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Every Morning is a Good Morning: A Week With NZ’s Most Enduring Lifestyle Show

Calum Henderson watched Good Morning every day for a week, and recorded every joyful moment of the bizarre lifestyle show. //

If Judy Bailey was the mother of the nation, then Mary Lambie was like an aunty you went and stayed with in the school holidays. Every Good Morning was filled with pointless, time-consuming crafts and visits from her mad friends, whose grown up conversations you could eavesdrop on with fascination and horror. Needless to say, I used to bloody love it. Last week I set out in the hopes of rediscovering the show’s oddly comforting embrace, day by day.

Monday

New Zealand has a strange love affair with celebrity laymen. We’ve got a celebrity butcher in Peter Leitch, a celebrity builder in Cocksy – it was only ever a matter of time before we had celebrity corporate dads. Josh and Aaron of My Kitchen Rules NZ are those dads, and they are in the kitchen this morning cooking snapper sliders (fish in a bun). Matai Smith explains that regular host Jeanette Thomas is “in Borneo with the orangutans” this week – if this is a euphemism for something incredibly depraved, please don’t tell me – so Matt Gibb will be coming on board to co-host. I was not expecting Good Morning to be this much of a sausage fest.

Fortunately the show passes the Bechdel Test in the next segment, an advertorial for anti-ageing skin cream. Advertorials have always been a cornerstone of Good Morning. As a platform for the likes of Suzanne Paul to peddle her nonsense, they can sometimes be the best bits of the show. This one is more perfunctory and feels like it’s being played at 1.5x speed. I do not want the skin cream.

Mondays play host to the deeply ominous sounding ‘Men’s Panel’. Today the men are talking about fatherhood and infertility, which the producers have illustrated with the vastly underutilized ‘sperm’ backdrop.

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Things get off to an inauspicious start when celebrity soccer hooligan Miles Davis brashly asserts that, when it comes to having babies, “men would like a son first.” PC-gone-mad liberal Wallace Chapman disagrees. “How many children have you got Wallace?” Davis asks patronisingly. Jesus, this is horrible. Somehow, disappointingly, they avoid a studio brawl and the rest of the segment ends up being a relatively deep and earnest discussion. Wallace eats a lot more than his fair share of snapper sliders.

Good Morning’s open minded approach to booking musical guests is highlighted today with a performance by a trip-hop band fronted by a woman who looks and sounds a bit like Annie Lennox, called Macombee & the Absolute Truth. ‘Gravestones’ is a nice track, but – I should have seen this coming in the title – it takes an extraordinarily dark turn at the end. The song’s final refrain goes:

“Meals on Wheels aren’t coming today”

Shit. What a lyric. I feel like overdosing on Bob Charles’ deer velvet. Nothing matters any more. Fuck the Nutribullet. A lady from Woman’s Day comes on and says Princess Kate is having another baby. Who cares. I watch numbly as an extremely loud man demonstrates a hoover’s immense suction power by sticking it to the ceiling.

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Tuesday

Tuesday dawns anew with the promise of St. Patrick’s Day frivolity on the show. Hopefully Father Ted’s Band will keep it light unlike the bloody Absolute Truth.

Matt Gibb is in the kitchen this morning marinating an absolutely enormous bit of salmon in whisky for a dish called ‘Whisky Salmon’. He chats to the chef about all the Irish stuff – Guinness, potatoes… Ah shit. They’ve forgotten to turn over the fish.

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That bit of fish was at least half the day’s production budget and now it’s ruined. Even Wallace Chapman won’t want it. Chuck it in the bin.

In a powerful display of Good Morning’s talent sourcing skills, today’s marquee guests are a head lice expert and a ‘women’s shapewear’ enthusiast. Women’s shapewear – today we’re talking fake ponytails, lifting tape, “root stuff” for your hair, breast enhancements – is the kind of thing you just assume all interested parties are already aware of. There’s no need to discuss it on the telly. Good Morning bravely challenges these assumptions,and, as a result, Jackie from Signature Style is here to repeatedly say the word “boobies”.

Can you say “boobies” on daytime TV? Nobody has replied to my BSA complaints, so I guess we will never know. What we do know is that two models have been wheeled out. One of them has “nice boobies” while the other has “not a lot of boob action.” This seems far far worse than anything the evil Natalia Kills ever said. After the merciful intervention of an advertorial, the models are brought back, enhanced by shapewear. They don’t look any different. This has been a very weird and uncomfortable segment. Jackie from Signature Style definitely has what it takes to be a Good Morning regular.

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I feel like this episode has been going forever, but there’s still time for more cooking and a rousing ‘Back Home in Derry’ from Father Ted’s Band. And about seven more advertorials. While the show is only on for an hour these days – a lean machine compared to its previous two and three hour incarnations – it hasn’t lost its languor. Even at an hour, it can make mornings seem eternal.

