It's been five months since TVNZ's latest round of musical chairs on Breakfast, when Hayley Holt stepped tentatively into Hilary Barry's very accomplished shoes to co-host alongside Jack Tame.

As the programme's fifth presenter pairing in five years, hopes were no doubt high that Holt and Tame might bring a bit of stability – and viewer interest - back to Breakfast, especially with their rivals at The AM Show steadily building their fan base.

But have they?

With June just around the corner, I figured the time was right for a mid-year report into the state of the nation's breakfast television and sprung a surprise inspection of both Breakfast and The AM Show one morning last week.

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Here's what I found ...

6am

It must be Friday.

Host Duncan Garner looks barely awake over at The AM Show, ensconced in his no-frills studio.

Breakfast, meanwhile, is stumbling around its cavernous, expensive-looking set, running the wrong footage in the first news bulletin of the day.

Transport Minister Phil Twyford's phone call on a plane is a topic of conversation for both programmes early on. The AM Show decides to run a poll about whether Twyford should resign. So far, so dull.

Breakfast instead asks viewers about whether or not they've used a phone on a plane themselves, a move that elicits much more interesting feedback. Newsreader Daniel Faitaua uses his dulcet tones and cutting sarcasm to give Holt and weather presenter Matty McLean a dressing down about their own phone usage on planes. McLean responds with A-grade eye roll.

Jack Tame and Hayley Holt from Breakfast.
Jack Tame and Hayley Holt from Breakfast.

7am

Garner seems to have woken up over at The AM Show and is finding his stride. He's going hard on the Mycoplasma bovis issue with a series of interesting dialogues that prove he's the better interviewer across our crop of morning television hosts right now.

Over at Breakfast, meanwhile, Holt ponders if we're using hot water bottles wrong.

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A bit later, she's also left to handle the show's 'burning question' segment. Today, it's all about secondary tax. "How is secondary tax calculated?" Holt asks an expert, as I fall asleep in my bowl of cornflakes.

I wake up in time for The AM Show's weekly politician panel, which is often a highlight of their Friday mornings. But with Labour's Stuart Nash taking Phil Twyford's usual spot, National's Judith Collins can't unleash her thinly veiled contempt for Twyford. In fact, she's being ... nice. I'm unnerved.

8am

Back over at Breakfast, their long-running tradition of ritualised on-air humiliation remains strong, with reporter Andrew Macfarlane being roped in to taste the world's hottest chilli, a stunt McLean famously pulled on the show some years ago.

Macfarlane's face as he learns about the Carolina Reaper he's about to eat quite clearly says: "I do NOT get paid enough for this."

Andrew Macfarlane tastes a chilli for Breakfast.
Andrew Macfarlane tastes a chilli for Breakfast.

Chewing on what is essentially pepper spray, Macfarlane bids farewell to his Breakfast colleagues for the day (and perhaps forever) with chilli-induced tears running down his face.

Then just like that, it's 9am and the credits for both shows are rolling.

The whole surprise inspection reinforces the notion that breakfast television is much of a muchness.

With Breakfast and The AM Show essentially being the same product, a viewer's choice about which one to watch comes down to the quality of content and its execution.

On Friday, The AM Show did the better job in reaching that breakfast telly gold standard of being informative and entertaining at the same time. Newsreader Amanda Gillies only had to tell Garner to pull his head in once, while sports presenter Mark Richardson kept his brand of infuriating, anachronistic remarks to a minimum. A successful outing all round.

The same can't quite be said for their TVNZ counterparts. When it comes to injecting some personality into the mornings, co-hosts Tame and Holt are often overshadowed by their support crew of Faitaua and McLean.

Whether or not this team can wind up gelling in quite the same way as the folks over at The AM Show remains to be seen, but for now, I'll have to borrow the phrase that always cropped up on my mid-year maths reports at high school: Must try harder.