Colin Hogg on television

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Colin Hogg: Current affairs experiment gone wrong

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Seven Sharp haemorrhages viewers to Campbell Live as mix of news, views and advertising falls flat.

Seven Sharp hosts Jesse Mulligan, Alison Mau and Greg Boyed. Photo / Supplied
Seven Sharp hosts Jesse Mulligan, Alison Mau and Greg Boyed. Photo / Supplied

Where's the bottom? TV One's Seven Sharp must be wondering. Since the new show launched two weeks ago, down and down their ratings have sunk.

And no, there is no light at the end of this tunnel. But hopefully there is a point in the darkness where they can try to clamber at least some way back. It's humiliating and awful and oh so stupid because it need never have happened.

TVNZ, at the top so long, bored with the same view, seemed to become concerned with a new theory of excellence - personal best. After all, when you've been on top forever the only way to measure your success is against yourself.

And, after all, the ratings for Seven Sharp's long-serving predecessor Close Up had slumped. But slumping is nothing compared to what the new show has done. Seven Sharp has plummeted, actually halving its start-up audience.

Next to it Close Up was a runaway smash. And now Seven Sharp's previously unthreatening competition on TV3, Campbell Live, is on the rise - just by sticking to its knitting and delivering passionate and populist journalism.

The show was on form by the end of last week, delivering solid stories to a growing audience hungry for such things as an investigation into supermarket prices.

But at TVNZ, the thinking about what current affairs is and should be has become hopelessly polluted, increasingly trapped in a strange new world where news, entertainment and advertising are meant to be a happy threesome.

Seven Sharp seems to have demonstrated what an unappealing concept that is. By the end of last week the show had adjusted itself from its bitsy beginnings - with longer items, less banter, more of a magazine show full of items that could have run almost any old time.

Doubtless, they will adjust further, maybe ditch a presenter, maybe even remember what the "current" in current affairs means. Anything's possible when you're down a dark hole in the middle of primetime TV.

Not that local current affairs is being served well elsewhere. In further evidence of TVNZ's retreat from the medium, its flagship Sunday show remains chopped to a half-hour at 7pm on Sundays - shoved aside by the unstoppable MasterChef New Zealand in the 7.30pm spot.

Over on TV2, 20/20 launched last week (9.30pm, Thursdays) with a racy mix of piffle - most of it sourced offshore. Last Thursday's show offered a meaty local piece on the male stripper industry plus four foreign semi-stories to do with showbiz or fatness or - in one case - both. Entertaining maybe, but hardly current affairs.

Closer to the real thing is 60 Minutes, which launched on Prime last Monday with that rare thing, a local interview with Peter Jackson. Last night's show (9.35pm) had no local content, save presenter Charlotte Bellis, and, oddly enough, another interview with an uber-director - this time Steven Spielberg.

So all strength to John Campbell who increasingly looks like a saint in the godless and lost world of New Zealand current affairs. Just by sticking with the knitting. Marvellous.

- NZ Herald

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