some unknown reason, TV programmers seem to have their fingers on the auto repeat button and keep shuffling up radio stars for TV. Stop it, you’ve clearly gone blind.
We are told from a young age that “you can’t judge a book by its cover”, but in 20 years of TV and screen-testing probably 500 to 600 wannabe stars, I’ve learned that the old expression is wrong. You can tell a lot from the lines on peoples faces, the way they hold themselves in a crowd, their walk, their tone.
Viewers already know this - and what they detected in the ‘beauty and the beast” duo of Kyle and Jackie O was zero screen presence. People at home told Kyle and Jackie O what TV execs just haven’t quite figured out: these ‘stars’ , to coin an old phrase, “have a great face for radio.”
In some sort of Karmic twist, the journalist that Kyle threatened last week does have on-screen presence. Alison Stephenson is a camera natural, professional and mature well beyond her years. Earlier this year I travelled with Alison to the U.S. to film interviews for news.com.au, Ali kicked goals all the way and held her own with Hollywood heavyweights.
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