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Wednesday

I am wary of watching Good Morning again on Wednesday. I have hit a wall. I can feel my life slipping between my fingers. Somehow the show’s producers can sense this and have brought in their secret weapon: Astar is in the studio.

I don’t exactly know who or what Astar is, but her presence on the show seems to serve the same purpose as companionship dogs in rest homes. My spirits lift immediately. How could they not with an angel from heaven beaming down the camera, and at Matt, who she apparently loves like “a fifth son”.

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The ruse under which Astar is here is to demonstrate how to get rid of fruit stains. “The worst stain from fruit is from a peach. It’s a terrible thing,” she warns. Her stain removal tips are all natural. “All of the recipes I use are from pre-World War Two,” she claims, explaining that stain removal lost its way after the war when “the Americans invented this thing called ‘chemicals’”.

This seems like wildly revisionist history, but we’ll let it slide. Lemon juice and white vinegar it is. Matt is impressed by Astar’s depth of natural stain removal knowledge, and rightly so. “You’re like a sorceress” he marvels. She accepts this compliment. “Did I tell you my mother thinks I’m a witch?”

In the wake of the dazzling comet Astar blazing across our screens, Matt is left to talk to an expert about how to deal with teenagers, and interview the producers of new documentary series called I Am Innocent. It’s easy to write off Good Morning as little more than light, mindless diversion, but this is a good interview. Indeed most of the interviews on the show this week have been unexpectedly deep and interesting chats.

Vince Harder is the musical guest, meaning so far this week we’ve had harrowing trip-hop, hearty Irish folk, and some funky modern R&B. Every time the show goes to an ad break today, they play ‘We Found Love’ by Rihanna. I am becoming convinced that this is currently New Zealand’s best music show.

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Thursday

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Astar’s back in the kitchen today and menacingly brandishing a stem of ripe tomatoes. “I have so much information on these.” Has she been reading the Snowden files? Just how much does she know? “I heard cancer goodbye” says Matai, who has temporarily lost the power of coherent speech. Astar confirms “yes goodbye cancer with the tomatoes.” What is going on here? Has someone left the gas on?

This seems like big news, and a huge scoop for the Spinoff to get it before the mainstream media: “research has just revealed that anything and everything that ails you can be gone with a tomato.” And that’s Harvard Medical Review. Astar explains how tomatoes have four chambers, just like the human heart, and how that has something to do with it. I’m sold, but Matai looks panicked. “You should check with your doctor,” he suggests.

Music watch: today we’ve got heartfelt electronica duo Ophelia and the old Kiwi troubadour Greg Johnson, who at one point in his song does a perfect Bob Marley “yeah yeah” completely by accident. He seems cool. Wonder if he got a call from MediaWorks. X Factor NZ could do a lot worse than a judge whose key stylistic trait is ‘often wears a fedora’.

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Friday

Herbs perform a lovely version of ‘Sensitive to a Smile’ this morning to round out the week’s musical offerings. If you isolate the whole week’s music segments, you’re basically left with a low key New Zealand Later with Jools Holland. This is definitely the country’s best music show.

We have seen some incredible things this week, but the best may be still to come. Suzanne Paul’s in to talk us through her favourite viral videos. This is so great. Imagine if Tosh.0 or The Soup were hosted by a lovely kindhearted woman instead of pathologically unfunny men. Today we are getting a rare glimpse of how good TV could be if the entire world wasn’t completely fucked in the head.

“This first one is the story of an entire village full of people in Istanbul who learned sign language so they could communicate with a young deaf man – and he is so surprised!” Sold. Sold. Sold. “Now, as a rule I don’t generally like it when people dress animals up to look daft, but I couldn’t resist this – it’s two dachshunds playing cops and robbers.” Really good. Apparently one of the dogs has got “his own blimmin’ Facebook page.” Matt Gibb wonders “how is this only a four minute segment?” Extremely good question.

What else have we got time for? Would you believe a trainee doctor has written and performed a rap to promote skin cancer awareness. “Look at him, he wrote it himself! Good on him. Everybody’s hopping on this bloomin’ rapping bandwagon.”

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Ah shit. We are not worthy.

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If Good Morning is a ‘magazine-style’ show, then it is a hell of a magazine – a Frankenstein’s monster of That’s Life!, Magnamail, Coffee News, a confusing gig guide and those Meal in a Minute leaflets they have at the supermarket.

But it works. Somehow – thanks to very good hosts and an open-minded approach to guest selection – these elements are held in some kind of Zen balance. The result is really good morning telly, a fun, cheerful, sometimes bizarre show. A show greater than the sum of its weird parts.

Good Morning airs weekdays on TV1 at 9am

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