Calum Henderson writes about (mainly terrible) television.

Calum Henderson: New look Breakfast is younger and more upbeat

The new TVNZ Breakfast Lineup
The new TVNZ Breakfast Lineup

Like a ghost suddenly appearing in a haunted painting, Hilary Barry, who just months ago read the news on TV3's Paul Henry and Newshub, showed up on Monday morning on TV One as the new co-host of Breakfast.

"Now, I know you're wondering," she said, kindly setting startled viewers' minds at ease. "What's she doing there, wasn't she...? Yeah."

Barry is the highest profile addition to the new-look Breakfast team, which has undergone one of the biggest overhauls in the show's history. There is even a new desk.

The old couch, where former hosts Rawdon Christie and Nadine Chalmers-Ross used to sit and deliver their endearingly awkward brand of early-morning banter is gone, consigned to the inorganic collection of time.

The only link to the past remaining now is maverick weatherman Sam Wallace. The rest of the presenting team has been assembled from far and wide across the TVNZ empire: Jack Tame has returned from his correspondent's post in New York to co-host the show.

The most professional newsreader this side of Peter WIlliams, Daniel Faitaua, now reads the news, while free-range reporter Brodie Kane has secured a more permanent gig doing the sports news.

In other words, Breakfast has got a lot more youthful. Barry, the voice of the people in almost any situation, has gone from being an optimistic counterpoint to the curmudgeonly opinions of Paul Henry to a slightly pessimistic counter to the bright-eyed earnestness of Jack Tame.

On Monday, the new co-hosts went head-to-head in one of the great inter-generational arguments of modern times: the artistic merits of Kanye West. "He's a genius," said Tame. "He is mad, completely mad," said Barry. "He defines the millennial generation," Tame argued. "That's not a good thing," Barry countered.

It's younger and a little more upbeat, but the basic structure of the show remains more or less the same: news, weather and sports bulletins on the half-hour, and a range of topics and guests which gradually morph from a newsy first hour (Labour leader Andrew Little on meeting Canadian PM Justin Trudeau, political editor Corin Dann on John Key in New York) to lighter fare (Australian pop star Delta Goodrem, Emmy's chat with energetic showbiz reporter Sarah Gandy) in the final hour.

Although there are five presenters now, there are only four chairs behind the newsdesk - someone will always have to report from the field. This has traditionally been Wallace's strong suit, and Monday's weather included a typically picaresque subplot involving his confusing attempts at marketing the show in downtown Auckland.

But his workload as the resident Breakfast larrikin may be eased somewhat by the arrival of Brodie Kane. On Tuesday she read the sports bulletins off her iPhone from the TVNZ newsroom, where she attempted a "Chicken McNugget challenge" inspired by the feats of New Zealand Paralympic sprinter Liam Malone, who was interviewed on the show the previous morning. "He did some outstanding performances at the Paralympics," she explained. "One of them was eating one hundred Chicken McNuggets."

It's can be difficult to reconcile this kind of cheerful nonsense with the more serious parts of the show - one of Kane's nugget-scoffing crosses led incongruously into an interview about homelessness in New Zealand - but there is probably no one in the country more adept at bridging the two sides of morning television than Hilary Barry.

After two days she is already beginning to establish an enjoyable on-screen chemistry with her new team. While Monday morning was, at times, a little shambolic, Tuesday morning's show saw a definite improvement - more relaxed, less self-conscious, and professional when it needed to be.

As for the Chicken McNugget challenge, Kane managed to eat 60 before withdrawing, beaten but unbowed.

- NZ Herald

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