IN 140 CHARACTERS OR LESS:
A warts-and-all depiction of the rise and fall of the morning TV star you’ve never heard of.
Who’s it for:
This book works on two levels. It’s a great read for anyone with an interest in the ‘behind the scenes’ shenanigans of Australian TV. But it’s also a deeply honest account of a young man’s struggle with mental illness, and his sexuality (though this second factor is not a key focus). Thus, anyone with an interest in either topic will find something worthwhile here.
What the back cover says:
‘A riveting personal account of big stars and major dramas. I couldn’t put it down.’ Mia Freedman.
What I say:
You probably don’t know the name ‘Adam Boland’ – but you know the TV shows he made.
He’s the guy who gave us Kochie and Mel, and introduced a level of informality and interactivity into Australian breakfast television that propelled Channel Seven’s Sunrise to the top of the ratings. And he did it all in his twenties.
For a while, it seemed this ‘wunderkind’ had the midas touch. Capitalising on the Kochie and Mel phenomenon, he went on to further dominate morning television with The Morning Show – another ratings winner and solid cash cow for Seven.
I worked with Adam when he was at the peak of his powers in the early 2000s. For 18 months, I did the graveyard shift between midnight and 8am, churning out news bulletins for Sunrise. To me, he was a brilliant but complex young man – completely consumed by television and confident in that milieu – but socially, a little awkward.
With Adam, there was no separation of work and personal life. When he spoke of the Sunrise ‘family’, he was sincere. The job and the people were his life.
At the time, it didn’t quite make sense to me – that level of commitment, for a job! In that regard, Brekky Central – the memoir of his time in television – is revelatory.
This book won’t win any literary awards (and I sense it was perhaps rushed into print) but it’s the highly readable story of a little boy, born to an 18 year old single mum who was always on the move – never in one spot long enough to make friends.
That’s where television filled the void. ‘No matter where we lived, my television friends from Seven were always there, the people from my dream factory travelling with me. As Mum did shift work to make ends meet, I’d sit at home with A Country Practice, watching Brendan and Molly argue, or laughing as Shirl wrestled with a wombat called Fatso. That show opened my eyes to everything from romance to racism. With Seven offering me a form of salvation, it became my unshakable goal to work there one day.’
Not only did he work there, but he took the station’s morning line-up to the top of the ratings, knocking off Channel Nine’s previously unassailable Today show.
Along the way he made plenty of friends, and just as many enemies, and by 2010 Boland was just as desperate to leave Seven as he had been to join.
After unsuccessfully suing Seven, he eventually headed to Channel Ten to head-up their new morning offerings Wake Up and Studio 10.
In Adam’s typically gung-ho way, he went in all guns blazing, promising a revolution in Australian breakfast television. The pressure couldn’t have been more intense, and under that, Boland started to crack. The mental illness that had long been an un-diagnosed undercurrent in his life suddenly roared into life, and nearly claimed Boland’s in the process.
In 2006, I came to the conclusion that television was a cut-throat business for which I was not quite cut-out. Brekky Central confirms this view with some cracking tales of over-inflated egos and almost unconscionably competitive behaviour.
But what is most striking about the book is Boland’s level of self-awareness and seeming honesty about his less-distinguished moments, of which there were quite a few.
In television, he was trying to find a family, and as with all families, he found it was driven by dysfunction, jealousy and intense competition.
The last I heard, Adam was living with his mum and his partner, Kenny, in Vanuatu. I suspect he is a very different person to the one I knew…
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