Paul Casserly 's Opinion

Paul Casserly watched too much TV as a child.

Paul Casserly: Gay weddings and a funeral

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Louisa Wall is congratulated by Labour leader Davis Shearer and MP Jacinda Ardern after the Marriage Amendment Bill was passed in Parliament, Wellington. Photo / NZH
Louisa Wall is congratulated by Labour leader Davis Shearer and MP Jacinda Ardern after the Marriage Amendment Bill was passed in Parliament, Wellington. Photo / NZH

There is nothing like live TV.

If it creates excitement or fury, via twitter, or other message boards, it becomes something that TV isn't thought to be - a community event. A happening. History. And so it was on Wednesday night.

The debate that ushered in Louisa Wall's marriage equality amendment bill, which screened live on Parliament TV (Freeview 22, SKY 94) was a rare treat indeed.

The passing of the law was a formality, we already knew the numbers, and as John Armstrong wrote recently in the Herald, the real battle had been won in 2004. "Nine years on, Wall's measure simply joins all the dots." But watching those dots become something solid was some sort of televisual magic.

Technically the makers of Parliament TV could take some lessons from SKY Sport with their superb coverage of the Super 15. Not for every broadcast of course, but for special moments like these it wouldn't kill them to lay on a bit of a spread.

I'm sure I was not alone in wanting to see people in the packed gallery, some more close-ups, and a few more angles. In fact the show that unfolded was even worthy of a cameraman on a Segway, if not the Spidercam itself.

But as followers of Twitter will attest, restriction brings its own rewards. The stilted formality of the proceedings adds something that feels like weight and importance. This is solemn stuff. I could tell this was no ordinary night the moment I found myself agreeing with John Banks, whose usual bigoted demeanor and hysterical staccato was absent. It was as if he'd swallowed the little book of calm as he spoke in favour of the amendment. Next came National MP Maurice Williamson, also voting for the affirmative, with his brilliant "enormous big gay rainbow" over Pakuranga speech.

Another National MP, Chester Borrows, pulled off a particularly slick maneuver. It seemed he was voting for the bill at first - some news organisations even reported this as fact - before pulling the rug and changing direction at the last moment.

The old master, Winston Peters, predictably, was in the negative, but he was no less entertaining, spinning the issue into a conspiracy of thwarted democracy and ending with some thumping brimstone that Tarentino would be proud of. "There is a day of reckoning coming," he thundered, not realising it had already arrived and was wiping itself on the curtains on the way out.

Throughout the session many of our MPs shone like never before. Tau Henare was almost magnificent. Nikki Kaye - practically presidential. Meteria Turei had a gigantic hat.

Some speeches droned on in a 'some of my best friends are gay' kind of way, but there were also words from actual gay MPs to bring home what this was really all about - equality and humanity. None was more moving than Green MP Kevin Hague who took the tone away from party-time to cold hard reality. "I have longed for this for a very long time, my only sadness is that both of my parents have now passed and it would have been such a huge joy to have them at my wedding." His voice cracked as the last words left his mouth and tears welled in eyeballs across the nation. Well, at least in statistically irrelevant parts that weren't watching My Kitchen Rules. Then followed the arcane parliamentary cries of "ring the bell" and "lock the doors" as the vote was taken. Elevator jazz was played over a shot of MPs heading off to vote before returning to join the final dot.

Meanwhile, just a channel away, on BBC World, Margret Hilda Thatcher was finally being laid to rest. Just as no one covers Cricket as well as the Australians, no one televises a state funeral like the Brits. Talk about pomp, talk about history, talk about art-direction. I tuned in as her horse-drawn coffin, covered in a Union Jack, made its way to Christopher Wren's remarkable Cathedral. The crowds that lined the way were large, though "not quite as big as those for Churchill in 1965."

As theatre, the funeral itself was flawless. The coverage - which extended to cameras in every crevice of St Paul's and one particularly impressive high angle that looked down from the top of the dome - was monumental. The music included works by Elgar and well-known socialist Vaughan Williams. Thankfully, there was no Elton John. Given that she forbade local authorities to "promote the teaching of the acceptability of homosexuality" it's unlikely that Maggie would have thought much of Louisa Wall's achievement, though she's hardly alone.

Earlier in the night, on Campbell Live, some 77% of respondents were against the gay marriage law as well. But pass it did and the news quickly travelled the globe.

At one stage on CNN, you could watch as Thatcher's coffin passed by as the ticker read "Gay Marriage Legal in New Zealand." But the world turns quickly.

Near midnight, on Sky News Australia, Paul Murray, was interviewing Kevin Hague about the passing of the "historic bill in New Zealand." Murray, who runs a highly entertaining panel show, not unlike the late great Ralston Group, was clearly all for the idea, but when he asked his panel what they thought of this great occasion they weren't particularly impressed. "Should we follow New Zealand?" he enquired. The only reply, from business reporter, Janine Perrett, was hilariously dismissive: "Oh look, in the 80's they banned nuclear ships, they felt better about themselves, good for them, it didn't start a world wide trend. We've got bigger fish to fry." Murray looked slightly taken aback. "Ok, we'll move on then."

Paul Casserly

Paul Casserly watched too much TV as a child.

It began with Dr Who, in black and white, when it was actually scary. The addiction took hold with Chips, in colour. He made his mum knit a Starsky and Hutch cardigan. Later, Twin Peaks would blow what was left of his mind. He’s been working in radio and TV since the 1990s and has an award in his pool room for Eating Media Lunch.

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