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The AM Show
Bernadine Oliver-Kerby, Ryan Bridge, Melissa Chan-Green and William Waiirua host Three’s new AM show. Image: Supplied/Tina Tiller

BusinessFebruary 7, 2022

Breakfast TV wars: Is ‘ruthless’ Melissa Chan-Green the X factor that will help AM win?

The AM Show
Bernadine Oliver-Kerby, Ryan Bridge, Melissa Chan-Green and William Waiirua host Three’s new AM show. Image: Supplied/Tina Tiller

New look, new hosts, new vibe. From Tuesday, Three’s AM is taking on TVNZ’s Breakfast head-to-head. Can it hold its own?

Melissa Chan-Green is a 15-year TV news veteran, a calming screen presence known for being stoic in the face of chaos. According to her friend and new morning show co-host Ryan Bridge, there’s another side to the presenter that viewers haven’t yet had the chance to explore.

“She’s fucking funny,” says Bridge. “She can be ruthless. She can be hilarious    there’s a whole different side to Mel that maybe people haven’t seen.”

Bridge and everyone else putting Three’s morning show reboot AM together have high hopes that Chan-Green has the X Factor that will bolster the show’s fortunes when it debuts on Tuesday. 

No pressure, but it needs the boost: AM is up against the bigger, flashier Breakfast, the consistent ratings winner that returned last week with its superstar line-up that includes the veteran broadcaster John Campbell, plenty of pep and the strangest, most expensive set ever seen on a New Zealand morning news show. 

Don’t count AM out early. Joining Chan-Green and Bridge on their four-strong team is news junkie Bernadine Oliver-Kerby, who will host her own half-hour show at 5.30 before joining AM at 6am, and social media star William Waiirua, the show’s roving weather presenter.

This, it seems, is Three’s biggest shot yet at putting together a fully-fledged rival for Breakfast after more than a decade of attempts. It entered the morning TV fray in 2007 with Sunrise, Carly Flynn and Oliver Driver’s upbeat, lightweight offering that lasted three years. Paul Henry then gave Breakfast a run for its money with his self-titled 2015 show which aired simultaneously on Radio Live.  

Since then, The Am Show’s Duncan Garner, Mark Richardson and Amanda Gillies fronted a programme that felt curiously out of time, yet sparked continual headlines over their increasingly opinionated hot takes. Stuff reporters kept a close eye on the show,  writing up everything from Richardson’s views on Covid-19, to speculation over his bloodshot eyes.

Mark Richardson and Amanda Gillies on The AM Show, April 2021 (Image: screengrab).

With its latest reboot, AM’s Chan-Green is the mystery presence. She’ll be letting her personality shine – and that has everyone excited. After stints as a 6pm reporter, Three’s European correspondent, and fronting the weekend news, she’s stepping into a role more challenging than anything she’s done before: three hours of live, unscripted TV every weekday. 

In short, she can’t hide. She doesn’t want to. “With age … I’ve let go of caring what people think about me so much,” she says. Her two year-old son helped change her stance. She cares less about the haters. “With kids, it puts a new perspective on what’s important and where my energy should go. I’m more comfortable in my skin.”

Bridge, her long-time friend, is a big fan. He’s hoping to bring out Chan-Green’s “ruthless” side with plenty of gentle teasing. “There’s a lot about Mel that’s very different to me,” he says. “I’m not saying I’m not an empathetic and warm person (but) she’s all of those things – you can see it all over her face. I’m so excited for (viewers) to see.”

But what will they see? Three’s publicity team has kept the show’s new look under wraps. Despite The Spinoff being invited for a set visit that was later canned because of Discovery’s Covid visitor rules, no photos of AM’s re-design were supplied. Promised rehearsal videos remain unsent. “There’s a desk,” promises Bridge. “And a couch.”

Instead, there’s a single publicity photo to go by. With gleaming grins and airbrushed skylines, it gives the impression AM will be a world away from its previous incarnation. Ask Chan-Green and Bridge what their show’s going to be like and they’ll shake their heads: after just two rehearsals, they still don’t know. “I was hoping you wouldn’t ask that,” admits Bridge.

Bernadine Oliver-Kerby, Ryan Bridge, Melissa Chan-Green and William Waiirua, the new hosts of AM. Image: Supplied

What the pair does have, says Chan-Green, is chemistry. It was there right from their first Zoom meeting last year. “I feel really comfortable sitting next to him,” she says, looking at Bridge. She believes you can over-rehearse. Instead, it’s better to trust your experience. “You can have all the bells and whistles, if you don’t have the content and the chemistry, it doesn’t really matter.”

It’s a strange time to start: with omicron case numbers rising, AM can’t have studio guests, so up to 12 interviews an episode could be conducted via Zoom. Bridge isn’t a fan of video interviews, calling it “so ugly … the worst thing to happen to television”. Showing their differences, Chan-Green feels the opposite. “It allows us to reach people you normally wouldn’t.”

Another issue: Garner says he quit The AM Show because of the “brutal” hours, and Chan-Green admits her weekday alarm goes off at the last possible minute: 2.40am. Why are they doing this? For Bridge, whose background is in radio, it’s because he’s a live TV addict. “It’s a rollercoaster, the highs and the lows … the adrenaline’s pumping through you.” Chan-Green says she’ll finally have time to read her son bedtime stories, something that was impossible when fronting 6pm bulletins.

How will they know if it’s working? It’s about building a community, says Bridge. A good show is when “you’ve got to the bottom of something and people watching are thinking, ‘that’s fucking awesome.'” As an example, he highlights an episode of The AM Show that attempted to find New Zealand’s worst feet. “We had grandmas and mums sending in photos of their ugly toes,” he says. “You’ve created this random little community for the morning.”

Chan-Green, who spent last year working nights, says episodes like that helped her cope with Auckland’s five-month lockdown. “Every morning I’d turn on The AM Show,” she says. “Connection to people is really important at this time.” She’s a major morning TV fan and over summer, she missed it. She hopes she can provide the same kind of service to others spending too much time at home.

“All we can do is be us, and it will naturally be different, and we have to hope that people choose us.”

AM screens on Three every weekday from 6-9am.

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