Calum Henderson writes about (mainly terrible) television.

Calum Henderson: The AM show

Three's The AM Show hosts, Mark Richardson, Duncan Garner and Amanda Gillies. Photo / The Am Show Facebook
Three's The AM Show hosts, Mark Richardson, Duncan Garner and Amanda Gillies. Photo / The Am Show Facebook

"Don't rip me off, I'm bloody sick of this!" a rarked up Duncan Garner warned viewers during The AM Show's Monday morning debut.

"I mean, two hundred bucks for roses? Bugger off!"

The new host of Three's latest breakfast vehicle was talking about the impending financial apocalypse of Valentine's Day.

He was also, in a funny way, asserting himself as the voice of the people: 82 per cent of respondents in The AM Show's inaugural poll had answered NO to the question: "Will you observe Valentine's Day?"

Three's The AM Show hosts, Mark Richardson,  Amanda Gillies and  Duncan Garner. Photo / NewsHub
Three's The AM Show hosts, Mark Richardson, Amanda Gillies and Duncan Garner. Photo / NewsHub

Garner's regular Kiwi bloke persona might seem a drastic departure from his comically aloof predecessor, but really The AM Show has just reshuffled the Paul Henry character deck.

The old host's role as the contrarian grouch has transferred seamlessly to new sportsreader Mark Richardson, who in turn has replaced the original Kiwi bloke Jim Kayes.

The show's regular quartet is rounded out by the familiar characters of patient news woman (now Amanda Gillies) and internet-savvy millennial (now Aziz Al-Sa'afin, whose first morning included a comprehensive explanation of how Tinder works).

So, while it might have had a different name, new faces and a somehow even more garish colour scheme, The AM Show's first couple of episodes largely saw it maintain the confident stride built up over the past year-and-a-half by Paul Henry.

From the start, everybody seemed to know exactly what they were meant to be doing.

When Suits actor Rick Hoffman described his character Louis Litt as "a douche" it took no more than 30 seconds for the third layer of the news ticker at the bottom of the screen to be updated to read "Suits star Rick Hoffman: My character is 'a douche'."

When Garner threw to the ads teasing an update on the Australian bushfires, they had Heat Wave by Martha and the Vandellas cued and ready to go. Slick!

Rick Hoffman, who stars as Louis Litt in Suits, on The AM Show. Photo / Newshub
Rick Hoffman, who stars as Louis Litt in Suits, on The AM Show. Photo / Newshub

For the host this new gig was also a good opportunity to remind everyone he's got plenty of bite left as a political interviewer. Remember when he was on the news? He used to be like a dog with a bone!

On Monday morning he dug up both the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition, hauled them before the unforgiving Parliament cameras and gave them a good chew over the numbers behind the housing crisis.

In the eyes of cricket commentator and former The Crowd Goes Wild host Richardson, who self-identified earlier in the morning as politically "middle-right", the Prime Minister got a raw deal.

"I hope Billy comes back!" he worried, half-joking. "It's the first day, he comes on to do us a favour and you grill him!"

Garner may be a BBQ pitmaster when it comes to grilling politicians but he's not the only member of The AM Show desk capable of conducting a knockout interview.

Few who saw Amanda Gillies' tell-all Story exclusive with Fleur from The Bachelor the day she got dumped by love rat Jordan last year would argue with her current affairs credentials.

The AM Show host Duncan Garner talking to Prime Minister Bill English about the Huntly Muslim attack. Photo / Newshub
The AM Show host Duncan Garner talking to Prime Minister Bill English about the Huntly Muslim attack. Photo / Newshub
The AM Show interviewing Suits' star Rick Hoffman. Photo / The AM Show
The AM Show interviewing Suits' star Rick Hoffman. Photo / The AM Show

But so far she has stuck to reading the news (and reading it very well) - something the visiting Hoffman noticed.

"You've just been looking beautiful here," he pointed at her, "C'mon, just give me one question." Gillies asked him to comment on Prince Harry's relationship with his Suits co-star Meghan Markle. Great question! "No comment," he replied.

The functional radio-on-TV format makes it easy for the hosts to maintain the equilibrium of serious news and slightly surreal early-morning chatter; it's the quick transition between the two where the chemistry fizzes, where the magic happens.

"It's uncool, un-Kiwi and simply unacceptable," Gillies condemned the racist abuse filmed in Huntly over the weekend.

"I'd ask the lady a question," pondered Richardson: "Would she have given Sonny Bill Williams the same treatment? He's Muslim."

Garner shook his head knowingly: "She would have asked for a selfie."

Duncan Garner co hosts The AM Show. Photo / Newshub
Duncan Garner co hosts The AM Show. Photo / Newshub

- NZ Herald

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