TOO NICE: Nine’s “nice bloke” Karl Stefanovic needs a lesson in crowd control on The Verdict.
TOO NICE: Nine’s “nice bloke” Karl Stefanovic needs a lesson in crowd control on The Verdict. PHOTO Contributed

OPINION: Today's Karl has lost his voice on The Verdict

IT'S a little disconcerting to watch the ever-charming Karl Stefanovic on the back foot.

As host of new TV show The Verdict, Nine's "nice bloke" front man is out of his Today comfort zone and looks as out-of-place as an England supporter at the 2015 Rugby World Cup final.

Nine announced this week The Verdict has been extended from five episodes to eight, taking it through to the end of the ratings year at the end of November.

And, giving Stefanovic time to settle into his new role.

Unfortunately, the weekly program, modelled on a mixture of The Project and Q&A, is not rating well with viewers.

The promos promised fiery debate and a "bumpy ride". For its debut, 522,000 people tuned in but the number dropped to 369,000 the following week.

Those are very ordinary numbers in the 8.30pm timeslot for a heavily-promoted new program fronted by the network's biggest star - and coming off the back of top-ten rated The Block.

Episode one was a shocker. Panellists often took over, having their own private slanging matches while Stefanovic tried desperately to call for calm and order.

However, the political and social issues being discussed were interesting and varied so it's a matter of fine-tuning (Stefanovic finding his voice), choosing guests wisely and keeping audiences engaged and entertained.

Let's hope the network is planning to make a few tweaks to the format and quickly draw viewers back before they are lost forever.

At the moment critics - and I suspect many viewers - are questioning whether Stefanovic has what it takes to make it in prime time.

He's gained a loyal fan base among the breakfast audience so with a bit more practice as "referee" and keeping the panel of experts playing by the rules, The Verdict may just start kicking goals.

The Verdict is on Thursdays at 8.30pm on Nine.