Bitchin' Channels

A blog about television and radio with Paul Casserly

Paul Casserly: The great breakfast shuffle

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Between punching rappers and biting political commentary, the new breakfast radio shows on The Hits and ZM have surprised Paul Casserly.
Fletch , Vaughan and Megan have moved to ZM, while Polly and Grant are now on The Hits.
Fletch , Vaughan and Megan have moved to ZM, while Polly and Grant are now on The Hits.

There's a lot going in the world of the wireless. Geoff Robinson has gone from Radio New Zealand National while Wallace Chapman has set up shop on Sunday mornings, and that true gentleman of the medium, Jim Mora, is on the move to drive time for an improbable marriage with our fiercest broadcaster, Mary Wilson. Meanwhile, Simon Mercep becomes the new Mora at 1pm. There will be letters to The Listener.

Commercial radio is in a state of flux too, with new voices making their mark. This includes a flock of TV refugees, including, Mark Sainsbury and Alison Mau on Radio Live, Guy Williams on The Edge, and Wells, Heath, Havoc and Leigh Hart on Hauraki. Hugh Sundae is back on the radio too, with a great new show on Kiwi FM (Tuesday 6pm).

At ZM there's been an outbreak of 'out with the old and in with the new'. Polly and Grant are out, while former The Edge stars, Fletch, Vaughan and Megan, are in. Although in this case 'out' means a shift only of stations, as Polly and Grant shuffle sideways to the re-branded Classic Hits, which is now, and henceforth to be known as The Hits.

Polly Gillespie and Grant Kereama have ruled the ZM breakfast slot since before written records have been kept. But when the hosts become older than the target demographic, advertisers begin to twitch. The resulting convulsion has delivered Fletch, Vaughan and Megan to the ZM breakfast slot, where they seem to be enjoying themselves, and can be heard chirping away madly like a nest of happy little birds.

Angry Birds, on the other hand, was the inspiration for the first thing I heard when I tuned in. It was that breakfast show staple, the 'quiz'. Correct answers on "Angry Words", the quiz, came accompanied by sound effects from Angry Birds, the game, with a prize of $50 per correct answer. Clue: "You travel in this under water". Answer: "A submarine". Easy money. The woman I heard took home $300.

A familiar set up of the breakfast show seems to be two well-known stars and a third wheel or sidekick who probably doesn't even get a car park. The third name, if they're lucky, comes after an 'and'. In this case it's "and Megan", while on The Hits, Polly and Grant share the airwaves with Marc Peard, aka New Hot Guy - although he doesn't get his name on the marquee, which is simply The Polly and Grant Show.

I'm guessing that either Megan makes less money than the others on ZM, or she's a problem gambler, because a good part of the show was spent dissecting her issues with credit card debt. Callers were even brought in to make suggestions: "Cancel the card, say it was stolen, then at least you won't be able to buy anything for a week," said one.

Also, she's possibly a thief. "Megan was banned from the Riverton mall for shoplifting," suggested Fletch or Vaughan, who was possibly joking while introducing her to retired Detective Inspector Graham Bell, the star of Police Ten 7 and the guest on the morning I tuned in.

"You're New Zealand's Alf Stewart", said Fletch or Vaughan, "he likes to tell the kids off at the surf club." Bell hadn't heard of Alf Stewart, the gruff character from Home and Away, but agreed that he likes to tell people off. A jovial exchange followed in which the grumpy but cuddly crime fighter revealed that he stopped counting how many people he arrested after "a few hundred". Fletch or Vaughan (it was my first listen, so apologies for not being able to tell them apart) then asked what people shout out when they see Bell in public: "People seem to love me saying 'mongrels', but I've only said it six times."

His favourite moment from the show was when that "skinhead in Christchurch thrust his head through a fence".

Over on The Hits, there was more TV on the radio. The guest was French chef Manu, from My Kitchen Rules. Polly began by slagging off Sydney taxi drivers which was prompted by Manu's tweet about a smelly driver he recently encountered. "At least you could have a shower before you get in the cab", suggested the swarthy Frenchman, who sounded a little sleepy.

"Dirty f****** Frenchman," I imagined Gordon Ramsay yelling at him, but I've spent some time in Sydney and I found myself agreeing with the sentiment.

"The most obnoxious taxi drivers in the world are in Australia", said Polly correctly. Manu agreed and then waffled on about the new season of My Kitchen Rules, "some really good food and some really bad food." He sounded as if he'd just finished off a Texan sized filet mignon and was suffering the effects of a food coma.

Polly, who sounded 110 per cent awake, said goodbye, and then turned herself on a little, suggesting this creation: "A television show, with Manu and Nigella, it's a bit dirty, and fantastic."

I wouldn't describe the punchy and pacey show as "dirty" or "fantastic", but there was a bit of "strangely" and some "compelling". A list of rappers that you should, and should not, attempt to punch was offered, with Polly suggesting you'd best avoid smacking Ice T or Ludacris but you should feel free to have a crack at P-Diddy or Eminem.

New Hot Guy disagreed, giving Marshall Mathers a tap would be extremely foolish he rightly reckoned. "A white-boy who's been bullied all his life and comes from the streets?"

Elsewhere the show veered from the sentimental - with shout outs to Angel Mums and the dreaded Chicken Soup for the Soul - to the surreal. A segment called The Thursday Tiny Terror added some intentional horror to the morning. Polly narrated. Cue spooky music.

"After working a hard day, I came home to see my boyfriend cradling my dead dog. I don't know what was scarier, seeing my dead boyfriend and dead dog, or that someone had broken into my home to place them there." It wasn't quite David Lynch, but it was weird.

There was also a surprise for me over on ZM, when Fletch, or maybe it was Vaughan, delivered some entertaining media commentary inspired by that walking disaster known as Judith Collins. He made fun of John Key blaming the "bottom feeders" of Twitter for Judith's meltdown and then played a clip of Collins doing the same, saying of Twitter: "It's not very nice." Then came another clip of her describing her feelings towards Twitter, just a few weeks back: "It's a lot of fun and it's nice to have a go back."

Mongrels, spooky prose, and media commentary, if it wasn't for the Coldplay I could probably get used to it.

* Fletch, Vaughan and Megan. Monday to Friday 6-9am. ZM 91FM
* The Polly and Grant Show. Monday to Friday 6-9am. The Hits 97.4FM

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