Chris Schulz is the deputy head of entertainment for the New Zealand Herald.

Why Duncan Garner could eat Breakfast for dinner

Novelty pop songs, fail compilations, dodgy bird banter and coffees being ordered on air. What is going on at Breakfast? Chris Schulz tunes in.

The five stars of Breakfast are all over the place. There is, quite literally, no one sitting at the spacious new desk that replaced Rawdon Christie and Nadine-Chalmers-Ross' couch after the pair were dumped from TVNZ's flagship morning news show last September.

Sports reporter Brodie Kane isn't there. She's stationed in Aotea Square having personal space issues with Ruben Wiki ahead of the Auckland Nines. "Good luck bro," she tells Wiki, leaning in so close she nearly kisses his cheek when she speaks. "Thanks, sis," he replies.

Brodie Kane gets up close and personal with Ruben Wiki during a segment on Breakfast. Photo/TVNZ
Brodie Kane gets up close and personal with Ruben Wiki during a segment on Breakfast. Photo/TVNZ

Matty McLean is AWOL too, presenting the weather while sitting on what appears to be a giant white toilet erected in the middle of a field on Waiheke Island. Breakfast's newsreader Daniel Faitaua is no where to be seen. He's probably off drinking maple syrup to make his voice even more treacly than it already is.

Meanwhile, Breakfast anchors Hilary Barry and Jack Tame have abandoned their shiny desk too, reappearing on a series of colourful box couches that resemble something The Teletubbies might install in their rumpus room.

Barry is beaming like a Cheshire cat. She can barely talk, and Tame is loving it. Why? They're interviewing '90s pop act B*Witched, who are seated around the world's smallest circular table. Barry is a massive fan. At one point, she offers to join the band for their Auckland show. It's politely declined.

"The music was really light hearted, all about having fun," says one of B*Witched's ageless members, somewhat appropriately. Light hearted? Fun? They must be words that circulated on Breakfast memos before their return at the start of the year, because it's all they seem to do.

Jack Tame and Hilary Barry interview B*Witched around the world's smallest circular table. Photo/TVNZ
Jack Tame and Hilary Barry interview B*Witched around the world's smallest circular table. Photo/TVNZ

Sure, all of this happened on a Friday before a long weekend. A bit of banter at the end of a hard news week is forgivable. It certainly wasn't my best day in the office. But this wasn't a one-off. All week, the five presenters have been giddily trying to out-goof each other, a fact handily documented in Breakfast's very own fail compilation that screened on Friday.

Here's Kane reporting live from an ice tank. There's Barry and Tame engaging in bad taste bird banter. Here's Kane slapping the desk so hard it nearly breaks. There's Faitaua making McLean laugh for 45 straight seconds by throwing to the weather with this gem: "Matty, I'm sure if you had a bush, you'd trim it."

They're having a great time. It just doesn't feel like we're in on the joke. I tuned in again on Wednesday but found the same frivolities on offer. It's not like they didn't have a chance to venture into some hard news: brilliantly British CNN anchor Richard Quest was in the studio to report on what it was like covering Donald Trump's rise to the top.

After Trump's antics over the past two weeks, Quest would have been perfect to deliver some hard-hitting, in-depth analysis. There's a bit of that. But then Tame puts on an inexplicably terrible accent while Barry questions Quest about his flight to New Zealand. They don't return to the topic at hand. The segment ends with Quest pretending to fly and a montage of Air Qatar planes landing.

Richard Quest pretends to be a plane flying to New Zealand while sharing a joke with Breakfast hosts Hilary Barry and Jack Tame. Photo/TVNZ
Richard Quest pretends to be a plane flying to New Zealand while sharing a joke with Breakfast hosts Hilary Barry and Jack Tame. Photo/TVNZ

It gets worse. On Wednesday, McLean presents the weather live from the TVNZ cafe with a takeaway coffee cup in his hand. At one point, he asks Tame and Barry: "What do you want? I'll put your order in." Barry orders a double shot flat white, Tame a piccolo. McLean grabs a buttered scone and takes bites while sitting at a table for his next weather segment.

Matty McLean enjoys a takeaway coffee while presenting the weather during a live Breakfast bulletin. Photo/TVNZ
Matty McLean enjoys a takeaway coffee while presenting the weather during a live Breakfast bulletin. Photo/TVNZ


Matty McLean takes Hilary Barry and Jack Tame's orders during a live cross from the TVNZ cafe. Photo/TVNZ
Matty McLean takes Hilary Barry and Jack Tame's orders during a live cross from the TVNZ cafe. Photo/TVNZ


Matty McLean enjoys a buttered scone during a live weather cross on Breakfast. Photo/TVNZ
Matty McLean enjoys a buttered scone during a live weather cross on Breakfast. Photo/TVNZ

No one asked Kane what kind of coffee she wanted, but to be fair, she's so permanently lit she probably doesn't need it.

Later, Barry uses Right Said Fred's 1992 novelty hit I'm Too Sexy to segue into an analysis on the Labour Party's chances at the next election. She then sings their lesser known hit, Don't Talk Just Kiss. Ten minutes later, I'm Too Sexy is soundtracking a traffic report. Casual? They're bringing new meaning to the word.

It has to be said: Tame and Barry feel woefully underused. Tame's cut from an old school news cloth, so having him riff with Barry about mating birds and other '#notnews' - their own hashtag - segments feels like an insult. At TV3, Barry's hysterics were an occasional surprise, a welcome addition to the hard news she was forced to deliver during the 6pm bulletin. Here, it feels like she's been asked to double down on her giggles. Sadly, it's lost its effect.

When asked, a TVNZ spokesperson said they were happy with Breakfast's ratings and pointed to the fact that they were well up on the same time last year. That may be because TV3 has spent the year playing reruns of Paul Henry, and surely only Henry's biggest diehards would want to watch those.

But with Duncan Garner set to begin The AM Show alongside Amanda Gillies and Mark Richardson next week, Breakfast's onslaught of fluff means something.

Mark Richardson, Duncan Garner and Amanda Gillies, the team behind TV3's The AM Show which kicks off on Monday. Photo/TV3
Mark Richardson, Duncan Garner and Amanda Gillies, the team behind TV3's The AM Show which kicks off on Monday. Photo/TV3

If TV3 does things right, if The AM Show continues the solid work Paul Henry put in, if Garner takes things just a tad more seriously than his competitors and shows off his dog-with-a-bone interviewing abilities, he could quickly force Breakfast to undergo yet another revamp.

It's gotta be said: Duncan Garner could eat Breakfast for dinner. Let's see if it happens.

- NZ Herald

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