Hear me out: John Campbell on Breakfast is kind of iconic

Alex Casey woke up at 5.59am this morning to watch John Campbell’s Breakfast debut. Here are some of the highlights.

Less than two weeks since the announcement that John Campbell was moving to TVNZ’s Breakfast to take Jack Tame’s place, there he was on the telly. It was 6am in the shiny pink studio and he was wearing a dark suit that would also work well for a funeral. Which was fitting, because I felt like I was dying. 6am is not good. Nonetheless, in my final moments, I was determined to see what weirdness John Campbell would serve up for three whole hours of breezy morning telly.

None of these people are on the same show and I love it

“It’s all very perplexing,” wrote Duncan Greive on this very same website last week. “Breakfast is precisely the kind of show that Campbell seemed to be decrying as he left Campbell Live. It’s light, pacy and relaxed. It has politicians on, but more often for a chat than a grilling. It has promotional photos featuring the core cast in a tight embrace.” The expectations! How would he fit in? How hard would he grill? How hard would they all embrace? Here are the highlights from a funny, funny first episode.

Everyone was starstruck

In the opening of the show, it felt a little bit like the time that Colin Mathura-Jeffree decided to guest on The Real Pod – a mega celeb surprising some gushing fans. “What a privilege and honour to have you here John Campbell,” said Daniel Faitaua. “It doesn’t feel real,” said Hayley Holt. “I’VE FORGOTTEN ALL ABOUT JACK ALREADY,” said Matty McLean, at approx the volume of someone talking to their grandma on the phone.

Poor Matty missing his friend

And Cambo was tired

Kia ora, haere mai, thank you so much for being here on Breakfast,” welcomed John after the break. “It’s…” He trailed off, his eyes glazed over. “What time is it, Daniel?” He later admitted to waking up 17 times before his alarm, and that he was struggling to cope with basic motor skills so early in the morning. Thankfully, after a few more cups of Dilmah™ and a shoulder massage from Hayley, he pepped up and starting serving up some of those delectable bizarre breakfast TV anecdotes the nation craves. 

Just some great anecdotes

Following the announcement that Fleetwood Mac are adding a fourth show to their New Zealand tour, Campbell divulged that he went to see them, age 12, with his parents at Athletic Park. “A lot of passive marijuana consumption,” he reflected, misty-eyed. “Passive?” japed Hayley. “I was 12,” said John, deftly dodging the question with the prowess of Simon Bridges slushing around later in the show. Also on that, it’s a little weird that John didn’t get to interview Simon Bridges during his debut.

Later, when the team were gasping at the success of Avengers: Endgame, John had another scorcher take. “I remember when I was a kid and we went to Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, it was 20 cents.” Daniel added that cinemas should bring back the intermission. “Ah yes, you’d go out to the nibble nook, wouldn’t you,” John reminisced. a) NIBBLE NOOK and b) Hmmm a childhood of passive weed + nibble nook = convenience. 

He heckled the news

And then he made the news LATE

What I enjoyed a great deal, as Campbell shambled around the joint, was the way that his co-hosts treated him a bit like a raucous AUT communications intern here on work experience. “We’re late for the news and it’s John Campbell’s fault,” scorned Daniel. “The news is important John.” It became the first running gag of the new Breakfast era, and I got to admit I was chortling like this desert rain frog on the couch.

There were moments of Campbell Live

Perched on a milk crate next to mattress outside the City Mission, Campbell was back in his element for a story about hardship assistance grants and inequality. His narration described City Mission volunteer Barbara as “working with a kindness that resembles love”. Momentarily, I feel a little prick of tears and remember why we all got so sad when his show ended.

He talked to some people inside about how much money they have left at the end of the week (none). He talked to a man from Orange Sky, who provide a free laundry and shower for those in need. They are flat out. Campbell says he is committed to showing this reality “for those of us whose never had to choose between laundry and food”, and promises much more conversation in the coming months. 

There were HOT music takes

“I must say, months pass without me thinking about Victoria Beckham,” said John, who instead preferred to focus his music discourse on the importance of Aretha Franklin during the civil rights movement. “Music can make such a difference,” said Hayley. “DAMN STRAIGHT!” said John. “I don’t miss Jack at all,” whimpered Matty, probably. Here was another great music-related moment, just as Hayley was trying to throw to an ad break. 

He named his potato price

He was a great addition to the Breakfast Club

The morning breakfast TV panel is often parodied as approx the seventh circle of hell, but Breakfast this morning had a chat that was disarmingly thoughtful and gentle and insightful and compassionate. Controversial. Sitting down with journalists Jehan Casinader and Indira Stewart, the panel talked about the rise of white supremacy in New Zealand and the media’s complicity in Islamophobia.

Also: good socks

I switched over to The AM Show, where they were talking about gang violence. “I don’t care if they get shot,” said Louise Wallace. I switched back.

Campbell was onto slushy-gate now, and empathising with the prison officers who spend their days in one of the toughest places to work – particularly those in high security where people are in for a “long lag.” I switched back to The AM Show. “What’s your favourite Soda Stream flavour?” asked Duncan Garner. “Au naturale,” said a man named Marty from The Edge.

He went straight up missing for a bit

“It’s quite hard on this programme to know when to go to the toilet,” said Hayley, as we cut back to the studio after the news with John’s seat vacant. Several seconds later, he ambled back into the studio looking fresh out of a Fleetwood Mac concert, wandering straight through Matty McLean’s weather nook where, I must reiterate, he wasn’t missing Jack at all. 

John attempted to explain his absence – a quest for the TVNZ nibble nook. “It’s called Breakfast and there isn’t any!” John explained. “Have you done the sport?” 

“A whole six minutes of it,” replied Daniel.


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