Breakfast TV news is back for 2021, and Tara Ward got up early to watch.
“Thank god it’s almost Christmas,” John Campbell said during the opening minutes of Breakfast’s premiere episode of the year. “2021’s been rough so far. I’m buggered”. We’re all buggered, to be fair, but I’m worried that John’s peaking too soon. It’s only January 18, the blessed day when early morning news shows Breakfast and The AM Show return to our screens. Summer is over, the news is back, and surely the rest of 2021 will be filled with good news and good dogs. Right? Right.
At 6am, Mark does not look convinced.
And at 9am? … Mark still does not look convinced.
The AM Show was pumped, kicking off two minutes early at 5:58am, even though the day hadn’t begun well for the show’s presenters. “My computer has crapped itself,” Amanda Gillies said, while Mark Richardson complained he couldn’t get into the building when he arrived. “The new owners are sending me a message,” he said. When Mark did get in, he couldn’t believe what he saw. “I’m brown, aren’t I?” he said, staring at his uber-tanned face on the screen. “You’re like Trump,” Duncan Garner told him, and 2021 was off with a bang.
Over on Breakfast, little had changed. Jenny-May Clarkson welcomed us in te reo Māori even though John Campbell had gone missing, last seen somewhere near the TVNZ make-up room. His empty chair told a thousand stories, most of them how happy the Breakfast team were to be back. They loved each other’s hair, they admired each other’s clothes. They were stoked to be there and thrilled to see us, and honestly, who else but the Breakfast team is so enthusiastic so early in the morning?
Despite the new year, the world was creaking with old news. Covid-19. Trump. Rain. Duncan announced he was still a vegan, apart from the three times he ate meat during the holidays. He hoped he hadn’t let us down, but when The AM Show rolled out their new feature where viewers send in voice clips, the message was clear. “Duncan, you failed,” said viewer James. “Thank you, James,” said Duncan, possibly still chewing the piece of boiled steak he ate on Christmas Day.
The main story was the capsize of the American Magic yacht, and we saw shot after shot of a big hole in some expensive plastic. “Bad luck, poo poo,” Mark summarised, while the others mused over what might have made the hole, mostly likely one of the many hire bikes that Mark admitted to pushing into the sea. Breakfast’s intrepid reporter Isaac treated us to a live recreation of the incident. It was a cracking piece of impromptu breakfast television, and we can only hope that every one of Isaac’s live crosses during 2021 will now be communicated through the art of interpretive dance.
Although it was the first day back, Breakfast was determined to remind us there’s more to summer than a chocolate tan and a munted boat. While The AM Show debated whether social media companies need policing over account suspensions, Jenny-May interviewed tourism provider Johnny from the back of his ute on a beach somewhere near Kaikoura, an orange kombi van parked in the background. Johnny was about to go fishing, and he’ll cook whatever he catches in garlic butter, John, thanks for asking. “You can smell the dope wafting out of that kombi van,” John said. It’s 8.23am, it’s fine. I love the news.
Then The AM Show informed us that men get bigger pay rises than women because men are the first to return to the office after the holidays. I hate the news.
Amid this hot pocket of garlic butter and gender politics, both channels spoke to Chris Hipkins about the Covid-19 vaccine, and each crossed live to Washington DC to discuss Joe Biden’s inauguration. Later, Breakfast wanted to know if there were more sharks in the ocean, while The AM Show dipped its toes in conspiracy waters when Mark argued that we were being “groomed” for another lockdown. “I think they know something’s out there with this new strain,” Mark said, apparently accusing the government of the heinous crime of keeping up with world news.
Thank goodness, then, for Matty McLean and his weather broom. Some shows only have a stick to point with, but not Breakfast. Matty waggled that new broom around the country like he was born to do it, sweeping away the bad memories of 2020 like an occluded front sweeping up from the deep south. Matty wasn’t the only one with a new toy. Over on The AM Show, Mark was trying out some newfangled earpieces “like the ones on Pop Idol”, last on our screens in 2003. “My grandfather had those in the rest home in his final days,” Duncan told him. “Eh?” Mark said.
At 8.42am, John delivered his first “good dog” of the year and at 8.56am Duncan declared that 54% of us felt optimistic about 2021, but they were probably the same people counting their pay rise after returning early to the office. By 9am, it was all over. So much news, so many voices, so little broom. “When’s Christmas?” Mark asked, proving he’s perhaps not as different to John Campbell as he might think.
But even after three hours of non-stop news, there’s something reassuring about the return of our breakfast shows. In a world of change, Breakfast and The AM Show remain the same fast and furious TV package, forever negotiating the fine line between entertainment and information without alienating either one. While The AM Show simmers with cynicism and Breakfast bounces with positivity, there’s an underlying feeling of unpredictability in both that suggests it could all go gloriously wrong at any moment. Where there’s news everywhere, it’s this potential for chaos that makes breakfast TV worth watching, interpretive dance and all. Yes, we’re all buggered, but it’s good to have them back.
The Spinoff Daily gets you all the day's best reading in one handy package, fresh to your inbox Monday-Friday at 5pm.