Breakfast Television is never going to change the world.
To ensure this article was as unbiased as possible, I subjected myself to the somewhat unthinkable last week – I watched the every epsiode of Sunrise AND the Today Show on the day they were broadcast to be able to make a 1:1 comparison on features, stories and content. That meant, through the course of the week, I watched 32.5 hours of breakfast television. Yes, by the end of the week I was feeling it.
That’s not to say that Brekky TV doesn’t have redeeming features – it absolutely does. The chance to wake up and turn on your TV and know every half hour you’ll get some form of news headlines, sports news, weather and a bit of fun to help kickstart your day… that can’t be undervalued. For so many people the personalities they’ve come to know and love on their TV every morning are family in the truest sense of the word. Take Brenda for example – she won $30,000 from the “I Wake Up With Today” phone call promotion by answering her phone within 4 rings. She was understandably emotional as it sunk in, and as we learnt the next day when Lisa popped up to see her Brenda has her dogs and no one else. The Today Show is her family, and her connection to a wider world.
Denyer at the Chinchilla Melon Festival
It’s the depth that these connections are felt to that amazes me. Something as simple as watching friends like Kochie and Mel on Sunrise talk & joke with their mates Nat, Beretts and Grant can really suck you in. Their consitent talk of “family” & the relaxed vocabularly used ensures that Brekky TV is accessible to who watch. It’s not going to be to everyone’s tastes, but it’s not designed to be. Both shows are built in 30 minute blocks, with good forward promotion letting you know something worth watching is happening “very shortly” (that’s Brekky TV code for 24 minutes). Both shows are designed to keep you engaged – like a drug. There’s little opportunity to really find an opportunity to change channels and at least 7/10 when one goes to an ad the other is doing the same.
A massive acknowledgement must go to Adam Boland. He truly is the father of modern Australian Brekky TV. The Today Show has been on air on Channel 9 for nearly 29 years. It was originally a very staid and formal news-centric effort, and apart from some early tweaking didn’t shift from that format too greatly until ‘Bolo’ got his chance and Channel 7 to develop their morning program. Ties – gone. Nicknames – yes please. Opinions – share them plentifully. The changes he made to a burgeoning Sunrise 10 years ago were bold, and the show stands now as the benchmark for Brekky TV in Australia (and gets more than its share of international interest).
The Stefanovic brothers – Bunga Bunga
That said… There is a reason Brekky TV falls into the “light entertainment” category and not the “outstanding news service” category when it comes to Logies voting time. News is short, sharp and well-packaged. Some deeper digestion is available (particularly from 7am-7:30am), but it’s usually not long and not too heavy. Entertainment is king. From wacky weather presenters at 20 paces; to polar opposite entertainment reporters; to fly-on-the-wall conversations between hosts at the desks… it’s generally pretty easy to slide in and out from as you prepare yourself/your family for the day.
Brekky TV nowadays does generate it’s own levels of humour, however. The embedded clips act as excellent examples of how the conversational nature of the show can get itself into trouble, or allow the hosts to celebrate their own silliness.
Yes Kochie, we all knew which Karl you meant
That’s not to say the journalist in the hosts doesn’t pop out from time to time, or isn’t give life to breathe in the event of a natural disaster like a flood or a tropical cyclone. But that’s not their core delivery – it’s normally all about the nice/gentle/fun/smooth/light entertainment.
THE HEAD TO HEAD COMPARISON
Sunrise: Mel (Melissa Doyle) & Kochie (David Koch) have their on-air relationship down to a fine art. Books could be written about their personas (which we’re assured are their real-life personalities shining through). Kochie comes across a little too daggy & a little too opinionated sometimes (the “My First Kraft” tasting, anyone?). Mel could be perceived as overly sweet, but is that a bad thing?
Today: Karl (Stefanovic) & Lisa (Wilkinson) are a little edgier. They’ll both push gags and discussions right to the edge, almost daring the other to cross the line. Karl’s fan club are passionate in support of him, though mostly it’s driven from their loins. Lisa can come across a little too cold, only because she’s very intelligent, very sharp (again, is that a bad thing?).
Winner: Too close to call. I’d love to see a Karl/Mel team – they’d kill it. But it’s not gonna happen.
Sunrise: Nat (Natalie Barr) owns the News chair and really only lends it to others temporarily when she’s ill or filling in for Mel. Her news read is authoritative and direct, though she softens a little when she’s chatting it up at the desk. Very much Mel’s BFF on-screen, likely the same off.
