It shouldn’t surprise anybody to learn that after departing Big Brother in 2007, Gretel Killeen has had many conversations with producers and networks to host new projects.
Whilst she has made appearances on morning television and The Project, she returns tonight in a co-hosting role on ABC’s new entertainment show, How Not to Behave.
“I wasn’t plotting to host anything. It wasn’t particularly on my radar. This one drew me towards it because I liked the fact it was co-hosting and it was very interesting casting. I thought that reflected an interesting perspective this production company and the ABC were looking at,” she tells TV Tonight.
“I wanted something that was fun and new territory for me.
“I wasn’t interested in doing any TV hosting but I thought ‘Alright I’ll go and do the chat.’ But it worked out!”
Killeen joins comedian Matt Okine as they discuss the foibles of social etiquette in a format developed in Sweden and produced by Screentime.
“Matt is only a couple of years than my son, so to me that’s interesting,” she continues.
“I like that it’s a big age difference and it’s noticeable. To me it says something good and strong about our society appreciating the value, wisdom, humour and guts of women as we get on.
“When I first did voice overs women were meant to be off the screen by the time you turned 30.”
Indeed speaking her mind has been the characteristic that audiences have come to love. Whether on Big Brother, Midday or Beauty & the Beast with Stan Zemanek, she’s rarely been stuck for words.
“Beauty and the Beast was the first time I was on a panel with other women. Prior to that we were supposed to be either attractive on screen or intelligent. So this show got all the feisty gals of the time.
“I think we don’t give credit where it’s due and it was one for having wild, high-achieving, outspoken women who did it all with a sense of humour.”
Sharing the hosting duties was a big part of her decision to say ‘Yes,’ driven by a much deeper desire not to carry the load solo.
“I said yes to this one because it was gentle, co-hosting and I like the people. It really does make a difference to me on this one that it was shared,” she explains.
“I was the face of Big Brother. Even in my home life, I’m a single mother, and I’ve carried a lot of the load myself, in life. So I just liked the idea of sharing it. Sharing it and enjoying it.”
I’m curious about what kind of Television she enjoys watching? It’s a mix of News and Drama. Reality doesn’t get a mention.
“I’m very much into binge viewing Dramas, ABC and SBS News and Current Affairs, and The Project,” she suggests.
She names Game of Thrones, Orange is the New Black, Nashville and Netflix’s Grace & Frankie -but while she loves Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin, she has a big problem with Martin Sheen as a same sex partner of Sam Waterston.
“I didn’t even believe they’d met a gay couple. And how annoying are the children? But I love the fact that women in their 70s …and I know we’ve had The Golden Girls… but everybody wants their story told on TV, they want to exist. Whether it’s your cultural story, ethnic story or age.
“We live in a time where often people can’t recognise amazing talent and skill. To see those women with impeccable timing and character in their 70s, was fantastic. We just have to get rid of three-quarters of the cast.”
Starting with Martin Sheen?
“‘Oh sweetie I will loosen your tie?'” she mocks.
“I live in a completely gay world and I have never heard two men (like that). He’s gay so he must care about the cutlery that the food is served on? For heaven’s sake!”
But whilst she has been synonymous with a ground-breaking Reality TV show, Killeen insists family and writing are far more important.
“When you’re on television people think that’s the main thing that you do. But it’s just the most public one. Now that my children are older I go back to some of the other things I love, like stand-up comedy. I’ve just started writing a new book, which is great (fun). I’m involved in a few businesses, which I love,” she continues.
“So the television thing I don’t think of as the be-all and the end-all. I recognise it as a powerful medium and I think it’s important to use it properly.”
As light as it can be for an 8pm timeslot, How Not to Behave is underpinned, says Killeen, by good manners and a level of respect that is increasingly diminishing.
“I think we’re led by people who are focussed on dividing us into ‘Us and Them.’ So I like a platform that has a voice where people can say, ‘Let’s start with a rudimentary thing where we are all sharing a space.’ How should we treat each other?,” she says.
“When you see Australia changing and there’s this competition that’s being encouraged between all of us, and agreed…
“I do think the fundamentals are really important. People not even bothering to say ‘Thank you.’ Or they never returned your call 2 years ago and now suddenly they need something. How did they think the world works?
“It’s pretty basic: just respect other people, and they will respect you.”
How Not to Behave premieres 8pm tonight on ABC.