Pippa for Breakfast

By Michelle Coursey

She is lauded as the "thinking man's piece of crumpet" by many an enthusiastic internet fan, and now Pippa Wetzell will be the face 290,000 Kiwis wake up to each morning as the new co-host of TV One's Breakfast.

But she may have to get her thinking cap on - the new mum scored only two out of five on a spot Herald on Sunday current affairs quiz (see below).

Thirty-year-old Wetzell was announced as the new current affairs show host on Friday, and it seems the self-described "stay-at-home-mum", will need to brush up on her skills.

Meanwhile, the strikingly tall and slim Wetzell appeared at her exclusive interview with the Herald on Sunday sporting a new "Breakfast hairdo" - an ash-blond, mature-looking haircut that looks remarkably similar to the last four presenters' hair (Susan Wood, Alison Mau, Kate Hawkesby, and Kay Gregory).

Wetzell completed a bachelor of communications degree at the Auckland University of Technology and joined TVNZ in 1998 on the overnight assignments desk.

She took on the role of a junior meet-and-greet assistant for Breakfast, before moving on to reporting for the show, then reporting for One News, and recently has been a back-up presenter for Gregory.

She is excited about the new job - she loves it, she repeats - although journalism was not always her first choice of job. "I didn't know that this was the career I wanted to pursue." She was headed probably for public relations, but television opportunities just kept appearing, and she enjoys the "team environment".

Wetzell has a 7-month-old daughter, Brodie, who has been keeping her busy at home of late, but says she has a supportive family and husband.

She laughs at the suggestion that she might provide an attractive incentive for the male audience to tune in, starting tomorrow morning.

"Well, I hope people won't turn off because they find me unattractive in the morning! But if I am attractive it's the responsibility of the hair and make-updepartment. Because I don't know what people would think if they saw me beforeI entered that room."But how about that cheeky co-host:the unquashable PaulH enry?" I think Paul's the best thing on television," Wetzell enthuses. "Ilove his humour,although I probably shouldn't say that because sometimes when he catches me off-guard I feel like I'm this possum in the headlights, thinking 'I can't believe he just said that'."

An awkward camaraderie and lack of charisma between Gregory and Henry has often been cited as a major failing of the show, with television critic Diana Wichtel suggesting there was no reason to pair the "prickly Henry and mumsy Gregory other than to make trouble".

Gregory has insisted her decision to leave the show was because she was getting tired of 4am starts. In an exclusive interview with the Woman's Weekly, Gregory said she wanted to spend more time with her 15-year-old daughter.

She has also said she wants to expand her funeral and wedding celebrant business, and there are rumours that she may stand for the mayoralty of Hamilton, her home town.

However, inside sources have suggested Gregory left before she was asked to leave, and lacked the "shag factor", while Wetzell would bring some much-needed "hotness" to the show. Wetzell and Henry will be joined by a new roving reporter and weather presenter, Tamati Coffey, formerly a What Now presenter, later this month. Peter Williams will continue to present the news segments of the show.


Questions for the 'stay-at-home mum'

The Herald on Sunday thought it would give the new face of Breakfast telly a wee check-up on her current affairs knowledge, but Wetzell was worried she hadn't been reporting recently and was out of the news loop.

"Before we start, can I just say that I'm a stay-at-home mum?"

She knew that Paris Hilton may have her inheritance cut and also remembered that Nia was the first name of the 3-year-old girl who at the time was in Starship hospital with serious injuries sustained in alleged abuse.

And while she first answered that the major bridge collapse was in Minnesota, she quickly corrected that to Minneapolis.

As for the amount of profit Telecom posted last week ($3 billion) and the reason for a Christchurch student being fined and jailed (for missing jury duty), Wetzell was stumped.

She came through on the bonus question, though - Paul Henry's favourite cars: Bentleys and Aston Martins, she laughed.

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