Blame Ray Martin. He was the one who lured Amanda Keller out from behind the camera to her first on-screen appearances on the Midday show.
It was the mid 1980s and it was Martin who convinced one of his then-producers to make the leap, with regular appearances.
“He was the one who said ‘Maybe you should try being on camera?’ So I am always indebted to Ray, he is an amazing man,” said Keller.
“Luckily having had production experience it was easier for me to step into the role of reporter. I didn’t come from the side of setting out to be a reporter, necessarily. So it was an easier route for me, that way, I think.”
“I was probably the last of the generation that could get on TV before you had to be a celebrity”
Keller had a Communications Degree (she describes as “a formal degree in drinking pretty much”) and had been a researcher for Simon Townsend’s Wonder World and Good Morning Australia with Kerri-Anne Kennerley & Gordon Elliott, but the presenting stints became the basis of an entirely new career.
“I didn’t really look like a TV presenter, but I guess none of us did. There was no grooming, no stylists. I think I was probably the last of the generation that could get on TV before you had to be a celebrity already. After that there were Olympians, models, or from the newsroom.
“I was the last of the batch that could suddenly appear on television,” she maintains.
For the last 5 years Keller has anchored The Living Room, a surprise hit for TEN in a notoriously difficult Friday timeslot. After years of the network struggling to sustain an audience, The Living Room has managed to build a following, including famously knocking off its key rival Better Homes and Gardens at the last 3 Logie Awards.
She recalls it was another leap of faith when TEN asked her to join Dr. Chris Brown on a new TV venture.
“It’s almost like a Tonight show by stealth”
“We weren’t going to film a pilot and we didn’t even really know what the show was going to be. But I thought ‘If Chris is involved it will be ok.’ I’ve done so many shows that sound like they should be ok but end up not necessarily being ok,” she recalls.
“I never in the world imagined it would be going this long. But we’re not trying to do Better Homes and Gardens. One exec said ‘It’s almost like a Tonight show by stealth,’ which I really like. We’re hosting from the couches and we like to cover the things you would expect from Lifestyle TV.
“I get a lot of comments from people saying ‘In years gone by I would have been out but now I am home and this is the show I want.’ So I think we have tapped into a market that wants something that is Lifestyle meets Hey Hey it’s Saturday.”
Part of the show’s attraction is the evident rapport between Keller, Brown plus Miguel Maestre and Barry DuBois.
“That’s just luck of the draw. I’d never met Miguel and I’d only met Barry once at a Channel TEN function for The Renovators. So it’s a television gift that the 4 of us fell in love with each other.”
In addition to hosting Keller films some 20 stories a year for the show, juggling with her other key media gig hosting breakfast radio for WSFM.
Keller has grown into becoming one of TEN’s network faces, thanks in no small part to her Baby Boomer role on Talkin’ ‘Bout Your Generation and even regular appearances on Have You Been Paying Attention? where she is charged with serving up zinger punchlines.
“The Working Dog guys are very generous”
“It’s a bit like when I did Good News Week all those years ago –sometimes I feel like there’s a clown mouth going by and you have a ping pong ball which is your joke. You have to wait for the one moment to shove it in the hole and that was the only crack you got at anything.
“But this show feels generous and inclusive. The Working Dog guys are very generous so it’s not as daunting as it might have been.”
Now with a lengthy CV (including Denton, Beyond 2000, Mondo Thingo, Dancing with the Stars, The Hub and even acting stints on Swift & Shift Couriers), Keller happily imparst some of what she has now learned.
“If anybody ever asks me for career advice, I say ‘Storytelling is storytelling.’ I’d never have imagined I wanted to work on a science show or offered a job on a financial programme. So I say always do it, because storytelling is the same, that skillset is the same. The things you learn along the way will surprise you and the doors that will open.”
“Lifestyle TV deserves to be loud and proud!”
But there remains one niggling beef, which is that those Logie wins a being denied their moment of glory. After pulling off the impossible and toppling Better Homes & Gardens for the win, The Living Room‘s acceptance speech was edited down to a meagre few words
“They did it again this year. We were handed out before the broadcast and packaged up into a commercial break.
“Lifestyle TV deserves to be loud and proud!”
The Living Room airs 7:30pm Fridays on TEN.