“What”s she got that I haven”t” Veteran quits as Cambridge beauty joins TV”s Time TeamMick Aston, 65, quits historical show after it hires Cambridge graduate Mary-Ann Ochota, 30Prof Aston was on long-running show for 19 years.His passion for digging up relics, come rain or shine, is unparalleled.
But archaeologist Mick Aston has walked out of Time Team after 19 years – after producers hired a former model as the programme’s co-presenter.
Usually clad in a loud jumper, with his white hair blowing in the wind, Professor Aston was the show’s site director who chose where to dig for the next historical discovery.
But the professor, 65, said that changes to the programme – which have led to the introduction of co-presenter Mary-Ann Ochota and the dropping of some archaeologists – had left him ‘really angry’.
He compared them to the reshuffle at the BBC’s Countryfile in 2008, which introduced younger presenters and, he said, reduced it to ‘clich-ridden pap’.
Miss Ochota, 30, holds a master’s degree in archaeology and anthropology from Cambridge University. After graduation she did some modelling, including shoots for Special K.
She was the anthropologist on the BBC’s Castaway Exposed and has presented a number of other programmes using her expertise.
In an interview with the magazine British Archaeology, Professor Aston said he was responding to changes first proposed by producers at Channel 4 in late 2010 – before the filming of the series that is currently being aired.
They included a new presenter to join Tony Robinson and decisions to ‘drop some archaeologists’ and ‘cut down the informative stuff about the archaeology’. The meeting was followed by an email to archaeologists last year from Wildfire Television, which makes the programme.
Out: Professor Mick Aston, pictured right on Time Team with Tony Robinson at Buckingham Palace in 2006
It said it was seeking a female co-presenter who ‘does not have to be overly experienced or knowledgeable as we have plenty of expertise within the existing team’.
However, they added: ‘Intelligence, natural curiosity and a passion for archaeology is a must.’
Though Professor Aston appears with the new recruits in the current series, he will not join the 20th series, which starts filming in April and is due to be shown this year.
He said: ‘The time had come to leave. I never made any money out of it, but a lot of my soul went into it. I feel really, really angry about it.
‘Whatever happened, we’d all thought, we’ll complete the 20th series. It feels very sad that I shan’t do that. I’m not proud of Time Team, it hasn’t worked.’
A former academic at Bristol and Oxford universities, he has worked tirelessly to bring archaeology to a wider audience.
Executive producer Philip Clarke said the current series had introduced Miss Ochota and archaeologist Alex Langlands. Long-serving archaeologists Helen Geake and Stewart Ainsworth would appear less often. He said: ‘We were very sorry to see Mick go, and he leaves an extraordinary legacy. Not everyone takes change happily.’