When producers unceremoniously dumped former host Peter Everett and replaced him with comedian Colin Lane, both TEN and Lane felt the wrath of viewers.
No single topic on TV Tonight has ever attracted as much on-going commentary as Everett’s firing, and Lane admits it was a baptism of fire.
“I remember at the time saying to myself, ‘Don’t be reading this, Colin!’ he admits.
“I even read something in the Herald Sun letters page last year and I thought, ‘Come on people! Move on with your lives!’
“Ready Steady Cook has an incredibly loyal audience and I don’t know if it’s the same all around the world but people in this country, if they don’t like something on the TV or they don’t like a change they will speak up. They will vehemently put forward their opinion about things they like or don’t like.
“TV is great and it’s important but sometimes people need to move on with their lives.”
Amid the backlash, Lane focused on the job he was hired to do, and the persistence has been paying off.
“At the time I just had to trust my own talents and keep on trying to do things to the best of my ability.
“I have no issue with Peter Everett. I’ve met the guy a couple of times and I still don’t know what the story is. I don’t want to know, I didn’t ask any questions from the network at the time and it was none of my business. It was irrelevant in some ways.
“I was incredibly chuffed to receive the Logie nomination for last year for Most Popular Programme and I thought ‘People are still liking the show and the concept.’ They’re obviously warming to my good self and as far as the ratings are concerned it still rates incredibly well for 2:00 in the afternoon.”
Lane is actually the third host of the local series. He took on the role after a presenting gig on The Circle, as part of a concerted move from comedy to TV presenting.
“After Lano & Woodley finished I wanted to present myself as something a little bit different to TV and comedy audiences,” he admits. “To a degree, I think people like to have a bit of comic irreverence on TV.
“I think there’s a kind of old-fashioned sentiment that TV has to be safe for the middle denomination of viewers. But I think you need a bit of a comic spark to be part of TV and that’s why Chrissie Swan has done so well.
“She’s funny, she’s quick and she’s not not the tall, 6-foot, skinny, blonde-headed amazingly good-looking woman. And I mean that in the nicest possible way about Chrissie Swan. It’s great to see people like her on the TV and I think it proves to the people who run the crazy old TV industry that people love that kind of stuff.
“I still love doing comedy but I just wanted to mix it up a bit.”
His second season of Ready Steady Cook begins today on Network TEN. Filmed before a studio audience the cooking format sees guests whipping up simple recipes with limited ingredients. They are joined by expert chefs including Darren Robertson, Monty Koludrovic, Migeul Maestre and Shane Delia.
“We’re opening the show with Cookie Monster and Elmo on Monday,” he laughs.
“It was delightful to have them on the programme, but the only major technical difficulty was trying to figure out how to shoot the sequence where they taste the food. Cookie Monster loves food but doesn’t technically eat it!”
With Lane the format varies from the UK edition which is hosted by Ainsley Harriott.
“Ainsley is actually a chef so he has a different angle to hosting, but otherwise it is pretty much the same tried and true formula. But we’re getting a little bit 21st century this year with Skype segments,” he says.
“Somebody is at home and they Skype the studio saying ‘I want to make some kick-arse sausage rolls at home’ or ‘I want to make salads more interesting for the kids,’ and the chefs and I talk to them and show them in real-time how to solve that little kitchen issue.”
But despite his enthusiasm for the show, Lane admits he still struggles in the home kitchen.
“Unfortunately I don’t spend a great deal of time in the kitchen. I do have a greater appreciation of food and the time and energy and resources it takes to actually produce the food. But I still don’t crave that actual time of cooking in the kitchen. I don’t find it therapeutic, I find it incredibly stressful. Especially when I’m trying to entertain at the same time.
“But I am slowly and surely gaining a higher appreciation of different ingredients and I impress people on the rare occasion with maybe a secret ingredient to a little concoction.”
The show is also the only afternoon lifestyle show to be nominated for a Logie Award, evidence of its popularity with a loyal audience.
“I think there are a lot of people that perhaps the network doesn’t quite realise are watching the show as in students, unemployed, people who work from home and a lot of mothers. But there still is that very faithful older audience that loves the show and is loyal to the show,” Lane insists.
“They come in on busloads to watch the recordings. I used to be recognised from Lano & Woodley on a regular basis, but now 9 times out of 10 it’s people who love Ready Steady Cook.
“It sounds a little bit domestic but a lot of women, and a lot of men, are out there in this day and age trying to figure out what to cook for their families. So it gives them creative ideas of new and different things to do.
“I’m trying to avoid the word ‘daggy’ but it’s just a bit of old-fashioned fun, really.
“I don’t mind calling myself a dag and I don’t think many Australians would be too proud to call themselves that as well.”
As he looks forward to the second season, Lane is happily learning his new skill set of TV presenting, and Ready Steady Cook allows him to inject his personality.
“That’s one of the enduring features of the show. It doesn’t take itself too seriously and there’s a really simple premise with not too many bells and whistles,” he says.
“It’s not old school but it’s a good, honest TV show that people have fun with every afternoon.”
Ready Steady Cook airs 2pm weekdays on TEN.