BREAKING: Kerri-Anne Kennerley's husband John Kennerley has died. Read the full story here.
When TV's golden girl Kerri-Anne Kennerley announced she'd be joining Studio 10 as their new panellist, many people – unsurprisingly – referred to her return as a TV comeback. But the defiant star is determined to prove them otherwise.
"When someone doesn't have their own show, it doesn't mean they're dead," Kerri-Anne, 65, explains to TV WEEK Close Up. "It's just a perception people have, because they're so used to seeing them in the public eye.
"Everybody's career – whether you're the prime minister, an editor or whatever – goes in waves.
"Over the years, I've worked on Seven's Sunday Night, where I've gone to Africa to do fabulous shows on endangered rhinos. I've also worked on some lovely long-format primetime shows.
"I never disappeared, I just didn't do a show five days a week. People had questions, but it never really bothered me, because I live a very healthy personal life."
Last month, Kerri-Anne debuted on Studio 10 alongside Sarah Harris, Joe Hildebrand, Angela Bishop and Denise Scott. For two days a week, the star discusses the news and events of the day.
While her new role is a "coming home" of sorts – she launched her presenting career on the same network back in 1981 – Kerri-Anne refuses to consider herself an Aussie icon.
"It's a title other people make up," she says of the label. "It doesn't have much relevance to me. Aussies are pretty good at putting tags on things. I suppose it's better than being called a halfwit.
"An 'icon' means you've been around too bloody long! It's like with the TV WEEK Hall Of Fame. When you first offered it to me, I said, 'No, I'm not dead yet!' I was a bit naughty, really. My husband was appalled at my churlishness. I was very lucky you came back and asked me a second time!"
Following her initial stint on Network Ten, Kerri-Anne hosted Good Morning Australia for 10 years, before going on to front Midday and Mornings With Kerri-Anne on the Nine Network for 11 years. Her return to morning TV was by no means an easy decision.
"I'd been in talks with Network Ten for a while, but I wasn't quite ready to come back to live TV," Kerri-Anne admits.
"I launched my book [A Bold Life] at the end of last year and it was a massive PR campaign. I was running around the country and doing stuff. But when we arrived at two days a week, it felt doable."
Now, a month or so into her new gig, it's clear Kerri-Anne has no regrets.
"The show has a really good feel about it," she says. "They're a great bunch of people and I'm just adding my voice and having a good conversation about topics people are interested in. It's like going out to lunch with your mates."
The media has already piled on the pressure for Kerri-Anne to resurrect Studio 10 and improve its ratings. The show's figures hover at just 50,000 to 60,000 viewers a day, while Seven's The Morning Show tops the timeslot at around 150,000.
Over the past year, the show has said farewell to some of its presenters too, including Jessica Rowe, Ita Buttrose and, more recently, Denise Drysdale, who described the ratings as "shocking".
While she says she doesn't feel "too responsible" for boosting the viewership figures, Kerri-Anne does have a track record of reviving struggling shows.
Not only was she behind the rebirth of Midday in 1996 (it was axed twice before, then after Ray Martin's departure in 1993), which was later renamed Midday With Kerri-Anne, she also earnt three TV WEEK Gold Logie Award nominations.
In 2004, Mornings With Kerri-Anne stole the morning ratings crown, which was held by Ten's Good Morning Australia for a decade.
"I was very happy about that," she admits.
For more from our interview with Kerri-Anne Kennerley, pick up a copy of the new issue of TV WEEK Close Up.