Today host Karl Stefanovic addressed the elephant in the room as soon as the show kicked off for the week at 5.30am on Monday morning – his co-host Ally Langdon’s imminent departure, to fill the hosting chair on A Current Affair.
And the ribbing continued throughout the episode, with Stefanovic promising Langdon’s last week on-air on Today would be a colourful affair.
But there was also time to get serious, as Langdon broke down in tears when she spoke about how bittersweet it was her late father-in-law, Mike Willesee, hadn’t lived to see her take on the same role he had for many years.
It was announced on Sunday night that Langdon would be leaving Today to take over the spot vacated by Tracy Grimshaw, who left A Current Affair after 17 years this week.
“Alison Langdon, everyone – the new host of A Current Affair, of course. Congratulations, Ally,” Stefanovic announced at the top of today’s show.
“I wasn’t sure what you would do this morning … I knew it would be something,” said Langdon.
Stefanovic quipped that he’d “spent the whole weekend working” on his brief acknowledgment of her new gig, which will start on January 30 next year.
“I could tell. The production value had your name all over it,” said Langdon.
“That’s all the Today show’s production value is. That part of the reason you have moved on?” asked Stefanovic, before telling his co-host there was “a big week planned for you … don’t go anywhere, not as if you can anyway”.
Langdon also told viewers she was feeling “excited but bittersweet” to be leaving Today after two years as co-host.
Karl roasts Ally: ‘Out with the old’
Karl’s cracks continued throughout the episode – in an interview with Jacqui Lambie, he declared Langdon was “turning her back” on breakfast television.
“Out with the old and in with the new,” he said later on, after a promo teasing Abo as Langdon’s replacement.
“When you say things like that I can’t wait to go,” said Langdon.
“And we can’t wait to shove you off. It’s going to be a wonderful week of celebrations,” he responded.
The trolling continued as the show went on, with the A Current Affair theme repeatedly blasted out, much to Stefanovic’s delight.
“It’s going to be a long week for you Langdon,” he warned her. She told him she might mysteriously find herself feeling sick during the week so she could avoid further roasting.
“You want more time off?” he quipped.
Later on, another opportunity for Stefanovic to have a playful dig at Langdon’s expense, telling viewers: “The countdown is on for Ally to leave breakfast television. We’ve cleared her desk, taken her car park and thrown out her Jimmy Choos… and good riddance, I say.”
He also claimed that Ally had only been co-host of Today for one year, not three: “When you take out all her leave and sick leave, it comes back to a year.”
Ally breaks down
After all those wisecracks, there was a surprising display of emotion later in the episode, when Langdon broke down in tears as she was joined on the sofa by her incoming replacement, 60 Minutes reporter Sarah Abo.
Abo would already be a familiar face to many Today viewers, filling in over the past 12 months when Langdon has been absent.
The emotions hit when Stefanovic pointed out the significance of Langdon taking on a job that used to be filled by her father-in-law – the late Mike Willesee, who died in 2019 aged 76.
“It’s a pretty special thing to the family if I’m honest. A special thing for Mike which has sort of surprised me how much emotion he’s had around it,” she said, referring to her husband of 14 years, Michael Willesee Jr.
“There’s the thought of how nice it would be had he been here,” she continued, breaking down in tears.
And she had some advice for her replacement about how to deal with Karl: “Call me for a counselling session and I’ll say, ‘What did he do now?’ That’s how I’ll answer the phone,” she said.
In a statement released with yesterday’s announcement, Stefanovic described Abo as “a brilliant interviewer [who] has the most wicked sense of humour”.
“I can’t wait for the country to see all of those wonderful qualities every day at breakfast,” he said.
He was also full of praise for his departing co-host, referencing the headline-making brutal knee injury she suffered while filming a watersports segment on Today in February 2021.
“Ally has been extraordinary over the last three years. Battling through some tough personal physical obstacles to broadcast to the country during really difficult times. She’s an incredible broadcaster and I’ll miss working with her tremendously. Though, I won’t miss her dancing,” he said.
Ally’s appointment as Grimshaw’s ACA replacement came as both parties laughed off rumours of a feud between them, after footage emerged that showed Grimshaw appearing to refuse a hug from Langdon in the corridors of Nine after her final show.
Langdon played up the apparent rejection on-air, jokingly telling viewers the moment made her “heart break” and that she wasn’t sure Grimshaw knew who she was.
But as speculation grew, Grimshaw cleared the air via social media.
“It’s come to my attention that some people are seriously suggesting I snubbed Ally here. Of course I didn’t and wouldn’t. I was emotional, flustered and completely overwhelmed and just didn’t see her,” she said.