‘We’re not idiots’: Footy Show hosts’ secret final pact revealed
THE Footy Show co-host Anthony "Lehmo" Lehmann has revealed the panel made a secret pact before what turned out to be their final show last night.
The final siren sounded for the embattled footytainment program after weeks of falling ratings, with Nine blindsiding its hosts by announcing the move less than an hour after the program aired.
Lehmann said he spoke with co-host Neroli Meadows about making the best possible episode.
"We've got eyes and ears and we're not idiots, so we knew that there was potentially, a bit of heat on the show," Lehmann told Triple M Hot Breakfast today.
"We said: 'If this is our last show' - and we had no idea at the time - I said: 'Let's make a show that makes every single person who watches it really disappointed that it's not gonna be back next week.'
"I feel we achieved that last night.'"
The Footy Show has suffered a continual decline in ratings since debuting a reinvigorated cast in March, with the announcement coming just days after Nine denied the new-look version was destined for the axe.
Hot Breakfast co-host Eddie McGuire, whose company JAM TV produces The Footy Show for Nine, told Lehmann: "You did what the network asked of you. You pitched it at an audience - the audience wasn't necessarily there, but the shows were great.
"You showed absolute professionalism: you, Neroli, Fev and Crawf, and Dylan … you couldn't have done any better."
McGuire added: "Lehmo took this show on in the week of the first show. There was a lot of talk on whether the show was gonna go on. Lehmo being the professional that he is, and up for anything, put himself on the line and had a go.
"The network wanted to try something different, and Lehmo, you walk out of this with your head held high. You're a total professional. My estimation of you, which was high to start with … you're an absolute star."
Lehmann said he felt for the crew, some of whom had worked on the show for decades.
"We had a great team behind the scenes. They really worked their arses off. I really feel for that crew. Some of those people have been there for 25 years, and they lost their jobs last night. That made me sadder than anything," he said.
McGuire added: "I'd like to congratulate the Channel 9 management. They had a go at something different. The Footy Show finished, really, on the Grand Final show last year. In the end, they rolled the dice, (it) didn't come up."
Lehmann compared being the last host of The Footy Show to "(the movie character) Ferris Bueller … when he drove his dad's Ferrari off the balcony".
McGuire also opened up on The Footy Show's humble beginnings, revealing the pressure its original cast was under when it first aired 25 years ago.
"When we first started the show, we were told 'you've got six weeks to make it rate' - and here we are 26 years later and we've got 729 more episodes out of it than anybody thought on the first night," McGuire said on Triple M this morning.
"It's been a huge success, I think it transformed football, and certainly the entertainment and the commercialisation of the game, so we're hugely proud of that.
"Sam Newman should be in the TV hall of fame … there is no doubt that Sam Newman has been one of the most influential people in the history of media in this town.
"Now that the show's finished we can actually reflect on that."
HOSTS BLINDSIDED BY DUMPING
Hosts Anthony "Lehmo" Lehmann, Neroli Meadows, Dylan Alcott, Shane Crawford and Brendan Fevola were not told of the plan to dump the program before the final broadcast last night.
At the end of last night's show, Meadows said: "We'll see you next week."
The show was Australia's longest-running sports entertainment show, clocking up 735 episodes since it premiered in 1994.
The revamped version was aimed at winning back viewers the program had lost over the years with its regressive humour and panel of controversial figures.
Panel stalwarts Sam Newman and Eddie McGuire left the program, but fresh blood did nothing to stem a ratings haemorrhage.
Lehmann was the first of the show's five hosts to respond this morning, saying he was "bloody disappointed" by the shock move.
He also paid tribute to his colleagues, writing: "I'm bloody disappointed The Footy Show has been cancelled but I'm grateful for the opportunity to host it with Nez, Fev, Dylan and Crawf and am really proud of the shows we made.
"Our team were brilliant and spare a thought for the crew, some of whom had been there for 25 years!"
Co-host Neroli Meadows looked back fondly on her time on The Footy Show, saying she gave it her best.
"Gave it a crack - loved every second," she said.
Here's to the people behind the scenes who worked on this show every year it was on air … Proud of the show we created this year and proud of the people who worked on it. Fun episode to go out on!"
"It is with regret that The Footy Show will no longer be produced," the network's Melbourne managing director Matt Scriven said last night.
"It has been a tough decision to end the program that has been such a trailblazer, but sadly the new show has not captured audiences in the way we had hoped."
DISMAL RATINGS NAIL IN SHOW'S COFFIN
The show posted a dismal 53,000 viewers in Melbourne last week up against The Front Bar (278,000), a figure so bad it was outgunned by Nine's late-night Footy Classified and Sunday morning's The Sunday Footy Show.
There had been calls for the crew from The Sunday Footy Show, hosted by Tony Jones with panellists including Billy Brownless, Damian Barrett, Nathan Brown, Matthew Lloyd, with special appearances by Newman, to take over the Thursday slot.
Newman recently said he had not been watching the revamped program.
Last month, Meadows said she hoped viewers stuck with the show.
"I think in Australia people do love a pile-on. But you know what? The only thing they love more is a really good comeback story," Meadows said.
"And if we become one of those, that's awesome. If not, at least I gave it a crack."
When the new show launched, Lehmann said: "The Footy Show is an institution and it's a great honour to be taking the hosting chair."
"As a passionate footy fan, I'm itching for the season to start and can't wait to work with this incredible line-up. It's going to be a lot of fun."
Crawford had implored viewers to be patient.
"It's a new show so you've got to let them do their thing,'' he said in March.
"Everyone's got strong opinions but it's all about building chemistry."
Nine maintained its bravado over the failing show to the very end, pumping out a statement on Wednesday declaring "it's on for young and old as an AFL young gun" joined the panel.
It promised Jaidyn Stephenson talking about the impressive form of the high-flying Pies, while Footy Show regular and Carlton star Dale Thomas also featured.