Last year, Karl Stefanovic's name was everywhere. From the end of his tenure on Today to his high-profile divorce from wife Cassandra Thorburn, stories about the TV presenter flooded the media.
Even half a world away, the spotlight was unavoidable, a building crescendo that hit its highest note when Karl, 44, married his fiancée, designer Jasmine Yarbrough, 34, in Mexico.
The wedding was described as "star-studded" and "extravagant", with reports that Mexican police had been hired to provide special security.
It was perfect fodder for the media, followed by an even more perfect footnote – in late December, just weeks after the wedding, the Nine Network confirmed that Karl would not be returning to Today, the breakfast show he'd co-hosted for 14 years.
With plaguing rumours and endless controversy, you'd be forgiven for asking, "What's going on with Karl Stefanovic?"
But in the aftermath, 12 months on, it appears Karl is doing better than ever. Saying goodbye to pre-dawn starts has served the journalist well, while the breather from the glare of breakfast TV has also delivered lasting benefits.
"I feel rested," Karl tells TV WEEK in our exclusive interview. "I feel like the focus has dropped off my private life a little, and that's given me the chance to breathe. I'm excited about the future.
"Breakfast TV is the hardest television you can do. You have to get up at an ungodly hour and be happy, be informed and entertain. There are huge pressures from outside, but it's also very rewarding. I'm enjoying waking up with Today from my bed these days."
Being excited about the future is relatively easy, but returning to the unpredictable world of television is not easy.
Luckily, Karl's back with gusto in the second series of This Time Next Year, beginning this week.
The inspirational show, which introduces us to everyday Aussies, then flashes forward a year to see what they've achieved, was a sleeper hit for the Nine Network in 2017.
"It's a brand new season, and right from the start, audiences at home will know the pledges are bigger and bolder than last time around," Karl explains. "I've been blown away by the magnitude of some of them."
Promos for the show have already teased some serious tear-jerkers; from a man in a wheelchair hoping to win his first IronMan triathlon, to a boy with leukaemia determined to make it onto the footy field with his mates.
It's a far cry from the blender of breakfast TV, where a typical show can include everything from grilling the PM to cracking jokes with the Dalai Lama.
"Yes, I've done a lot of different things on TV, but none of them quite like this," Karl says with a laugh.
"It's been a wonderful experience for me. There's a rollercoaster of emotions wrapped up in whoever comes out the door, and then there's more emotion when they come back a year later."
Walking through a door and coming out a year later having turned your life upside down is a premise Karl knows well. But he's embracing a new chapter.
"I've always been focused on the work and I'm pretty good at ignoring criticism – that's the nature of the beast these days," Karl maintains.
"If you don't like it, I guess you need to find something else to do. The bottom line is I love TV and I love my work – it's the best job on the planet."
The return of This Time Next Year has been touted as Karl's big comeback to television, but the presenter isn't buying into the discussion.
"I don't feel like I ever left TV," he says. "While I haven't been on Today for four hours every day, I have been working on this show and some pieces for 60 Minutes."
It's no secret Karl has long held a torch for Nine's flagship current affairs show, and it's clear he will always be on hand should they call.
"I love 60 Minutes," he enthuses. "The producers, cameramen and production staff are the best in the business, so it's an honour to be working for them."
Having conquered breakfast TV and found his feet once more at Nine, Karl is exactly where he needs to be. Which makes it an appropriate time to ask this question: so what's next for Karl Stefanovic?
"I'd like to interview Donald Trump and also do a travelling cooking show in exotic locations," he says.
So could we see Karl and Trump cooking tacos in Tijuana – maybe this time next year?
"It's unlikely!" he says with a laugh.
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Now To LoveDec 05, 2019