Calum Henderson writes about (mainly terrible) television.

Calum Henderson: Mike Puru's heaven is another man's hell

Mike Puru.
Mike Puru.

"This is the perfect show," Mike Puru raved halfway through Monday morning's first episode of The Cafe. "We've got a barista on set, we've got a kitchen on set... I am in heaven right now."

After years serving as Jay Jay and Dom's sidekick on The Edge breakfast show, as Art and Jordan's romantic sherpa on The Bachelor NZ, and as a fast-talking TV hawker on shopping channel YesShop, it was nice to see him finally ascend to his celestial paradise: co-hosting TV3's new weekday morning lifestyle show, a sort of spiritual successor to TVNZ's dearly departed Good Morning.

When it was cancelled late last year, a common theme of the eulogies for Good Morning was that it always felt so friendly, communal... kind of like a café. A romantic notion, and one which has been taken extremely literally in the development of The Café, the first and only New Zealand television show to have its own barista.

Mike and fellow host Mel Homer may have done the heavy lifting on Monday morning's episode, but this unnamed coffee guru, silently pouring flat whites for a bemused studio audience of no more than twelve people, was the real star of the show.

Mel Homer. Photo / Nick Reed
Mel Homer. Photo / Nick Reed

Café styling aside, the show follows a nearly identical format to its predecessor - a mix of chat, cooking, and the infernal advertorials which pay for the whole thing. These were hosted by an enthusiastic woman called Holly, who introduced the segments in the studio by sprinting off-camera - "I'm just going to nip over here and talk about storage in ya kitchen!" - before the pre-recorded advertorial began with her running into shot.

Understandably for the first episode it sometimes felt frantic - maybe it's harder than it looks to recreate the relaxing rhythm so vital to Good Morning. Mike Puru still has the urgent patter of a TV salesman, and the show sometimes felt like one big long ad.

A beauty expert came on and blathered about skincare products. A finance expert replaced her and yawned about credit card interest rates. More coffee, please.

The big guest was Jordan Mauger, who seems mired in regret over his decision to appear on The Bachelor NZ. He spent the first half of the episode lurking at the edge of the studio kitchen, where resident chef Mark Southon was preparing a rack of lamb in his honour.

Called upon to mix the salad dressing, he hesitantly dragged the whisk around the bowl. "Go on, you need to whisk it," Southon encouraged him. "I don't want to splatter it everywhere," he replied.

If Mike Puru was in heaven, then The Bachelor was in the darkest depths of hell.

When they finally got around to interviewing him, Mauger slipped back into his inscrutable Bachelor persona. The more he talked, the less he said.

Of his experience filming the show: "I've had such a great time. It's so much fun spending time with the girls." Of his freewheeling approach to life: "I take opportunities when they come, and this one came along." Of his pre-Bachelor weight loss: "I just cut out sugar and started watching what I ate."

It fell to the editor-in-chief of Woman's Day, Sido Kitchin, to provide the episode with colour. She dropped in to walk the hosts through the latest issue of her magazine, a veritable baby bonanza. As the three of them sat around cooing over Ali Pugh's handsome bub ("good gene pool, very good gene pool"), Rebecca Wright's daughter ("she is delectable") and admiring Beth Allan's baby bump ("very tidy") it began to feel like an actual café: noisy, irritating, and stressful.

By the end of the show Jordan Mauger had been demoted to The Café's waiter - a role he took to with surprising aplomb, carrying the plate of lamb all the way over to the hosts without dropping it once. Almost immediately a pair of starving audience members scurried up to the bench, grabbed a knife and fork and and began probing away at the meat.

With that, the first ever episode of The Café was complete. "I can't believe it's over already," said Mike.

"I can't wait to do it all again tomorrow," said Mel.

- NZ Herald

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Calum Henderson writes about (mainly terrible) television.

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