An abundance of woeful banter: The AM Show reviewed

by Greg Dixon / 02 March, 2017

“And after 8.30,” said Duncan Garner, “is the Earth about to be destroyed by an asteroid?”

Holy smoke! Holy smoking ruins! It was just before 8.30 on morning three of Three’s new breakfast programme The AM Show and it was already ­predicting the end of the world. What a scoop. But also, what a disaster! Did this mean that Three’s nascent replacement for Paul Henry, a show that had barely begun its struggle to fill its predecessor’s shoes, was about to be wiped out like the dinosaurs?

Fortunately, sanity returned after the ads. “Fake news,” boomed the space expert. The real news: The AM Show will survive, at least for the moment. I wish I could say I was relieved.

Breakfast television, as I’ve said before in these pages, is like my kryptonite, or perhaps my gluten intolerance: too much upsets my stomach.

But I committed to watching a full week of The AM Show, if only because the three ­presenters who front it were almost as odd a choice as those chosen to front Three’s The Project, the dog-and-pony show replacing the unloved Story, Garner’s previous gig.

I can’t figure out what’s in it for both Garner and his offsider, Amanda Gillies. They are senior journalists, so what attracts them to something as frothy and throwaway as breakfast television (and radio, where it also broadcasts) is a mystery.

Garner is at least in charge, which flatters his ego. But poor Gillies, who sits at his side like a frustrated deputy head girl, now just reads the news where once she was reporting it. Meanwhile, Mark Richardson, a sports broadcaster, is there to read the sports news, but also to be the boofhead fall guy for the others. I’d have thought he had ambitions beyond that.

Still, it was clear the three have a chemistry that certainly wasn’t immediately evident in last year’s Hilary Barry and Jack Tame-fronted revamp of TVNZ 1’s Breakfast. And right from day one, The AM Show has run, if I may quote a tinpot dictator, like a fine-tuned machine. Unfortunately, it’s one churning out 90% news-free gloop.

Most of what passes for the show’s current affairs coverage – beyond Garner’s short interviews with newsmakers – is headlines and opinions on headlines. There is almost no analysis, no real substance, although the show did turn itself over to the Port Hills fire for a day.

What there is a superabundance of, however, is woeful banter: “You can go a long way with smiling,” said Garner on Valentine’s Day. “You can get out of a lot of trouble with a smile,” Gillies added, as if ­announcing she had just invented the wheel. “My mum always told me that – ‘just make sure you smile,’” said Richardson, desperate to join in.

Richardson, sometimes amusingly, is like some sort of random-thought generator. The day before, he’d told us, “Whales are the humans of the ocean”, although he didn’t say whether it was his mum who’d told him this or if he’d read it in the Ladybird Book of the Sea. The following Monday, he said P cooks should be shot in the back of the head.

Gillies, meanwhile, spent the first week repeatedly reminding us that she’d once been a proper journalist as Three’s Australian correspondent, had covered proper wildfires over there and so obviously felt she should man-splain – or should I say, Amanda-splain – to viewers that it was lives rather than property that should be the priority in the Port Hills fire. No shit, Sherlock.

And Garner is Garner. He might not like the sound of his own voice quite as much as semi-retired breast-man Paul Henry, but it’s a pretty close-run race. It remains to be seen whether he has enough crazy in him to be Hooray Henry’s natural successor or just another opinionated ­breakfast-time bore.

So The AM Show goes. Killer asteroids, notwithstanding.

The AM Show, Three, 6.00am, weekdays.

This article was first published in the March 4, 2017 issue of the New Zealand Listener. Follow the Listener on Twitter, Facebook and sign up to the weekly newsletter. 

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