Feuds, jealousy and even a potentially embarrassing court case paint the “Studio 10 family” as anything but a happy one, with Ita Buttrose’s exit the latest in a series of blows for the embattled breakfast TV show.
“They kept Ita’s resignation under wraps because it’s starting to look a lot like rats leaving a sinking ship,” reveals an insider, who says the ratings have been in freefall since Jessica Rowe’s shock decision to leave two months ago.
Ita had five minutes to say goodbye, while Jess got a full show. Watch Ita’s message in the video above, compared to Jess’ fond farewell below.
“Execs were trying to convince Ita to stay but once she found out she wouldn’t be covering the royal wedding, she wanted nothing more to do with Ten.”
“To say she was shocked they gave the gig to Lisa Wilkinson and Angela Bishop would be an understatement. It was a huge snub to a legend. She was stunned and very upset. It was insulting.”
Ita, 76, hinted at her fury last week, saying she “doesn’t have a clue” why she was passed over, given she has covered the royal weddings of Prince Charles and Diana Spencer, Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson and Prince William and Kate Middleton.
“Ita didn’t like the direction the show was going in either and had started to feel ignored and passed over on many segments,” says the insider.
Adding, “And even though Ten played down the feud with Denise Drysdale (which broke out in November when she pelted a brussels sprout at Ita), the bad blood between the two of them never went away.”
It didn’t help to thaw relations that executive producer Rob McKnight, who brought Ita on and was her biggest champion, was sacked after the food fight.
The two women, who insiders say can’t stand each other, were last week still trying to downplay reports of a feud amid new claims of jealousy among the stars of Studio 10 over their salaries and perks.
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Behind the scenes, however, the feud silently raged on for months, with Denise, 69, and Ita refusing to appear on the panel together except for a handful of occasions – and even then they sat on opposite sides of the panel.
“It was glaring to everyone that all of a sudden Denise and Ita were never on the same panel. The bad blood continued despite Denise’s apology, and to be honest they were never close,” confirms one former staffer.
“I think the fallout from the feud probably contributed to Ita’s decision to leave. She doesn’t need the money and she didn’t appreciate being the object of ridicule. Do you think she enjoyed being at the centre of ‘brussels sprout-gate’?” the source says.
Certainly when Ita spoke about her reasons for quitting Studio 10 on the show last Wednesday, citing a desire to spend more time with her grandchildren and write books, the tension between her and Denise was obvious.
They sat apart from each other and a stone-faced Denise stayed uncharacteristically silent, staring into space while her co-stars offered Ita their best wishes.
“And it was pretty clear Ita couldn’t wait to get out of there,” our source says.
There’s an air of doom and gloom on set, according to our insider, who says Denise has also confided to friends she’s considering quitting, while host Sarah Harris’ role is under threat, with execs wanting “more entertainers and less journalists” to win back audience share.
While Jess, 47, stunned her co-stars with an on-air resignation on March 9, insisting she just wanted to spend more time with Allegra and Giselle, the daughters she shares with Nine newsreader Peter Overton, insiders say she was aware of the show’s decline.
“Jess is a TV veteran and the show hasn’t been working for at least six months, so while she does want to spend more time being a mum, I think she also realised it was a good time to walk away,” our source says.
Causing yet more drama on the flailing show this week is the potential embarrassment that former executive producer Rob McKnight will be back in court this week suing Ten for what he claims are unpaid entitlements.
“It’s not a great time to be on Studio 10, and I think the survivors are wondering just what the future holds,” our source says.
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