Complete with sheep bleats, acerbic wit and the occasional offence, Paul Henry made his Australian debut yesterday - to reviews of "could do better" and criticism from viewers.
Rushed forward by four days to surf on the drama of Labor's leadership challenge, Henry's appearance on Channel Ten's new Breakfast show was slick, comfortable but mostly unremarkable.
Flanked by co-hosts Andrew Rochford and Kathryn Robinson, Henry led most interviewing on a show extended by more than an hour to include Prime Minister Julia Gillard's delayed announcement of a ballot next Monday.
Henry's trademark digs at easy targets included suggesting the world's smallest man - 56cm - had feet attached to his bottom.
He wondered who would pay for a fourth coronial inquiry into whether a dingo took Lindy and Michael Chamberlain's daughter Azaria in 1982.
He described the Labor leadership battle as "self indulgent ... an unprecedented waste of our time and money". He took a swing at wind farms, describing them as "a blot on the landscape ..."
While his interviewing style was less controversial than many had been led to expect, Henry still managed to get up a few noses.
"You need to get rid of the guy with the glasses," one woman said on the hotline. "If he listens to anyone I'll eat my hat."
"Who's that bloke with the glasses?" another viewer asked. "Don't like him, don't want him."
Comments on the Sydney Morning Herald website also panned both Henry and a "terrible ... unimaginative" show.
The show featured a heavyweight cast of politicians, most supporting Gillard. Guests included Doug Cameron - a Rudd advocate - Environment Minister Tony Burke, Employment Minister Kate Ellis, Vic MP Richard Marles and Labor strategist Bruce Hawker.
He also swapped abrasive words with Deputy Opposition Leader Julie Bishop, insisting she choose her preferred winner in Labor's leadership challenge.
"Do you not understand the question?" Henry demanded when Bishop demurred.
"I understand the question all right and I don't think either of them will be properly serving Australia's interest," she said.
Henry shot back: "Brilliant. Thank you very much. You look fantastic."
Critics warned that Breakfast had its job cut out competing against rival morning shows on the Nine and Seven networks.
The Herald Sun's Colin Vickery described the show's set as "shabby chic meets Australiana", and said Breakfast needed to get better quickly or it could be game over.
"At first glance, Breakfast doesn't look too much different to the slot's longest-serving programme, Today, and the younger, but higher-rating Sunrise," wrote Michael Idato of the Sydney Morning Herald.
"On first acquaintance, it felt very much like the Paul Henry Show.
"When he was recruited it seemed he was part of the team. After this morning's performance he was very much the star."By Greg Ansley Email Greg