Goodbye, John Campbell (Design: Archi Banal)
Goodbye, John Campbell (Design: Archi Banal)

Pop CultureApril 8, 2022

Tears, tissues and tunes on John Campbell’s last Breakfast

Goodbye, John Campbell (Design: Archi Banal)
Goodbye, John Campbell (Design: Archi Banal)

John Campbell has left the Breakfast building. Tara Ward woke early to watch the veteran broadcaster give a typically generous goodbye.

“It’s just a normal old day here,” John Campbell said at the beginning of this morning’s episode of Breakfast. “Nothing to see here,” co-host Jenny-May Clarkson agreed, but of course, they were just tricking. This was a huge day for Breakfast viewers, and not just because we were about to discover we’ve been eating apples wrong all our lives. It was, of course, John Campbell’s last day.

Earlier this week, John announced he was leaving Breakfast to take up a new role as TVNZ’s chief correspondent. After three years of early mornings, his new role means there will be no more train rides live on the telly, no more late entrances into the Breakfast studio, and no more calling someone “a bit of a dick” before 9am.

John Campbell’s last breakfast (Photo: Screenshot)

The rest of the Breakfast team tried to play it cool, but it was only 6:08am when the first tears fell, even though Jenny-May had vowed she wasn’t going to cry. “Someone pass me the tissues,” newsreader Indira Stewart joined in, as she began to read the weather. It was a forecast of tears and sadness as a warm front of emotion swept through the studio.

It was fine, really, and everyone was holding it together, definitely. John was determined the morning shouldn’t be about him. There were more important things to focus on, like evidence of war crimes in Ukraine, an interview with Helen Clark about the UN suspending Russia from the Human Rights Council, and a worrying new Covid-19 variant. LOL! The news always manages to cheer me up.

Back to farewells, as Breakfast asked viewers to tell them the best and worst farewell gifts they’d ever received. Only one woman emailed in. She’d received a plate, and was planning to take up line dancing in her retirement. They played John’s favourite music throughout the show, even though John couldn’t remember the name of his Spotify playlist. It’s JC Tryna Be Alive, but sadly it does not appear to include any good line dancing songs.

Breaking chews (Photo: Screenshot)

On an already upsetting day, the shocking news that we’ve been eating apples wrong could have easily tipped us over the edge. That’s what Matt Gibb told us when he beamed in live from a Hawke’s Bay apple processing plant that handles three million apples a day. The trick, apparently, is to “bite from the bottom”, which eliminates the issue of the core.

My core was already in a fragile state – it was bad enough that John Campbell was leaving us, but now fruit had betrayed us as well. After the 8am news, Breakfast screened some messages from John’s beloved Hurricanes rugby team, as well as Breakfast alum Melissa Stokes. Both said they’d miss John. “Stop sending me sweary text messages for my kids to read,” Melissa told him.

It was a low-key, no fuss farewell. For every kind word someone said to John, thanking him for his guidance and generosity, John gracefully batted it back with even bigger praise for them. It was like compliment ping-pong: John was amazing, but his colleagues were exceptional, his team was stunning, he was proud of anyone who has ever been to broadcasting school. What will we do without John Campbell in the morning? Television has never been so positive, so early.

Everybody holding it together (Photo: Screenshot)

Just before 9am, the current Breakfast team gathered on the couch one last time. There were more pre-recorded messages, as Jenny-May, Matty and Indira thanked John for making them better broadcasters and better people. Jenny-May kept trying not to cry, Matty admitted he’d miss their outrageous flirting, and Indira channelled her best Ron Burgundy and played ‘My Heart Will Go On’ on the flute. Kind words, full hearts; my apple-y core officially crumbled.

Then it was John’s turn. He gave a heartfelt, emotional speech that touched on te reo Māori, homosexual law reform and the dawn raids, and how thrilled he was that representation on our television screens has changed for the better. Even during his own farewell, it wasn’t about him. “I’m so proud of you, and what you represent, and how you tell us that otherness is no good and that believing in yourself is a wonderful thing to do,” he told his colleagues. “I’ve been proud to be part of your team.”

He’d done his bit to represent the patriarchy, he joked, and now he was off.  The tears flowed, the hugs came, and music played the show out. John Campbell had finished his Breakfast.

Breakfast – now without John Campbell – screens on TVNZ 1 at 6am each weekday and on TVNZ OnDemand.

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