Greg Dixon 's Opinion

Greg Dixon is deputy editor of Canvas.

Greg Dixon: Not yet part of the furniture

John Oliver: dishing it out to deserving targets.
John Oliver: dishing it out to deserving targets.

Did you hear the one about the three funny guys who decided to make a TV chat show in a furniture shop?

They thought it would be suite as, but it wasn't.

If you didn't laugh at that joke -- actually that appalling pun -- then you'll understand immediately how I felt while watching the first episode of Late Night Big Breakfast (10.05pm, Thursdays, TV One).

This has to be the one of the more wrong-headed local comedy ideas, although presumably New Zealand On Air didn't think so when it signed off on the funding.

I am really struggling to understand the why and the how of this show, though it gives me no joy to say it because all three of its "hosts" have made funny, sometimes very funny, TV in the past. Just not here.

The set-up: Leigh Hart, Jeremy Wells and Jason Hoyte play themselves being hosts of "New Zealand's only late-night breakfast show set in a furniture store".

In the quickfire half hour there were guests, a fake infomercial, a car stunt, a weather report, grumpy Joe Bennett being grumpy Joe Bennett, and even music from a possibly real keyboard-and-singer duo called Jazzmania. There were graphics at the bottom of the screen summing up what people are saying and there were actual ads for people and products involved in the show's making.

You don't have to be Stephen Hawking to work out that the target of LNBB is morning television, whether it be breakfast TV or mid-morning fare such as TV One's own Good Morning.

The question, of course, is why? In my experience morning television -- here and overseas -- is typically so soul-crushingly awful as to make it satire-proof, I mean the real thing is so much like parody that it's impossible to parody.

Hart, Wells and Hoyte clearly think differently. However, if they've attempted vainglorious originality with the show's format, the jokes were either old, lame or recycled (the Joe Bennett book segment is certainly from Hart's Moon TV shows).

There was a so-called gag (including photo) about camel toes (if you don't know what one is, don't Google it). There was an unfunny fake haemorrhoids infomercial. There were jokes about Asian drivers (how did Asian driver jokes make it to the 21st century?), and about snapper having Aids, the economic value of strip club money and about live TV graphics.

The guests, including a well-known cook, a well-known economist, a well-known car safety expert and a well-known fishing show host, appeared so briefly that they might not have been there at all.

Whether they were in on the joke was uncertain, but they were definitely treated just like the furniture in the furniture store where the thing was filmed. Perhaps it will get better, perhaps it won't. Certainly, late-night TV comedy is hard to do and can take time: John Oliver's three-month old Last Week Tonight is still a work in progress despite having a budget which I imagine is 10,000 times the size of Late Night Big Breakfast.

However, Oliver's show is the kind of show Hart, Wells and Hoyte might pull off if they put their minds and talent to it. It's political, it's polemic and it's rude as hell. It's also very American, despite being hosted by a Brit who, before he was a Jon Stewart sidekick of The Daily Show, was a Cambridge-educated stand-up in England.

Yet nothing is lost in translation with Last Week Tonight. It's all about skewering the pompous, the self-important and the rich. Last Week Tonight's deserving targets -- which have so far included Fifa, car companies with defective products and even Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott -- get what they deserve. The Late Night Big Breakfast just seems to be having a go at victims that are not worthy of their time -- or ours.

- NZ Herald

Greg Dixon

Greg Dixon is deputy editor of Canvas.

It has been said the only qualities essential for real success in journalism are a rat-like cunning, a plausible manner and a little literary ability. Despite having none of these things, Canvas deputy editor Greg Dixon has spent more than 20 years working as a journalist for the New Zealand Herald and North & South and Metro magazines. Although it has been rumoured that he embarked on his journalism career as the result of a lost bet, the truth is that although he was obsessed by the boy reporter Tintin as a child, he originally intended to be an accountant. Instead, after a long but at times spectacularly bad stint at university involving two different institutions, a year as a studio radio programme director and a still uncompleted degree, he fell into journalism, a decision his mother has only recently come to terms with. A graduate of the Auckland Institute of Technology (now AUT) journalism school, he was hired by the Herald on graduation in 1992 and spent the next eight years demonstrating little talent for daily news, some for television reviewing and a passable aptitude for long-form feature writing. Before returning to the Herald in 2008 to take up his present role, he spent three years as a freelance, three as a senior feature writer at Metro and one as a staff writer at North & South. As deputy editor of Canvas, his main responsibility is applauding the decisions of the editor, Michele Crawshaw. However he prefers to spend his time interviewing interesting people -- a career highlight was a confusing 15-minute phone interview with a stoned Anna Nicole Smith -- and pretending to understand what they're going on about. He has won awards for his writing and editing, but would have preferred a pay rise.

Read more by Greg Dixon

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