One Question Quiz
Image by Tina Tiller
Image by Tina Tiller

Pop CultureJanuary 27, 2024

‘It was bad, but good character building’: Chris Chang’s live TV nightmare

Image by Tina Tiller
Image by Tina Tiller

As Breakfast returns for another year, presenter Chris Chang looks back on a life in TV filled with Olympic dreams, Love Island accents, and a whole lot of Jeff Probst.

If you Google Chris Chang, you’ll come across a TVNZ chameleon of sorts. There was the time he dressed the same as his co-host and friend Matty McLean, the time he executed a pitch perfect Love Island scene, or when he sounded more like weatherman Dan Corbett than Dan Corbett ever could. But he admits making live television is not always as fun or easy as it looks. 

“To be in the trenches, so to speak, every day has been a very new experience,” Chang said of his first year full time as a Breakfast host in 2023. “But I’ve loved getting to grips with three hours of live TV every day.” The key skill is managing tone, especially when topics can range from race relations in New Zealand to whether or not you can play music on the beach

“You don’t want to be joking about something and then getting into a really serious horrible news story,” he said. “It can be a bit of a minefield.” 

Returning to the Breakfast couch in 2024 with a new look line-up, we asked Chang to take us through the rest of his life in television, including a Dawson’s Creek crush, live TV blunders, and why he thinks people should keep watching old-fashioned terrestrial television.

Chris Chang (far left) and the TVNZ Breakfast team (Photo: Chris Chang / Facebook)

My earliest TV memory is… I used to love making little movies and TV shows with my younger siblings. Back when I had my dad’s old video camera – which actually took a VHS tape – I would basically direct them and edit together the movies. I would print out a title page, stick it on the wall and then cue up the music and hit record, and then fade in and then fade out. I feel like my TV career was always preordained from those early days of directing. 

My favourite show as a child was… My parents would go out for dinner on a Saturday and the four of us kids would watch this really terrible game show called The Dating Show. I don’t know if they had it in New Zealand, we were living overseas in time in Asia. It was probably a bit of a weird thing for young kids to be watching. 

My earliest TV crush was… Joey from Dawson’s Creek. Katie Holmes. Quite innocent times with Dawson’s Creek, the girl next door. 

The TV ad I can’t stop thinking about is… I’m a big football fan, and I remember when the Football Kingz (spelt with a “z”, terrible) started in Auckland, they had an ad with the goalkeeper Julio Cuello. He’s rushing to a burning building, and there’s this little kid looking up and a dog in the window. Things are falling out of the building and the fire’s starting to engulf it and then the goalkeeper dives. There’s all this expectancy and then he catches a football falling out of the building – and the dog plummets to the ground. He hands the ball back to the child, thinking “what a hero I am”. Ironically, this was probably his best performance. 

The TV moment that haunts me to this day is… I presented with Kimberly Downs when we were both quite fresh in the presenting game. We did the Sevens Rugby World Cup in 2018 on Duke, and it was just a litany of technical errors – the feed cutting out, us presenters basically trying to fill airtime. People were tweeting saying “this is terrible, TVNZ does not know what it’s doing”. It was bad, but good character building to get you to think on your feet.

My favourite TV character of all time is… Jeff Probst from Survivor. I know he’s not really a character, but I’ve watched Survivor for a few years now, and the fact that he’s still going is unbelievable. He’s the OG. I’ve never been able to watch the Australian or the English Survivor, it just doesn’t feel right. 

My TV guilty pleasure is… Love Island. We had Callum, one of the contestants from Love Island Games come to the studio and he very generously agreed to indulge me and do a bit of roleplay, pretending that we were contestants on the show. The reason I like it is not because of the story – it’s awful – but because of the accents and the phrases. I watch it and then try to riff off their different accents.

It is what it is (Photo: Supplied)

My most memorable sporting TV moment is… Going to the Tokyo Olympics during the pandemic. It was just amazing being on the finish line of the 100 metre sprint with no one else in the stadium, just media. We basically sat on the finish line and watched the athletics. It was a dream come true.  

What I wish people knew about making breakfast television is… How many people are actually involved in terms of putting out the show. There’s four people in front, but you’ve got a team of people in the studio and another team out in the newsroom as well that are prepping for the next day, chasing stories for that day. It takes a sheer number of people to get that sort of resource out every day.

The TV show I wish I was involved with is… The Amazing Race would be cool. I reckon I’d do OK, I’m fairly well travelled and have a good temperament for it. 

The most stylish person on TV is… Contrary to what he thinks, it’s not Jack Tame, even with his knitted Percival and Sons shirts. I’m gonna say Jimmy Fallon. Not just because of the nice suits, he’s also got style, he’s got charisma. 

My controversial TV opinion is… People should keep watching it. Contrary to the trends at the moment, they should keep watching it because it’s really important when big news stories happen. 

My most watched TV show of all time is… Survivor. I love the tactical element of the gameplay and I love that in the most recent seasons, everyone accepts that they’re playing a game. People used to get mad at people for pulling big moves, but now everyone expects that. The jury usually commends people who have shafted others. I like the competitive dedication to the gamesmanship.

The show I’ll never watch, no matter how many people tell me to is… Game of Thrones. I’ve never seen it, got no interest. There was a time when people just banged on about it all the time and I just had no idea. 

The last thing I watched on TV was… The news. I watch the news every night. So boring, isn’t it?

Breakfast screens every weekday morning on TVNZ1 from 6am and streams on TVNZ+. 

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