Just days after Time Team’s experienced presenter Professor Mick Aston walked out on the show, it’s newest arrival has also left.
The controversy surrounding Prof Aston’s departure appears to have proven too much for his more ‘glamorous’ replacement Mary-Ann Ochota, who has announced she is leaving after its experimental 19th series.
The show’s new format, which included the introduction of Cambridge graduate Ms Ochota as co-presenter, triggered Prof Aston’s departure. He argued that there had been a “dumbing down” of the programme, as reported in the Western Daily Press yesterday.
The archaeology expert, who lives near Cheddar, in Somerset, has been with the show for nearly two decades.
Hinting at their working relationship on Time Team’s Facebook page yesterday, Ms Ochota said: “I always loved Time Team, and was very excited to be working with Mick – he wasn’t so keen!”
She added that the series hadn’t worked out quite as she had wanted it to. Now neither presenter will return for the 20th anniversary series, which begins filming in April for broadcast next year.
A spokesperson for Channel 4 who said it originally introduced Mary to ‘complement the pre-existing line-up,’ denied suggestions that she had quit, saying a decision not to renew her contract was made in December.
She added: “Mary-Ann will not be returning for the next series of Time Team, which will be aired in 2013.” She did not comment further.
Ms Otocha, 30, who holds a master’s degree in archaeology and anthropology from Cambridge University defended her role on the show after her former career as a model had been mentioned in news reports about her departure.
She said: “I’m sad about how this story has been told in the press...I was brought in to be a co-presenter, not an archaeologist, so that I could ask the questions that viewers might be asking.”
Yesterday comments on the programme’s official Facebook page moved from outrage at the overall changes to the show and Mick Aston’s resignation, to support for Ms Ochota.
One of Ms Ochota’s friends on Facebook, Robin Sayer, commented: “There are problems with series 19 but none of them have anything to do with Mary-Ann. With more face-time the public could have gotten to know a passionate, hard-working, funny lady.
“It is a shame that Time Team will not be able to profit from her enthusiasm and I feel that the show has lost an asset.”
Carl Marland, added: “I think Mary-Ann has done a great job. It can’t be easy walking in to a new position with such an established team.”
Sharon Allbright said: “I think Mary-Ann has many more supporters than she does detractors here and everywhere, and please do let her know that. If people don’t like the new format: don’t watch it.”