Even people who never watched the New Zealand TV show Good Morning still reference Mary Lambie (the host from 1997-2003). I never watched the show – well, hardly ever. It was a university holidays indulgence for a time. Like classic “sick-day” viewing. A mix of soft interviews and hard/heavy infomercials.
And then, one day, in 2005 I got a call, I was asked to head out and screen-test to be on the show as a regular music reviewer.
I had that job until the end of 2011 when the show was relocated to Auckland. From there it was cut back to, eventually, just a one-hour programme. (It had swelled to three and ballooned up to involve four hosts at one point).
When I started on the show, a very nervous, wooden, inexperienced TV presence – but a reasonably seasoned reviewer, I have to say – the host was Evie Ashton. She decided, early on, that the commute was too much. And there were a few “caretaker” hosts before a solid team formed. One of the fill-in players was Jeanette Thomas. She returned as the host in its final run, produced since 2012 out of Auckland until 2015. Navigating her way swiftly through all manner of news and current events and human-interest interviews to cooking segments, panel discussions and, yes, those infomercials, Jeanette Thomas was a star. So good at her job. A job that cannot be easy.
I mostly worked with hosts Sarah Bradley and Brendon Pongia. Also Steve Gray. He had started on the show as a movie reviewer and worked his way up to guest host, and then eventually was on the couch full time as a co-host. He was an excellent, thoughtful, prepared and intelligent interviewer.
Sarah and Brendon were great too. And in the time I was there I got to see just how hard these people worked to make it all seem easy.
What a slick operation Good Morning was, the crew made it all easy for anyone involved in front-of-camera work.
I had never intended to “be on TV” – it was never my aim. But for a long time after I was asked when I would “get another TV gig”, usually by crestfallen family members.
Reviewing music on Good Morning was great fun though, and I’ve written about this already (in the link above.
I also played music on the show once. Every day there’d be a live band – though often those segments were pre-recorded. In just a few minutes, in the very early morning, a band would set up and be recorded. It was made to look as if it was happening then and there. And one time the Irish band I’d played in for years was one of those bands. (Actually, I think we pre-recorded in an afternoon slot, set up, ran through two songs and they were slotted into a show down the line sometime. I never saw the actual episode, but I know we didn’t end up on the cutting-room floor).
I was asked to share the couch to interview Ian Gillan of Deep Purple. That was a great thrill.
I had to talk about a lot of pretty unexciting music, and I went from being a point-and-smile, hold up the new CD and say it’s good person to my usual mix of raving and dissing pretty quickly. (Because what’s one without the other?)
I got to sneak in a few things that I felt would have never, otherwise, made it onto morning TV, particularly reissues. But I always did my best to cover the sorts of albums that were better suited for the audience. Still, I enjoyed mixing it up, and this one time when I reviewed the first Grinderman album I had a shocker…as the music was playing under, a little song-snippet, I became acutely aware that the words of the song were about to say, “kick those baboons and other motherfuckers out” and I started trying to time my spiel so that I would cover up those words. They were going to sound very jarring at 10am on a Monday morning on live TV.
Of course I managed to cover up some of what Cave said, but in focussing on the sound playing under as I spoke, I of course ended up, in that pat-your-head/rub-your-tummy way, losing count. And I paused just as Cave bellowed, and other motherfuckers – it rang through the room: AND OTHER MOTHERFUCKERS…
I was convinced that was it. I’d be out of a job. The producer would call the next day. Someone would have complained. I’d possibly be on a stay of execution while the Standards and Practices team deliberated. But no. No one ever mentioned it. No one ever noticed. Or it gave a few people a wee Monday morning chuckle and perhaps a bit of a thrill.
Before or after episodes I’d share taxis back into Wellington, or a ride with one of the show’s drivers, and would sometimes end up in a great conversation with one of the guests from that day’s episode. I remember particularly the Shanes were very pleasant: Shane Cortese and then Shane Hales (or just ‘Shane’ as he was known – remember his St. Paul).
Then there was the time we pulled over very early pre-show to collect a musician from a motel. It was Aly Cook. A week earlier I had finally told her what I think of her album, and her music in general, after too much pestering. So, yeah, that was a fun ride…
That happened from time to time. I was in the make-up chair one day with Mu from Fat Freddy’s Drop glaring at me. He was being made up for an interview or performance segment I guess, I was just there to do my job, get reading for my segment.
You were never sure if you’d be returning to work the following year. You found out a week or so before the cameras rolled once more after a Christmas break. You’d usually take a pay-cut, and be grateful. Such is the world of TV. But it was a whole load of experiences I’m glad I had.
Long after the show moved from Wellington I was on it one final time. This time I was being interviewed – shilling for my book, then newly released. Up in Auckland on a very quick promo trip and talking with Jeanette Thomas one final time. It had been years, Facebook aside, since we had spoken. She was there after hours, filming a bunch of pre-records for the following week, slotting in extra work because it was required. So good at it. As always).
Another amazing thing about Good Morning: Hate Mail! I mean real, live, someone-bothered-to-buy-a-stamp hate-mail. Not this lazy, dashed-off, silly-pseudonym bs. I’m talking about where someone gets so mad they can’t control the angle of their handwriting. Someone gets so mad they feel they have to write in just because you said you didn’t like a band or song or style (in passing) but go on to praise that particular song or style or artist and say you were (pleasantly) surprised by the outcome this time. Too late! The letter is in the mail. Compelling argument too: You Suck, Bro!
Tracey from Rotorua, I hope you kept watching Good Morning, and only boycotted my segment, not the rest of the good work that talented team offered. I dedicate this one to you.
R.I.P. Good Morning: 1996-2015