Rove on Seven’s list if O’Keefe ends The Chase
Game show host Andrew O'Keefe's charmed run at the Seven Network could be at an
end, with network bosses in talks to potentially replace the troubled presenter of The Chase.
Seven refused to be drawn on the industry talk with a spokesman on Saturday issuing a statement: "Andrew O'Keefe has been a valued member of the Seven on-air family for many years and he continues to appear as host of The Chase Australia."
This contradicted well-placed talk claiming O'Keefe could leave and suggesting network bosses have drawn up a wishlist of replacement hosts, among whom is Rove McManus.
O'Keefe's contract with the television network is understood to have lapsed at the end of 2020 giving TV executives the opportunity to move in a different direction after its 17-year relationship with a star who has been battling mental health issues and scandal for a decade.
It also puts Seven in the box seat to draft a new tougher short-term contract that gives the network greater power.
O'Keefe's ongoing mental health issues and repeated admissions to rehab clinics for mental and emotional "exhaustion" have put a strain on his work in recent years.
The TV presenter admitted to this columnist in 2019 that O'Keefe males, including his famous uncle, rocker Johnny O'Keefe, who died of a drug overdose at 43, had a streak in them "that verges on mania".
The TV presenter's enthusiasm for a party, something he shares with his uncle, has also made him an easy target for paparazzi and women's magazines.
O'Keefe's extended absences have forced Seven and ITV Studios Australia, producer of The Chase, to put the show into untimely production hiatuses during the past two years costing the co-production partners money and testing their insurance policies.
Seven, ITV, O'Keefe and an ensemble cast of regular "Chaser" quiz show contestants have become adept at recording weeks of additional episodes to ensure there are enough shows in the can to cover any unplanned absence of the host.
Previously the network has been forced to run repeat episodes of the program to cover O'Keefe's absences.
In February 2020 a Seven spokesman confirmed production on The Chase had again been delayed to give "Andrew O'Keefe … time to manage and recover from a health issue".
The issue, according to O'Keefe, is born of grief following the death of his father in 2014 and the end of his marriage in 2017, which coincided with parting ways as host of Weekend Sunrise.
"Painful emotions generally breed unhelpful behaviours because no one likes to live with the pain, they want to get rid of it as soon as possible," he told The Sunday Telegraph in 2019.
O'Keefe has said he hopes to host the show "for as long as it is there to be hosted and as long as (Seven) wants me" but with the show being critically strategic to Seven's prime time ratings as the lead-in to its 6pm news bulletin, Seven CEO James Warburton is said to be considering whether O'Keefe's time at the helm of the game show is up.
The network is understood to have enough episodes in the can to last until Easter.
If O'Keefe were to leave, media all-rounder McManus, who was last seen hosting the ABC's New Year's Eve fireworks coverage, is top of producers' wish list, say insiders, along with Grant Denyer, who is now enjoying a popularity surge thanks to his appearance on I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here.
Denyer is understood to be at the end of his contract with 10 although a 10 spokeswoman refused to confirm this on Saturday.
Originally published as Rove on Seven's list if O'Keefe ends The Chase