Colin Hogg on television

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Colin Hogg: Campbell reaches milestone

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TV3’s golden boy proves it’s not all serious with funny, folksy episode marking 10 years.

The seemingly ageless John Campbell recently turned 50.
The seemingly ageless John Campbell recently turned 50.

Good gracious, the nation exclaimed at the thought that it has been watching Campbell Live for 10 years now. Even more disturbing, the ageless, seemingly unscarred star of the show, John Campbell himself, has recently turned 50.

Gosh, said the critic, checking out Friday night's episode of the 7 o'clock TV3 current affairs show. It turned out to be a folksy one, starting with cheese rolls and ending with sheep shearing - which is about as folksy as you can get.

Still, it made me smile a couple of times and I didn't feel the slightest urge to switch channels for the more predictable comforts of The Simpsons or Antiques Roadshow.

Friday's Campbell Live got off to a bit of a stuttering start, with the host excitedly announcing it was Friday the 13th of July and not June. Campbell may have been put off his stride by the presence of Invercargill mayor Tim Shadbolt, bearing a plate of the aforementioned cheese rolls.

Campbell Live's first item of the evening featured a bizarre cultural bake-off between Shadbolt and the mayor of Timaru, a pushy bloke called Damon Odey, in a stoush between the two towns over which is the "cheese roll capital" of New Zealand - as if Auckland cares.

Shadbolt had supposedly made his own cheese rolls earlier, bringing them into the studio in an apparent attempt to poison Campbell and himself with a taste test.

There was much giggling - both on-screen and here on-sofa, reminding us that for all the righteous campaigns and preachy declamations he has delivered us in those 10 breathless years, Campbell has also given us laughs.

And occasionally even risked his health - as he apparently did on Friday with those cheese rolls.

The rest of the show was a cosy blur - a heart-warming story about Canterbury netball star Mwai Kumwenda trying to get a container-load of necessities to her home village in Malawi, a couple selling their broken house for a dollar in Christchurch and some foolishness involving big city reporter Ali Ikram trying to shear a sheep for reasons that remained unclear.

"Beautifully shot by Chris Jones," said Campbell afterwards. He likes to throw the credit around, though really there's no getting away from Campbell, who is the show after all.

The nation can probably handle a few more years of the man who knows so much.

The nation might also benefit from the transmission of a few more truly interesting local documentaries - remember them? - like Sunday night's episode of New Zealand Season (Prime, 8.30pm).

Titled The Man Who Knew Too Much, it was the story of Paddy Costello, one of those New Zealanders who lived a life unimaginable today - a war hero, a diplomat in Cold War Russia and Paris and, possibly, a spy. Then dead at 52, leaving everyone wondering what he really got up to with his socialist leanings.

"Not a spy," said someone, "just good at his job."

"He was charming, he was brilliant," said someone else, "but he was also a traitor."

Information poured out of The Man Who Knew Too Much in tsunami-like proportions, though what could have been a parade of archives and weathered historians was perked up and made modern with some Marvel Comic-style visuals and given a considerable human touch through interviews with Costello's children.

"If he was a spy, I don't know where he got the bloody time," said his son Michael.

- NZ Herald

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