Bugger that, I was hoping to put the year off for a little while longer. The return of Campbell Live and Seven Sharp marks a return to stupid old normality.
I had toyed with the notion familiar to many of you, of not joining in the circus this year, of just avoiding the news and all that bullshit and getting on with gardening, or brewing beer, or joining ISIS.
Sadly my role as TV writer specifically suggests unemployment would follow such a path so when my editor emailed and suggested I write a head-to-head review of Seven Sharp and Campbell Live, I said, "I'd love to".
Mike and Toni began as they will probably go on, talking about Mike and Toni. Early on they mentioned it was his birthday and she's about a to have a baby. They chuckled like overly-stimulated guinea pigs and then got serious, for a nano-second, summing up the most important issues of the day like clickbait.
The release of the Al Jazeera journalist was given the same airtime as some claptrap that Fox News Extra would be ashamed of, and I quote: "Apparently saying 'ow' distracts people, allowing them to stand the pain longer". There was no context for this scientific tidbit, no details of WTF it had to do with anything or if it was even information designed for adults.
Oh how I have missed the out-of-body experience that this show provides.
The first story proper was a pacey piece about cops and stolen goods. The reporter was embedded with the constabulary as they went to take down a pot dealer in Manurewa. They called it "cannabis". The cops looked serious. They had guns, "because anything can happen". It turned out there were no drugs at the property, so nothing happened, still it looked like a scruffy neighbourhood.
This had all the hallmarks of a reality cop show: fast cuts, white cops, brown guys in trouble, zero depth. But there was a result of sorts. A burglar was caught and bundled off. "I wonder if there's more burglaries because of the hot weather?" wondered Toni. "No, no the burglars would be too tired to get out of bed wouldn't they?" said Mike.
Next up an actual story, with the makings of a good one. Reporter Mike Thorpe showed us around a ramshackle collection of house trucks, huts and caravans that have become home to a number of otherwise homeless people in Christchurch. Craig Skilling turned his old car-wrecking yard into this slum after the quakes but the council wants it shut within a month. The residents, who pay $23 a day to rent there, want to stay. As one young guy said: "Where else would we go? This is our last resort."
Sadly the story didn't progress beyond the surface. No one who may have had a clue about the issues raised was consulted. Instead Toni consulted her brain to suggest that "maybe this is the way forward for Auckland given house prices", while Mike boiled it down to a simple, "I hate councils". If only they had more time, but the clock was ticking and Mike's birthday celebrations and a visit from Heidi Klum were knocking on the door of the next break. Toni then delivered an entertaining PR hand-job to the ever watchable Heidi Klum and got the Bendon spokes-model to sign some undies for Mike's 50th birthday celebrations. That subject soaked up the rest of show, although to be fair, probably not at Mike's behest.
In his best stunt mode, reporter Tim Wilson dressed as Colonel Sanders and armed with a mariachi band, invaded Hosking's breakfast radio show to shame him and record him with hidden cameras. It seems that Hosking turned 50 over the break and didn't have a party. Wilson was seeking redress.
Mike you celebrated your birthday in secret. You must celebrate like a man.
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Cue mariachi band, and Wilson dancing like he'd snorted all the zinger burger spice. It was stupidly indulgent but somehow it was also the best part of the show, especially when Mike was tracked down trying to buy some kale. You can't make this shit up. But Hosking caught off guard, and looking in actual pain, is a vein the show's producers need to mine more often.
As I tuned in to Campbell Live I wondered if TV3's weather was gaining new fans in the post Jim Hickey era. We take a long time to warm to weather people in New Zealand and Ingrid is finally looking well settled. No doubt Hickey is a tough act to follow for "that fruity Muppet", as I heard one old dear call Daniel Corbett, the new guy on TV One.
As expected Campbell Live began with some actual current affairs at the top of the show, profiling the stories via the reporters before we see John driving slowly around in a Mazda grinning like he's on something grown hydroponically. I guess bills have to be paid. Did I mention that he was sporting a beard?
"It's not a midlife crisis, no Maseratis, it's still Mazdas for us" he said, digging at Hosking's famed love of fancy cars, though his intel is old, as Mike is said to sport a Ferrari these days. Anyway I'm sure a brand new top of the line Mazda looks pretty blinging to the average viewer fretting over the next WOF.
What else. New stubble, and new set. John is standing now, though thankfully he is not clutching an iPad. Dan Parker, also sporting a beard, took opening honours with a solid story about Stevin Creegan, a survivor of the Anzac Day Airforce helicopter crash a few years back, in which three others died. Stevin claims that he was treated badly by the Air Force and hidden camera footage seemed to back this up rather graphically. "Don't try and play the sympathy card", said a commanding officer who is also heard to say "you've got to start hardening the f*** up about it." HR 101, it was not.
With the solid story box well ticked the rest of the show went for entertainment. There was a lovely romp with some dude from Gisborne who was toying with running a business that delivers coffees via drones. It looked like a terrible idea, but the shots were nice.
But it's not such a bad idea to track police cars and clock their speed. "How well do they stick to their own zero tolerance campaign?" asked a bearded Tristram Clayton, clutching his own speed camera thingy like a zealot with a clipboard.
Turns out not very much, as most of the fuzz they follow drive at 5 to 10ks over the limit. Our man with the drone was back at the end of the show to deliver a beer that had been flown gingerly from the pub across the road to some guy who had forgotten to shave.
At least, I think that's what happened.