Alex Casey watches the debut of a new look Breakfast on TVNZ1, and assesses the buffet of early morning news options.
Breakfast was off to a pretty weird start before it even began. In a promo video posted to their Facebook page last week, Jack Tame, Daniel Faitaua and Matty McLean can be seen goofing around in the TVNZ newsroom, all backwards hats and light-up hula hoops. Lads. Larrikins. But not for long. From her desk, newest recruit Hayley Holt fires a death stare. “Oi,” she snaps, “back to work, boys.” Was this the new Trunchbull-esque future of Breakfast, with all banter to be mercilessly quashed by a stern she-devil??? I hoped not.
Tuning in on Monday morning, it was admittedly disappointing to see not a single hula hoop. That said, there’s plenty that’s flashy and new in the TVNZ studio. Hayley Holt, former Green candidate, radio personality, Crowd Goes Wild co-host and Dancing With the Stars NZ judge, has taken Hilary Barry’s seat next to Jack Tame. As if that wasn’t enough to make you drop your cornflakes, feast your eyes upon a brand new, state-of-the-art, 17 metre panoramic screen made up of 400 million LED panels lit by the artisanal bums of Waitomo glow worms or something.
Gone is the whopper iceberg desk, replaced by a sleek stilted number with matching white barstools, the kind you might sit at when charging your phone at an airport. Combining the big screen and nowhere-to-hide desk setup, the choreography involved in Breakfast is practically Swan Lake compared to The AM Show over on Three. Matty McLean tiptoes across to do the weather, standing in perfect ballerina first position. Jack Tame reclines on the studio floor next to a robot that is helping sick kids in hospital. Someone only accidentally stood with their back to the camera once (there’s a lot of space to navigate).
As for the host dynamic, Hayley Holt seems to have slotted in comfortably enough, and pepped up significantly when Guy Heveldt came into the studio to talk about sport – not really a surprise given her sporting history. Far from the snappy shrew in the Facebook skit, she joked around with ease. If she said she was shaking, you couldn’t tell. If she said she got to sleep at ten past two that morning, you couldn’t tell either. With her youthful powers combined with co-host Jack Tame, Breakfast even got away with describing an “epic” summer with minimal cringe. They also bantered about doing bombs, including the revelation that she’s never been able to do one successfully.
The fact is, if you can put the flashy sets and new hosts aside, the content of Breakfast vs. The AM Show is almost indistinguishable. Both have regular news bulletins, ‘not news’, weather, banter, live crosses with the prime minister and a panel discussion that is almost certain to feature Don Brash at some point. Breakfast pulled out the big guns in Pene Pati from Sole Mio on their first day for a bit of star factor, confirming my ongoing conspiracy theory that TVNZ has at least one of Sole Mio in their broom closet for all major finales and premieres.
So what differentiates our breakfast news shows? Why would you choose one over the other? I’ll admit I found it very soothing to watch the Breakfast team discuss issues like the Women’s March and #metoo without feeling the stirring dread that someone was about to say something problematic. But I also find great delight in watching Amanda Gillies argue shut down Mark Richardson (when she gets a chance) over on Three. The choice comes down to either the amicable catch up with friends who all seem to agree on everything or the potluck dinner with your extended family, some of which are bound to say something troublesome and start a food fight.
It really depends on what you can stomach first thing in the morning but I know – for better or worse – which option gets more people talking.
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