“If breakfast is the most important meal of the day, what does the nutritional information panel for Australian breakfast television read like?”
Tuning into JR’s first day was a viewing experience in two parts. On the Today show, Sharyn Ghidella was a vision in pink framed by a textured beige background. A quick switch to Sunrise revealed Simon Reeve doing something similar but with less pink and professional verve.
The sports boys followed, Mark Beretta and Cameron Williams respectively. Both were jokey, blokey and read the sports wrap with a certain amount of clarity – though I’d take bets Williams has a deep, ongoing fascination for any shiny surface that catches his reflection.
Weather was next with Grant Denyer ("our favourite weather guy" said David Koch, weirdly hinting at the possibility there might be a couple of Mk II Denyer’s, with the batteries pulled out, sitting in the Seven props bay on standby) who did the usual forecast ‘n fun location thing. Over on Nine, Today, mindful of its tradition of sticking poseurs in the weather slot (do the names Monty and Sami ring any bells?) threw to persistent dickface Steve Jacobs, who proved All Together Now was not a career aberration.
Then came the woman of the moment, ensconced in a new, four-seater, desk set, Jessica was reputedly wooed over to Nine with a $500,000 salary. “Stay with us,” she enthused, “the fun continues when we return.” And you could tell she really was having fun because she was smiling winningly as though… well, as though she was being paid huge amounts of money just to turn up.
Back on Sunrise, Mel and Kochie defused the new Today desk by sitting in lounge chairs in a shade of purple you normally associate with heavy bruising. A stab of a button saw Richard Wilkins conducting an interview with Paul McCartney promoting his latest album.
McCartney, showing no ill effects from four decades of public adulation, explained, with mock distress, how one of his inner circle of adulators had suggested filming him during the song writing process. “Like footage of Picasso painting,” mused the ex-Beatle straight-faced, as my hand closed around the remote in a spasm of uninterestedness.
Nor was there any relief on Sunrise where the top part of Jonathan Coleman’s chins (the bit with eyes and hair) were interviewing Rowan Atkinson, who was threatening to make another Johnny English movie. It was left to Mel to take us to the commercial break with the question – “Can thin catwalk models send a positive message to young girls?”
Surfing back to WIN it seemed Today had already beaten Mel to the punch by surrounding a rake thin catwalk model with food (hang on -- it’s just Jessica hosting a cooking segment). By now JR’s permanent smile and bonhomie had taken on a slightly animatronic quality that even Karl Stefanovic couldn’t match.
Disaster struck when Today’s resident chef, Luke Mangan, fed Jessica a strawberry. The unscripted fruit pulp clearly shorted out some microcircuitry and JR’s voice chip started looping: “Bert Newton – he’s my friend!” Swiftly followed by “I can’t wait to have a chat with my friend!”
“Nothing to add there,” chirped Jacobs from the sidelines -- the luckiest man to have a job on Australian television speaking with far more perspicuity than you would normally expect.
When Bert did pop up it took three people to interview him. Richard, Karl and Jessica (he’s my friend!) lined up to puppy lick the old trouper, who returned the avalanche of compliments, praised JR like a heathen who’s found religion and even found time to be mildly entertaining. Little Mr Square Eyes imagines Newton, after five decades in the business, has seen a platoon of Jessica Rowes come and go and knows on which side the Network Nine bread is buttered.
“Hey Bert! What do you think about the new logo?” piped up Karl, a little like Chester, the Warner Bros cartoon dog. “Terrific – best thing they’ve every done,” shot back Newton, adding, “I’ve just started working here – what did you think I was going to say?”
“That question brought to you by the Nine publicity department,” said Karl showing that even when putting your foot in your mouth, the most important thing in comedy is...
And so it went on. Until finally, 9am rolled around and what seemed to be the complete stock of a small florist’s kiosk was lobbed in JR’s direction. The smile grew wider, as though invisible fishhooks were lodged either side of her mouth, the platitudes from Dick and Karl more effusive and someone in the control room cued up a grab from a Bernard Fanning song.
I just want to wish you well
I just want to wish you well
Why did you give up on me so soon? is another line from the song and according to Marcus Casey of the Daily Telegraph that’s exactly what many viewers did:
THE showdown between revamped Today and breakfast TV dominator Sunrise fizzled on the first outing on Monday.Breakfast Television Nutritional Information: Small amounts of fibre, cloying levels of sugar(coating) and too much fat(-headedness). Watch in moderation and only while you're doing something else.
Despite weeks of publicity and on-air promotion for new Today host Jessica Rowe, the vast majority of the five-capital city audience tuned into Sunrise.
It was Monday's 28th most popular show, with an average of 408,000 five-capital viewers from 6am to 9am, while Today was 60th with 246,000 - 46,000 above its average this year.
But it was much tighter in Rowe's hometown of Sydney where she enjoyed a summer of attention when Ten took her to court in a failed bid to stop her moving to Nine.
Today had 81,000 Sydneysiders watching to Sunrise's 104,000 - a promising figure for Nine.