As John Campbell’s time co-hosting Breakfast draws to an end, Tara Ward revisits some of his most memorable early morning moments.
In news that made our muesli instantly go soggy and our toast immediately burn, John Campbell announced his imminent departure from TVNZ 1’s Breakfast earlier this week. After three years as co-host, he’s ditching the early starts to become TVNZ’s chief correspondent, a role which will allow him to tell a variety of stories across television and digital formats as well as host documentary and broadcast specials.
“I’ve loved being part of Breakfast and part of a team that’s helped re-shape breakfast television, to make it more inclusive, more representative, and more prepared to talk about things like inequality, the environment, and how we might better enable people to live lives of dignity and participation,” he told 1News.
Indeed, Campbell’s time on Breakfast should be remembered for the way he strove to raise awareness about important social issues, like the plight of New Zealanders queuing for emergency hardship grants, or the realities of poverty, or the injustices of emergency housing. The veteran broadcaster always reported with compassion and kindness, and proved that breakfast television can make a powerful impact far beyond the latest news update or flash new set.
But in between those serious moments, Campbell also gave us delightful chaos. He leaned hard into the unpredictable nature of live television, and alongside his co-hosts, steered the Breakfast ship with an unfailingly upbeat sense of fun and camaraderie. From walk-offs to weather reports, here are some of his most memorable Breakfast moments.
When he was in charge of the weather
We celebrated Breakfast’s shambolic weather reports during last year’s lockdown, but old mate JC has a long history of meteorological mayhem. In 2019, Campbell reluctantly filled in for an absent Matty McLean and forecast a shitstorm of chaos. “I’ve got Matty’s clicker and I just want to show you what a crap piece of equipment it is,” he said to the camera, before stumbling through the rest of the forecast and ending by announcing that he’d lost the will to live. “Thanks for the laughs,” a loyal fan commented on Facebook.
His love for good dogs
A short-lived but memorable segment saw Campbell and sidekick Matty McLean speak directly to the nation’s canines, testing their response to the Breakfast hosts’ voices. The results were underwhelming. I bet those dogs are sorry now.
When he danced on a train platform
While his Breakfast colleagues proudly danced their way through lockdown, Campbell always seemed reluctant to partake in any early morning performative movement. Thankfully, Breakfast found Campbell in his happy place in 2018, when he visited a Japanese train station while reporting for TVNZ. On a lonely Yokohama train platform, Campbell danced like nobody was watching, proving that the rhythm is eventually going to get you.
All the times he went missing
For a man whose job was to be on camera, John Campbell was often not on camera. While his co-hosts kept calm and carried on, Campbell regularly walked off set and roamed wild through the TVNZ building, chatting to colleagues, lingering in the makeup chair or finding muesli for breakfast. Muesli! Nothing good ever came from that.
When he revealed his feelings towards potato hotels
An iconic moment from his first day on the job. Five bucks is a bargain for a five star potato hotel, in anyone’s currency.
The time he said Donald Trump’s son was “a bit of a dick”
In 2020, a viewer became so incensed about a John Campbell insult that he complained to the Broadcasting Standards Authority. After Campbell called Donald Trump Jr “a bit of a dick…when I say a bit of a dick, he’s a total dick”, one Alan Dick complained to the BSA that the pejorative use of this term denigrated everyone with the surname Dick. The BSA did not uphold the complaint, finding that the broadcast was unlikely to cause widespread offence.
His heckling of the news
Campbell often threw his own two cents into the news and weather reports, even on his first day on Breakfast. His newsy heckles of Daniel Faitaua’s bulletin were immortalised in Alex Casey’s 2019 review of Campbell’s Breakfast debut, images which will no doubt one day be hung in the John Campbell Wing at Te Papa.
When he rode the train
JC was never more excited than the time he went on Te Huia, the new passenger train service between Hamilton and South Auckland. John covered the trip for Breakfast, and was filled with unbridled joy for the entire 90-minute ride. Even though he was masked, you could tell he was beaming. He was in his happy place, he was living his best life. He was on a train, live on the telly.
All the times he accidentally walked into shot
Nothing to see here, everything’s fine.
The time he pretended to be Darth Vader
Not just Darth Vader, but Darth Vader in the style of the Bard himself. In 2020, John played the disciple from the dark side in a scene from a “Star Wars reimagined as Shakespeare” play written by American Ian Doescher (“clearly bonkers! Look at you, you mad bugger!” John said in his introduction). Who says breakfast television doesn’t have layers?
John Campbell’s final day on Breakfast is Friday 8 April on TVNZ 1, starting at 6am.