TV Re­view

The TV cov­er­age of the coali­tion ne­go­ti­a­tions was a riot of slid­ing doors.

New Zealand Listener - - CONTENTS - DIANA WICH­TEL

Diana Wich­tel

Ask and you will get knocked back. Seek and, well, good luck with that. Knock and the lift doors will be closed upon you. That was the sit­u­a­tion for our plucky me­dia as the na­tion waited for Win­ston Peters to an­nounce the new govern­ment.

“What can you tell us?” de­manded New­shub’s Melissa Davies in the stu­dio, as ­re­porters rein­vented the ­Se­in­fel­dian con­cept of ­tele­vi­sion about noth­ing. “I can’t tell you much,” said Lloyd Burr, a po­lit­i­cal re­porter who seems to live for lift doors to close on him. His reck­less en­coun­ters with Win­ston were a high­light of elec­tion night and he was back for more. He brought ran­dom break­ing news. “I’ve heard mur­murs that some clap­ping was heard from the Labour Party of­fices. So that’s some­thing to think about.”

There was a false Win­ston ­sight­ing. “It’s just a guy here to main­tain the lift.” Then there was Burr’s plinth mono­logue. A plat­form had been placed in front of the mi­cro­phone to be used for the an­nounce­ment and then taken away again. “So that was a lit­tle scan­dal re­gard­ing the plinth.”

Mean­while, TVNZ’s web­site of­fered a video of 1 News’s Katie Brad­ford and Corin Dann lolling de­spon­dently in chairs at Bowen House, do­ing some sort of homage to Wait­ing for Godot. Dann: “Look, I dunno. I dunno.” Brad­ford: “We don’t know. That’s the prob­lem.” This drove Dann into an in­vol­un­tary cri­tique of the state of se­ri­ous jour­nal­ism these days. “We shouldn’t be say­ing that,” he fret­ted. “We’re sup­posed to be telling peo­ple stuff.”

In the ab­sence of any­thing re­motely newslike, there was the Viet­namese-soup mono­logue. ­“Win­ston’s hav­ing Viet­namese for lunch. Break­fast … I won­der what he’s think­ing as he does that?” mused Brad­ford. “The most im­por­tant take­away – he’s not hav­ing take­aways – is that it’ll be a cou­ple more hours,” de­clared Dann. They were there to en­sure it seemed much, much longer.

Back at New­shub, Three’s po­lit­i­cal editor Paddy Gower demon­strated once again that, re­gard­less of what’s hap­pen­ing in what passes for re­al­ity in his world, his con­trols are set at Ar­maged­don. “Still we wait! Still the drama con­tin­ues here!” An up­date on the clap­ping was neatly com­bined with a Three game-show promo. “They were ac­tu­ally clap­ping about Fam­ily Feud, be­fore 6pm!”

Fi­nally, some ac­tion. The Greens were ­dis­cov­ered to be “mak­ing a bee­line for the Bee­hive!”. Win­ston Watch kicked up a notch. Burr: “Those are the el­e­va­tors he’s ex­pected to leave in! It’s like el­e­va­tor roulette!” By this time, at­mo­spheric in­ter­fer­ence or the steam ris­ing from Gower broke up the pic­ture, mak­ing him look like a mal­func­tion­ing ­holo­gram. It would ex­plain a lot.

F in­ally, Win­ston ma­te­ri­alised and the rest is his­tory, with a touch of Mar­ried at First Sight, as ­com­men­ta­tors pon­dered the ­per­son­al­i­ties in­volved in the ­coali­tion: were they com­pat­i­ble? Was there chem­istry? Would they keep their vows?

Over on Seven Sharp, the ­nor­mally un­trou­bled Mike Hosk­ing vis­age looked al­most as dis­tressed as his jeans. His im­pres­sive range of ap­palled ex­pres­sions launched ­glee­ful memes, though he was ­pos­si­bly trumped by Pad­dles, the poly­dactyl First Cat.

De­spite the hours of ­noth­ing, this elec­tion’s dis­rup­tive MMP an­tics were made for tele­vi­sion. As Jacinda Ardern put it, “I found out at the same time as the rest of the coun­try.” What a strange, some­times en­dear­ing lit­tle na­tion we are. When an Aus­tralian ­jour­nal­ist called Ardern’s of­fice to check on how to pro­nounce her sur­name, the Prime ­Min­is­ter-des­ig­nate an­swered his call. For­mer PM He­len Clark tweeted, “That’s New Zealand!”

It’s early days, but one pos­i­tive out­come of the change might be that cer­tain talk­back hosts will think twice be­fore re­fer­ring to Ardern, or any­one, as a “chicky-babe”. As for the va­garies of MMP pol­i­tics at the edge of the Earth, there was an email on Break­fast with some use­ful ad­vice on how to weather them: “Moan­ing won’t help,” it read. “Suck it up and give it a chance.”

Paddy Gower demon­strated that, re­gard­less of what’s hap­pen­ing, his con­trols are set at Ar­maged­don.

As we waited, the only show on telly was Win­ston Watch.

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