The axe has fallen on ABC program The Book Club after longtime host Jennifer Byrne decided to leave the public broadcaster after a two decade career.
The veteran journalist and television presenter will sign off for the last time in mid-December for the TV show’s Christmas special.
Byrne has been the host of The Book Club for more than a decade. It first went to air in 2006 as First Tuesday Book Club, before changing its name but retaining regular panelists Marieke Hardy and Fairfax Media’s books editorJason Steger.
There were rumours the ABC was considering getting rid of the talk show earlier this year after just eight episodes were produced, down from the usual 10.
However, Byrne told Fairfax Media she had decided “it was time” to call it quits because she has almost forgotten what it’s like to read for pleasure.
“We got books on television and we made it work,” she said. “It lasted as long as we wanted it to. That’s a great triumph because there were many that said it couldn’t be done. There’s many highlights – interviewing JK Rowling [for example]. But really, for me, the biggest highlight is we endured and we made it possible for other shows to come along and do books and know the audience is there.”
Passionate viewers shared their disappointment on social media this morning after the ABC announced the show wouldn’t return in 2018. But Byrne said people will be in for a treat – and a trip down memory lane – when the show’s final episode goes to air.
“I know some poor soul has been sent to the vaults to trawl through the most intense disagreements between Marieke and I,” she said. “So there will be lots of remembering. The same team stayed the whole time and that’s a rare thing in television. Jason and Marieke never missed a show.”
Byrne, who started her career at The Age and the Nine Network before joining the ABC’s Foreign Correspondent, said she isn’t planning to retire altogether.
“I’m going to genuinely take a break,” she said. “I never took a gap year. I started working when I was 16. So I’m open to all fates.”
The final episode of The Book Club will air on the ABC on Tuesday, December 19.