Pulp Sport returns

By Rebecca Barry Hill

Things are afoot in the land of Pulp Sport. Creators Bill and Ben once produced their half-hour sports-sketch show from a makeshift shed at the back of Clarke Gayford's Grey Lynn flat, but now they've taken over what was once the C4 office.

With its comfy couches, big whiteboard and fancy computer setup, the only thing to suggest it's occupied by two 20-something guys with a warped sense of humour is the limp fox suit on the floor.

As TV2's long-running Sportscafe comes to an end, Pulp Sport, the little show that could, is now the little show that bloody well is, mate, screening not only on Sky but TV3 - in the spot once occupied by Nathan Rarere and Oscar Kightley's Sportzah.

"It's quite scary actually," Jamie Linehan says. "We had to sign a big contract and they gave us a whole heap of money which we had to figure out how to spend. So we're still heading up this business as well as fronting a TV show."

Once toddlers playing in the big-kids' TV pen, Bill (Linehan) and Ben (Ben Boyce) have now quit their part-time jobs, become the faces of a sports retail chain and even taken under their wing an intern from a broadcasting school.

What happened to "rough as guts" DIY TV? Will the show look any different?

"Now we justify it by saying, 'Well the footage is meant to look crappy because that's the style of the show'," Boyce says.

Linehan: "I think it's more that you won't see the difference, like you won't see the shit shots that we used to let slide. We haven't had to work the excruciatingly ridiculous hours we did in the past."

Bill and Ben still do most of it themselves, apart from C4 presenter Clarke Gayford as part-time producer, and with help from Keir Menzies and a pool of their mates. They get financial backing from TV3 and the appropriately pitched beer and pizza sponsors.

They've still come a long way since first getting their baby on air. Pulp Sport started when the pair, sports-mad radio graduates fresh out of broadcasting school, recruited TV major Gayford and set about trying to get their show on air.

After an unsuccessful stint with a production company they set up their own, Shonky Productions. Pulp Sport aired on The Rock radio station before Sky took a punt and offered them $20,000 to turn it into a TV show.

Wasting no time, they used their comedic charm to entice celebs on to the show - All Blacks, Silver Ferns, Black Caps, politicians, actors and musicians - then went about taking the piss out of them.

After two popular series, TV3 asked them to entertain the folks at home in the run-up to the delayed coverage of the Super 12.

"It was cool seeing how real television's made instead of fumbling and bumbling your way through it - you've got people around you who actually know how to do the job," Linehan says.

"Yeah, and we were extremely popular," Boyce adds sarcastically.

"We'd come on 30 minutes before the game was due to start. So people are already waiting an hour for the rugby and it just looks like we're prolonging the rugby even more."

Although not everyone warmed to the pair's antics, TV3 agreed to screen the third series of Pulp Sport, the parody sports show for those who don't necessarily give a toss about the topic.

Returning segments include Man Love Moments, a montage of touchy-feely incidents from the sports field, Steve Urban, a spoof of Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin, and Celebrity Challenge, which could involve anyone ... actor Shane Cortese, or Penthouse Pet Hayley Marie.

Additions to the series include a how-to segment, where one of them demonstrates a sport while the other sits on the sidelines scoffing pizza.

Boyce appeared on the news when he undertook the Auckland half-marathon dressed as a hobo. "A bum run instead of a fun run".

There's also a rather homoerotic spoof of a chocolate ad featuring a well-known New Zealand cricketer.

"If anything we're probably getting more raw because we're in a later timeslot," Linehan says.

Although the guys say they have no trouble getting familiar faces on the show, fans will be disappointed to learn that Sky Sports presenter Stephen McIvor will no longer be the butt of weekly gags. After months of shrink-wrapping his car, supergluing his office supplies and sending Fatograms to his studio, the pranks came to a head at a Warriors match when a plane towing a rather rude sign about the presenter landed the boys at the cop shop.

That coincided with their move to the TV3 building, where they now stitch up another Mc-titled sports presenter, Hamish McKay.

"I think Hamish is a fan of Pulp Sport so I think he's almost honoured that we're doing it on him," Linehan says. "He comes back and he just sort of laughs. There's been the odd one where he's gone, 'Hell!' - then realised what's going on and just cracked up."

But there's a serious side to all of it - long hours editing, deadlines, and dealing with the last-minute pullout of a major sponsor. And after losing money on the first two series, the downside to starting a business, it didn't take much convincing to get them to star in those Rebel Sports ads. "We did deliberate for a while over whether it was going to be a sort of sell-outy thing because Pulp Sport is such an underground sort of show and Rebel Sport is such a huge company throughout New Zealand," Linehan says.

"But they gave us quite a lot of scope in the early days. We helped to come up with the ideas, so that was part of it."

Aside from providing a much-needed cash injection, the ads have kept them grounded - when they are approached on the street it's not always for Pulp Sport.

They have also helped to reinforce the Bill and Ben "brand", which could be useful in driving viewers to their show, or if they ever decide to make another programme.

Linehan: "Yeah, we'd be totally keen to do something else.

"I mean, Pulp Sport's the show that we've always dreamed of making. But it's a helluva lot of work because it's so dependent on the two of us, and Clarke and Keir as well. It's such a small crew. It would be nice one day to do something where you didn't feel quite so much of the pressure to come up with the ideas.

"If it goes really well, it's all our doing," he says. "But if it fails it's all our doing."

So what's next - an animated movie, perhaps?

"Yeah we'll have Bill and Ben muesli bars before we know it."

TV3, Thursday, 9.30pm
Sky Sport 1, Friday, 7pm

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