Today: Georgie (Gardener) is also authoritative in her news read, and sits quite well next to Karl or Lisa as co-host when required. Her chatty stuff with the desk is subtle, but she plays her bit part well.
Winner: Too close to call. No distinct points of difference to make one the better choice than the other.
Sunrise: Beretts (Mark Beretta) is a sporty bloke – he works the V8′s for Ch7, & he regularly competes in triathlons and hosts other sporting shows for the network. He has a sporting lineage. He also loves a good gag, and isn’t afraid to have a laugh at his own expense.
Today: Ben (Fordham) is only new to the sports presenter role, but is equipping himself ably. He also looks after some of the viral video/most clicked/latest twitter update gear that the show uses quite well.
Winner: Beretts. The sports gig is simply a holding pattern for Fordham while he waits for Karl to get a permanent gig on 60 Minutes so that he can fill the co-anchor chair. Which he will, soon enough.
Sunrise: Grant (Denyer) is in his second stint as the “full-time travel around Australia doing wacky things” weather girl for the show. This time he has his (currently very pregnant) wife with him as his producer so the relationship pain he felt off-screen before shouldn’t be repeated and he can be driven into the ground being bumped from Broome to Bundaberg one day to the next (and so on). He’s a genial guy who is up for pretty much anything.
Today: Steve (Jacobs) is just as wacky, although his around Australia stints don’t seem to be as frequent or as long-winded. He’s as quick as the hosts to fire off a line, so when he is in the studio it can make for an interesting dynamic.
Winner: Denyer by a country, rain-soaked mile. He seems genuinely interested in the people he meets on the road, and they respond accordingly.
Sunrise: Fifi (Box) is doing less now that her regular afternoon 4-days-a-week radio gig has kicked off, so is less on screen and really only delivering packages now. Her big smile and acres of enthusiasm mask a vagueness that seems to add to her endearing qualities.
Today: Richard (Wilkins) isn’t afraid to break the big stories, and will never be allowed to forget it. His tenure with the network is seemingly unending, and consequently his contacts list in his BlackBerry is now a much desired item in Australian television.
Winner: Wilkins has to win. He’s an integral part of Today, and is on-screen multiple times an hour. People associate him with the brand (rightly or wrongly). Box is near AWOL.
Sunrise: Nelson (Aspen) delivers hourly updates on the latest news and gossip from both Hollywood and Australia. He’s included as a part of the team by those in the studio, and seems genuinely pleased to be speaking with the team each time.
Today: Richard (Reid) is a shouty, silly parody of every gay stereotype you can think of as a gay entertainment reporter. He has no redeeming features.
Winner: Aspen without question. His gentlemanly approach to the subject matter means people will listen and take notice, as opposed to thinking of ways to have a contract put out on him.
Sunrise: “The Cash Cow” reminds me of those horrible Koalas that accost you in the street asking for donations for some Green group. That said, the off-screen team take turns in filling the suit creating the kind of havoc people seem to like. Viewers register via phone or text ($0.55 to enter), and then every day 1 person wins $15,000 and 5 people win $1,000, all randomly selected. No pre-requisites to win.
Today: “I Wake Up With Today” – you have to register via phone or text ($0.55 to enter), and then twice a show a randomly selected viewer is called. To win, they have to answer within 4 rings and say “I Wake Up With Today” as the first statement they offer. Don’t answer or say the wrong thing? You miss out and the money jackpots $5,000 each time from a starting $15,000.
Winner: You want easy? Sunrise. You want a big pay off? Today.
“I have a long, stabby thing beside my bed…”
If you’re looking for a “the winner is…” announcement, then this will disappoint you. You will continue to watch the show that you’ve always watched until they do something that causes you to change channels (or turn it off), likely never to return. We’re all creatures of habit, and connecting with your favourite Brekky TV show will remain as much black magic as smart programming, look and feel, guests and graphics. If you watch any now, you do so because the people you watch are those you resonnate with. Enjoy. You don’t need to justify yourself to me – but I’d love to know who you watch and why…
Breakfast television is never going to change the world. But if you give it a chance, it may make your world a little brighter, no matter which family you’re a part of.
Sunrise – Weekdays 6am to 9am, Ch7.
The Today Show – Weekdays 5:30am to 9am, Ch9.
(All opinions expressed are entirely my own. Article developed from my viewing and notes taken whilst watching both Sunrise and the Today Show from Mon 14/2 to Friday 18/2 inclusive. Notes published & available here.)