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Colin Hogg: Sainsbury will be missed

By Colin Hogg

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Ebullient frontman not responsible for Close Up's demise - it was the dearth of content.

With his dashing moustache and booming delivery, Mark Sainsbury sold his stories like a ringmaster. Photo /  Greg Bowker
With his dashing moustache and booming delivery, Mark Sainsbury sold his stories like a ringmaster. Photo / Greg Bowker

I'm not going to much miss TV One's Close Up when it folds its tattered old tent and departs these screens at the end of the week, but I might miss its ringmaster, Mark Sainsbury.

As the weeknight show's frontman, Sainsbury sold his stories a bit like a ringmaster or a carnival barker. With his exuberant style, his exuberant moustache and his booming delivery, he cut a slightly bizarre figure on television.

But then there's a long and fine tradition of strange guys becoming local TV stars - going all the way back to Selwyn Toogood, a Kim Dotcom-sized frontman who was huge in Kiwi TV in the olden days.

And fast-forward to the irrepressible - and eventually inescapable - Paul Holmes, a tiny man bursting with so much energy and charismatic curiosity that a show could be hung loosely around him like an oversized overcoat and still work well.

Holmes and his self-titled show did work well at 7 o'clock five nights a week for TV One right up until 2004 when the star decided TVNZ needed him more than he needed them and disappeared over to Prime - where he promptly disappeared.

That's when Close Up was launched, at first starring Susan Wood and then, for the past six years, Mark Sainsbury, who had previously been the channel's political editor, and a good and entertaining one, too.

Close Up is to be replaced in the New Year by something bold and new, of course - possibly some sort of current affairs-styled panel show. God help us if it involves any attempts at humour or satire, which I fear it might.

It's hard to imagine crusty and conservative TV One coming up with something that wiggles when it walks, though it could be seen as some sort of progress and maybe even slightly exciting that they finally recognised Close Up wasn't living up to its title.

Last week's shows were cases in point, drifting through a miscellany of magazine-style stories, few of them having anything to do with the news of the day. The sheer shallowness of the news at six these days almost demands something a bit more in-depth to follow.

Though for that sort of thing there's Campbell Live over on TV3. John Campbell and his crew might never have whipped Close Up's ratings, but these days they're delivering a show that's boundingly better.

And Campbell himself is still bounding after all these years and, at the moment, connecting with the issues of the day in a way - and ways - that Close Up seems to have long since stopped caring about.

Right now, TV3 looks set to seriously outclass TVNZ in current affairs in 2013. Where TV3 has talent like Guyon Espiner, Duncan Garner, Rachel Smalley, Samantha Hayes and the remarkable Patrick Gower, TVNZ can't decide whether their flagship Sunday show should run 30 minutes or an hour.

But whatever TV One decides to replace Close Up with, here's hoping they don't fret the front person so much as they fret the content. The show failed, in the end, not because of the shortcomings of the presenter, but because of the lack of decent stories and sharp interviews.

It's not rocket science. It's considerably harder.

- NZ Herald

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