Sarah Harris will replace Carrie Bickmore as host of The Project

Channel 10 has announced Studio 10 star Sarah Harris will be the new host of The Project as Carrie Bickmore’s final show looms.

Bickmore, who has been on the panel since the show began in 2009, will farewell viewers next Wednesday in an episode which will also mark her departure from the Ten network. Harris will step in five nights a week as her replacement.

It comes as The Project has been rocked by two major resignations this week, with Lisa Wilkinson and Peter Helliar announcing their exits within one day of each other.

According to a statement from Channel 10 released today, Harris will host the show five nights a week alongside Waleed Aly, who will remain a mainstay of the show Monday through to Thursday.

Sarah said: “This is one of the biggest and best jobs in TV. How could I say no?

“I’m beyond excited to be joining one of Australia’s most iconic and agenda driving shows. The Project does news like no other program in Australia and it’s exactly the kind of fun and fearless TV I love to make.

“I can’t wait to share the desk with Waleed, Hamish, Georgie and the rest of the team. I’m excited to shake it up in the new year!”

Waleed Aly said: “She’s smart. She’s warm. She’s great fun. That’s the trifecta for The Project. Everyone who’s worked with Sarah raves about her, and I can’t wait to become one of them.”

The network also revealed that Hamish Macdonald will continue as roving reporter during the week, featuring on the desk every Friday and Sunday night. Meanwhile, Georgie Tunny will feature on the panel every Friday night.

As for Bickmore, she has just confirmed four more years hosting the Hit Network’s national drive show with Tommy Little.

The Project hosting shake-up comes as the show loses three of its biggest names.

On Sunday night, Wilkinson said it was “time to reprioritise a few things in my life,” citing “relentless, targeted toxicity” over the past six months as her reason for stepping down.

Her sudden exit — confirmed in a text message the night before her announcement, Peter Helliar revealed today — raised speculation as to whether there might be more to Wilkinson’s decision to quit than meets the eye.

That rumour was shut down by a Network 10 spokesperson, who told “To be perfectly clear, this was Lisa’s decision. Any inference to the contrary is completely false.”

The very next night, comedian Helliar said he was stepping away to focus on other professional commitments.

“It’s been something on my mind for a while, people will read into the situation however they want to read into it but I feel like I need to create some space for some projects that I want to work on,” he said.

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Meanwhile, entertainment commentator Peter Ford, who accurately predicted Peter Helliar would be the next to leave after Wilkinson, warns there are more resignations to come, along with major changes to show’s format after a year of ratings struggles.

He has claimed the network was “seriously toying with not bringing back the Sunday version of the show, which has never taken off”, and would also refresh the set and line-up.

“This is a last-ditch attempt to try and save it, but whether the brand name is already too tarnished, only time will tell,” he said.

“You’ve only got to look at the ratings to realise that for the money they are giving out, the return is not good enough, and it hasn’t been for a long time.

“This is the first major shake up ever; they’ve given the show tweaks in the past, but this is do or die. I think the way the show was going, it was going into a sinkhole and it was not going to recover.”

Ford said Chrissie Swan and Georgie Tunny could be tapped on the shoulder to replace Bickmore and Wilkinson, and said one of his biggest criticisms of the show in the past had been its lack of spontaneity, which he hoped would be addressed in 2023.

“I personally think one of the biggest problems with the show was not the on-air talent, but how rigid and scripted it was – there’s very little spontaneity, and when I watch a panel discussion show, I like to think there is room for something unexpected to happen,” he explained.

“But it’s five hours of Australian TV a week, and whether I watch it or not is irrelevant – I would like to see it survive.”

Channel 10 has confirmed there will be an announcement about Peter Helliar’s replacement in the coming weeks.

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