There are few people more synonymous with morning TV in Australia than Jessica Rowe – whose smiling face has been seen across all three commercial networks of recent years, before she found what seemed to be a happy home on Network Ten’s Studio 10.
Jess has become so associated with the show and many of its most iconic moments – the Brussels sprouts incident excluded – that it came as a bit of a shock this morning when she suddenly announced she was leaving to spend more time with her family.
‘I want to be a more present mother for my girls, Allegra and Giselle,’ she explained. ‘They need their mum. I want to be there in the mornings for them, to take them to school.
‘It is something that I need to do, it is as simple as that.’
The news appeared to hit her fellow panelists hard – especially a tearful Joe Hildebrand, who seemed on the verge of breaking down.
While Jess explained that she’d discussed the decision with husband Peter Overton over six months, her tasteful exit soon became mired in drama and innuendo, as newspaper headlines screamed tantalisingly about ‘what really happened’.
Former Studio 10 executive producer Rob McKnight, who left the program in apparently heated circumstances in November, took to Twitter to cast question over the official narrative, sensationally claiming the network had ‘planned to sack [Jessica] for over a year’.
Jess’ manager responded that Ten had recently offered her a ‘generous’ contract renewal, and Channel Ten hit back harder, issuing a terse statement that took McKnight to task.
‘Mr McKnight’s claim is completely wrong, obviously spiteful and deliberately misleading,’ a Ten spokesperson responded. ‘As Jess said, she has decided to leave Studio 10 to devote more time to her family and her other interests. Anyone who suggests otherwise is being petty and ignorant. Jess is welcome back to Ten anytime.’
McKnight responded by tweeting, ‘…I look forward to them repeating that in court.’
It’s worth noting that the two parties are currently locked in a state of conflict, with the former EP planning to sue for breach of contract.
Whatever the truth behind their dispute, it’s a shame that amid all the headlines and speculation, Jess hasn’t been given the chance to leave the show on the high note she deserves.
Hugely popular with her cast mates and the viewing audience alike, Jess is also known for using her platform for amazing good – including destigmatising depression and mental illness.
‘I have made one of the best friends I’ve ever had, and we’ve got that for the rest of our lives,’ said the notoriously no-nonsense Denise Drysdale.
Whatever comes next for Jess, I wish her the best. She’ll be missed!
But judging by husband Peter's Twitter statement on the news, he and their two girls couldn't be happier about what lies ahead.