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"That's my career done." Carrie Bickmore on making 10 years of The Project.

It has been 10 years this week since The Project graced our screens, and Carrie Bickmore has been there for all ten of them.

But the show, which took out its eighth Logie for Most Popular Panel or Current Affairs Program a few weeks ago, has come a long way in a decade. In fact, Carrie and her original co-hosts didn’t expect the show to last beyond the first episode.

“On the first show we didn’t have an audience… Hughsey [who was on the original panel] cracked the absolute shits,” Carrie told host of podcast You’ve Gotta Start Somewhere Rachel Corbett.

Carrie Bickmore has only just returned to The Project after maternity leave. Post continues after video.

Video by The Project

“I remember thinking ‘why is he so worried about an audience, this is a new show. We don’t need an audience’. He couldn’t have been more right. Without an audience the show wouldn’t be what it is,” she said.

The show was called The 7PM project for the first two years before adopting its current name.

It started with Carrie Bickmore, Dave Hughes and Charlie Pickering, before Peter Hellier took over from Dave and Waleed Aly replaced Charlie. That’s not including the current weekend rotation of Lisa Wilkinson, Tommy Little and Hamish Macdonald.

the Project hosts
How The Project looked back in 2009. Image: Ten.
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Throughout all the swaps, Carrie has been the only constant and she's watched the show change and grow over the years.

It started as a half hour show with about "20 news reads per show", Carrie recalled. "It was much more of the news of the day and let's find the comedy and chat and react to it," she said.

These days The Project team spend a lot more time on crafting stories and investigating pieces, to add more meat to the content.

Of the 'brown' washed episodes of 2009, she laughs as she recalled, "It's like we had put an olden day filter on it."

"And I wore a brown leather jacket that first night," she added.

The seasoned journalist admits the first episode was a complete blur and it's not something she ever wants to relive anytime soon.

"I don't plan on watching it until I am at least 70 because I think it would maybe make me sick," she said.

"I do remember Hughesy saying at the end of it 'that's my career done' and I thought if he thinks that I'm done too."


But it wasn't the end, and despite the soft ratings at the start Channel Ten didn't give up on its new evening news show - and took the time to tweak and test the show until they got the balance right.

"We'd do hours of debriefs [after the show], I wouldn't get home until 10pm," Carrie told Rachel, who is also a regular fourth panelist on The Project now.

"We over analysed everything. We thought about every inflection and how we could have done it differently," she explained.

Looking back, Carrie is glad she wasn't as involved with the network and didn't have the relationships she has now. (She was hired from Rove on the Nine Network.)

"Obviously I knew our ratings weren't where they wanted it to be, but I was shielded from those conversations," she said.

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It also helped that she had a young son at the time (Ollie was just 18 months old then) and was doing breakfast radio for the first three months of the show's launch. So Carrie was focusing on just getting through the day.

"I didn't have a lot of time to question the bigger picture of 'how long has this show got?' Which I think is a good thing I was protected from that because I think I then would have doubted everything I did and said on air," she admitted.

When asked what her dream gig is Carrie is pretty adamant she's already in it. She only just returned to the panel last week after taking eight months' maternity leave with her third child Adelaide.

Despite racking up a decade on the desk, Carrie says she had been overthinking her return to The Project.

"I am still nervous about where my place will be on the show. I think I'll always have that doubt or that worry that having had time away will mean I can't do the job as well, or that I don't fit in as well. I think I'll always have that self doubt," she told Rachel Corbett's podcast.

Although there seems to be a fear in the industry that free-to-air TV is on the out, Carrie's time on maternity leave reminded her of its importance.

"Daytime TV is one of the most comforting things you can watch. You've been up all night with a baby thinking you're the only person in the world and then you turn on Sonia and David [on Today Extra] or Studio 10 and you think 'ah there's my friends'," she explained.

"Netflix is an isolating experience but with free-to-air, when you turn it on you know - along with people all around the country - you are doing that together.

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"You only have to look at when a grand final or Eurovision is on,  you're watching that at the same time as all these people in their living rooms all around the country... it brings people together."

Reflecting on her career in TV and radio as she prepares to celebrate 10 years on The Project this Friday, Carrie is glad she got to learn her craft in a world that didn't yet have social media.

 

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"No one gave a rat's arse who I was," she said of her days on Rove, which was her first TV gig.

"Which was an incredible blessing. If social media had been around when I was learning to do my job, I still wouldn't be doing my job. I would have stopped saying things, changed my delivery, changed what I looked like..."

Unfortunately that's not a luxury those following in her footsteps have.

If Carrie's learnt anything over the decades it's to trust your instincts, "not to ride the ups and downs too hard", and learn from the people around you. It's how she's got to where she is today. And apart from a brief desire to be a ballerina, Carrie has always been destined for journalism.

"I went to a party in Year 7, and you had to come dressed as what you wanted to be when you grow up," she recalled on You've Gotta Start Somewhere.

"I came as a journalist complete with a beret (because that's what journalist's wear) and a waistcoast."

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