What the hell was that?

Late yesterday, Ten issued a media release to let the world know that Ten had decided to go early in launching their new Breakfast show. It had been expected to launch this morning Monday, but with the dramatic announcement by Kevin Rudd yesterday that he was resigning as Foreign Affairs Minister, Ten sought to use the heightened interest in local political news to give their shows launch a little extra oomph. And that appears to be the first of many mistakes presented to the Australian public.

From as early as July 2011, there were rumours that Ten wanted to get in on the Breakfast TV game. With such a long gestation time, it is astounding at just how poorly considered the show is.

The Hosts
Once you get past the lack of chemistry between the hosts, it becomes difficult to understand exactly what Ten were looking for with this trio. My immediate reaction upon seeing all three of them on the couch together was that their age, demeanour, and general look so closely resembled every other breakfast TV team.

With Paul Henry positioned in the centre of the trio, he is clearly the focal point of this show and he’s also the strongest presence on screen. Kath Robinson plays off Henry reasonably well, while Andrew Rochford seems a little lost on the couch. It could just be that Robinson was more in her element today with political news taking centre stage, but there certainly seems to be an imbalance.

The Rochford/Henry dynamic makes for difficult to watch television. Just 22 minutes into the show was an awkward moment in which Andrew Rochford momentarily forgot Paul Henry’s name. Rochfords role on the show seems to be to bring a sense of ‘connectedness’ with discussion about apps, awkward ‘analysis’ of the Twitter trends (“Twends”), and controls the main video screen on set with his iPad. Yet, Henry takes delight onscreen to dismiss anything tech-related, approaching it almost as an attack on Rochford for raising these as issues. Why continue to offer these segments/discussion points as integral aspects of the program to have the key host on the show be so dismissive of it all?

Of course, it would help somewhat if Rochford actually appeared to be knowledgeable about any of the techy subjects he was discussing.

The Set
Was the set designer a closet hoarder who just couldn’t say no to keeping as much as possible on set? The background was filled with decorational crates, a windmill, and a Vespa. And what’s with the random box of green apples on a bench beside the hosts? It all just looks a bit cluttered and cheap.

One of the more impressive aspects of the Today set is the massive video screen that occupies the space behind the main couch/hosting area on the set. Breakfast instead offers 16 screens built onto a wall to provide a larger screen image. It looks so cheap, nasty, and like something I recall being impressed by at the Adelaide Royal Show in 1992.

The Graphics
There’s one thing that works on the program and that’s the graphics. They’re fun, vibrant, and really pop on the screen. The news ticker on the on-screen flipper is a bit unnecessary (there’s a good reason we’ve seen TV news trend away from news tickers), but it’s hardly offensive. The quick-animated and stylish weather widget on the flipper that is really well implemented.

The only problem with the on screen graphics is the redundant Ten logo on the corner of the screen with ‘Breakfast’ written beneath it. With the name of the show already on-screen on the prominent flipper, there’s no need to see it a second time.


Going Early
What a mistake. The show seemed ill-prepared to present what Breakfast has to offer.

The Rudd/Gillard leadership contest dominated the show, as one would expect, however any attempt to introduce other subjects was clumsy. Early in the program, mid discussion about Rudd/Gillard, Andrew Rochford attempted to draw conversation instead to an app he was set to talk about which helps people schedule coffee breaks.

The subject matter at hand this morning begged for opinion from the hosts of the show, which they offered. Kath Robinson, in particular, was quite vocal on taking sides. And that would be fine for most mornings, but so early in on the first show where we don’t really know who these people are just yet? Their opinions are meaningless unless backed up by further in-depth conversation, which wasn’t offered.

I’m a Queensland viewer, which places me an hour behind the live broadcast. South Australia/Northern Territory is 30 minutes behind. And Perth is 2 hours. As Kevin Rudd delivered a speech this morning, Sunrise and Today cut into their shows and offered live coverage of the media conference. Meanwhile in Qld I was watching on Ten Rudd and Gillard impersonators going head to head in a ‘comedy’ debate. An hour later on Ten Breakfast Kevin Rudd delivered his speech from Washington while Julia Gillard spoke at a media conference live on every other channel.

Why go several days early if you are just going to provide delayed coverage on this ‘breaking’ story?

Channel Ten are not seeking a point of difference with this show, they’re seeking to emulate their competition. Yes, Henry has an interesting presenting style, but beyond that the show just feels like a lower rent version of Sunrise and Today. Breakfast exhibits moments of irreverence, but is ultimately more of the same. Outside of viewers in NSW/VIC/TAS, I don’t know who was still watching after 8am to view what was a very stale broadcast.

It was a very disappointing effort from a channel that had such a great opportunity to do something great and innovative with breakfast television.

[Photos courtesy of ‘Abesty’, at the MediaSpy forums]