Seven Sharp's ratings have gone ballistic - but why? Paul Casserly tries to find out.

There they sat on my personal video recorder, aka, on the MySky box. The letter 'K' denoted that I had at some stage decided to save the shows for some reason. One was Seven Sharp, the other Campbell Live. The date was May 27.

A few weeks later Campbell Live went out on a high, ratings of half a million, or about 300k more than Road Cops, or Come Dine With Me, have managed in the weeks since. I like to think some bean counters have been shocked by that numerical lesson in a scene like that one in The Hunt For Red October when the crewman yells, "You arrogant ass, you killed us", but I'm sure bean counting is a rather long game.

Yes, numbers go up and down and people take the ones that suit their arguments, but some do stand out a bit. A recent headline in the Herald caught my eye: "Seven Sharp hits new ratings record."

On June 24 they hit a whopping 675,000. This was off the back of the real story, that One News had dragged in some 858,000 of us as their well-honed news hour steams off as poor old 3News battles on. These numbers may be down to any number of factors, among them, the weather, Who Wants to Be A Millionaire, Home and Away, and the obvious fact that some people are doing their jobs, really, really, well.

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Mind you, in the last weeks of Campbell Live, it usually rated better than 3 News, so an equivalent number for that show might be something like 800,000, to Seven Sharp's 675,000, not that there is any use counting dead beans.

Back in May, when I recorded the two shows, I was going to write a comparison but events got in the way. As it turned out I watched Campbell Live that night as the guide promised: "We go inside a prison and attend a parole hearing." It was a remarkable episode and eye opening in all the best ways. To be taken inside actual parole hearings and see the players in action - that was something I hadn't seen before. This curtain lifting stuff is pure kryptonite to stupidity.

Until yesterday I never watched that Seven Sharp episode, assuming that in comparison it would be half an hour of Mike Hosking (a Herald columnist) smugly playing with his jacket, some mindless chitchat with Pippa, and some heartwarming stories from the regions. I decided to push play and take some notes.

Minute 1: It started with Mike Hosking and Pippa Wetzell in the studio. Mike says. "Remember Deep Obsession? No one remembers Deep Obsession." Pippa: "I love that Tiki Taane song." Not a great start but we are soon saved by reporter Hayden Jones, the man behind the "Good Sorts" segments and a master of moving human-interest stories. Jones has a knack for finding and celebrating people and is always armed with an array of drone shots, time-lapse footage and Go Pros attached to things. He makes great TV and this one is about Peter Posa, the 1960s kiwi music icon behind White Rabbit, an actual international smash hit.

Posa is now in Waikato Hospital following a stroke. "I can't play the guitar and I'm missing it badly" he says.

Or as Hayden poetically puts it: "A stroke four weeks ago means the hand that played a thousand songs now hangs limp off his left shoulder."

Archive footage from the '60s reveals Posa kissing a woman he just met with a gusto that would cause a Twitter storm these days if not a caution from the police. There is a photo of him with Sinatra.

By the 1970s Posa was on the sauce, a hint perhaps of what his wife referred to as "a lot of nonsense that goes on in the entertainment industry". He told the Sunday programme in 2003 that he regularly achieved five-plus a day: "Two bottles of brandy a day, a bottle of wine, a dozen beer." A great story I thought. So did Mike and Pippa. We seem to be getting on.

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Seven Sharp presenter Mike Hosking.
Seven Sharp presenter Mike Hosking.

Three minutes of ads follow.

Minute 11: Return from break. Finally Hosking adjusts his jacket. In my mind he does this constantly but tonight nada, until now. This is drinking game material, I thought, but I'm trying to cut down. Two lapel tweaks, a shirt collar tug and a left cufflink tickle, followed by another jacket lapel tweak and another shirt collar tug. This is more like it. Pippa shuffles paper.

Mike tells a story about how reporter Tim Wilson brought his new son into the office that day and, "Who do you think made him smile and cackle with laughter? Uncle Michael, did!" he said beaming and celebrated with a double lapel tweak and a desk slap.

"I still think he was laughing at you," said Pippa, and just then, the sound cut out. This was made stranger as Hosking pointed to his arse, his eyes and then tugged on his jacket.

But it wasn't all performance art, there were other good stories that night too, a woman called Felicity Clark has set up a gym in a farm shed for the rural women of Waimana in the Bay of Plenty, and others are following her lead. And we meet Jill Bhosale, a blogger who's struck a chord with her "BROO TUH FUL" post-baby body campaign - "it's brutal and beautiful at the same time." Good stuff, real life. Woman's Day on TV perhaps, but why not?

Minute 27: A one-sided jacket pull, more babble about former sidekick Toni, a double tweak of lapels.

Seven Sharp presenter Pippa Wetzell.
Seven Sharp presenter Pippa Wetzell.

Minute 28:

Pippa embarks on an editorial about a Taranaki woman who wants to change the abortion laws so parents have to be notified. Pippa entered the minefield warily and prodded around the pros and cons and then channeled her inner Hekia and offered a solution that suggests she may well have a future in politics: "We should look at the status quo and make sure we are absolutely providing adequate support."

Minute 29: Mike's editorial is on some Happiness Research that has just been released. It could also be a manifesto for the show. "Turns out we are loving life. Too often the news is all about who's not happy, who got ripped off, who's hard done by, who's protesting, who's complaining, who's bitching, who's being forgotten about, this survey shows that that is the plight of the very, very, few."

He paused for a double lapel jacket tug, then said: "That's the news I want to see more of." Happy, snackable, content. They do it well.

With that he popped a Montblanc pen into his jacket pocket. Though to be fair, it may have only been a Parker.

- nzherald.co.nz

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