EXCLUSIVE: Karl Stefanovic & Allison Langdon get candid about their friendship, ratings pressure and their turbulent Today Show journey

''We’ve had a lot of changes, and a lot of changes aren’t great for a breakfast show.''
Loading the player...

It was – literally – a baptism of fire. As bushfires raged around the country at the start of 2020, Today’s new co-hosting duo, Karl Stefanovic and Allison Langdon, fronted TV for the first time, with Karl admitting on air, it “was not the start we thought we would have”.

But 18 months down the track, it’s clear it was exactly the start they needed.

What it did was shift the attention away from Karl and Allison, who were tasked with righting the Today ship after a tumultuous couple of years during which Karl was sacked while on his honeymoon with wife Jasmine Yarbrough – only for him to return to the desk with Allison a little over a year later when the team of Georgie Gardner and Deborah Knight were axed.

After the chair-swapping, a tsunami of bad press and a ratings nosedive, the pressure was on Karl and Allison to perform.

The fires, then the pandemic, gave them the perfect opportunity.

Karl & Ally’s hosting duties were a literal baptism of fire.

(Credit: Alana Landsberry)

“We came in and the focus was the story – as opposed to us and our relationship,” Allison, 42, tells TV WEEK.

“It was probably the best thing for us to try to cement what we were going to be to the Australian public, which is informative, credible and then, finally, entertaining – the jovial stuff that comes with the mix of breakfast TV,” Karl, 46, says.

“If you get the serious stuff right, you can peg back a few gears and have a bit of a laugh.”

Light and shade. The fact that they can squeeze in laughs around the edges of the daily COVID coverage is to their credit. It’s also nice to know that the playful on-air banter between Karl and Allison continues even when the cameras aren’t rolling.

The chemistry off screen is just as strong as it is on.

(Credit: Channel Nine)

Here’s an example…

Karl: She [Allison] still makes me very nervous whenever I come in and she’s so well-prepared. And she’s so in the moment that I feel very intimidated.

Allison: Half of that is true. I do come in well-prepared. He’s never been intimidated.

K: You get that glint in your eye and I know I’m in for a torrid three-and-a-half hours of television. Her mood controls the nation’s mood. If it’s spectacular, it’s spectacular. If it’s a little bit…

A: Hang on – when is my mood anything other than spectacular?

While they have a natural ease with each other, Karl acknowledges that “chemistry takes time”.

“The hard part isn’t the interviews, it’s not the bread and butter,” he says. “It’s what happens in between the moments. What comes from left field only adds to the chemistry. You don’t want to sit back and be stale. This isn’t a stale relationship. Trust is a big thing.”

Karl faces more criticism than his co-host.

(Credit: Alana Landsberry)

For Allison, the biggest challenge the former 60 Minutes reporter has faced since joining Today is “being able to switch off” once the show finishes.

“You switch back on again late in the afternoon, and you’re back into it again, but you actually need to deliberately step away [from work],” she says.

“It [work] is consuming, and you’re talking to people going through a lot – people have lost loved ones. At the end of the show it can be hard to just forget it.”

“I’ve loved going home straight after the show and living in an enclave,” Karl, who has one-year-old daughter Harper with Jasmine, says. I’ve actually really enjoyed that with a newborn.”

He describes being a dad again – he shares three children with ex-wife Cassandra Thorburn – as “fantastic” and a “beautiful time”.

Karl and Jasmine just celebrated Harper’s first birthday.

(Credit: Instagram)

Karl admits the scrutiny of his private life has been “awful” at times (“if I never see another paparazzo again I’ll be happy”, he says), especially for Jasmine, “who never asked for this”.

However, things have settled down.

Allison says she’s “flown under the radar”, in terms of tabloid attention. But if that changes…

“In my capacity, I will protect you,” Karl tells his co-host. “The reality is we have an incredibly strong relationship and we’re doing something we both love.”

It’s obvious their friendship extends beyond work.

“Ally came over with her kids to her [Harper’s] birthday,” he says. “It’s a big family. It’s never been like that on the show, really. We’re all in it together and we’re all trying to do our best for each other.”

Are Karl and Jasmine keen to have another child?

“I think we’re very open to it,” he says. “We’ve had such a great time with Harper. If we’re fortunate to, down the track, then for sure. I’m not getting any younger, but I think having healthy young kids is such a gift.

If we can, we will. And that means doing breakfast TV for another 15 years to pay school fees!”

“I’m stuck with you for 15 years?” Ally, who has two children – son Mack and daughter Scout with husband and fellow journalist Michael Willesee Jr – quips.

Another 15 years, another 15,000 coffees.

(Credit: Alana Landsberry)

It will be a task to beat rival breakfast show, Channel Seven’s Sunrise. But they’re making inroads – in 2020, Today topped Sunrise in the 16-39 demographic.

“We can’t really think about it,” Allison says of the ratings.

“We’ve had a lot of changes, and a lot of changes aren’t great for a breakfast show,” Karl concedes. “For us, it’s about getting our thing right and getting a response from viewers – that’s all that matters. If we win, we win, and if we don’t, we don’t. And I’ll be off the show again.

“We put so much work and energy into our show. I’m one of the most energetic people you’ll ever come across. It’s rock’n’roll. From 5.30am we’re on, and hold on to your hats! We go hard for our viewers, so good luck trying to match it.”

WATCH BELOW: The hilarious way Karl Stefanovic helps an injured Ally Langdon get to work

Loading the player...

Related stories