As with all shows I first push the 'i' button on my Sky remote to get my bearings. It described the show like this: "Anchored by Samantha Hayes and David Farrier, Newsworthy is a late-night mix of news, entertainment, pop culture and assorted absurdities." The only word to stand out there was "absurdities".
I'd just finished watching the best thing I'd seen on TV3 all year, the devastating Catching Milat, the true life, true detective story behind the serial killer Ivan Milat and the subsequent police investigation. Gripping and chilling and expertly realised, it ended with the 10 saddest words in the English language: "He now resides in Queensland and is a taxi driver."
Newsworthy begins without absurdity, but with sober jazzy music, clean graphics, and lots of blue. "Kia Ora, and welcome to Newsworthy", says David Farrier in that smart-casual way he is famous for. Samantha Hayes is straight down to business, "And I'm Samantha Hayes, tonight a digger driver is buried in a landslide ..."
She too is in night-time newsperson smart-casual. Even TV One's late news has gone a little down this road, allowing Greg Boyed to take off his tie, which somehow makes him look more formal and slightly terrifying, like a detective who's pretending to be all matey before fitting you up for sex crime.
Late night news shows remind me of banks. I'm thinking specifically of the various refits that have been inflicted on the ANZ in Ponsonby, and I suspect that the same interior designers are at work in news studios around the world.
Farrier begins by making threats: "We are joined by Neil Finn live in the studio," and then, "My interview with Colin Craig in a sauna.". That looks a bit absurd, and Sam assures us that it is, by saying, "You nutter", to wacky old David. Then we are into a Seven Sharp style rehash of the day's news headlines, news in a minute, which is mercifully free of health tips.
Then into the news proper, with stories that aired on 3 News earlier. So far, so slightly updated Nightline. But Hayes and Farrier do look incredibly good together, like two prize Afghan hounds, cleaned and show-ready. Luckily they can talk and seem like very good company and are so relaxed when Neil Finn is suddenly in the studio it feels like he was always there, perhaps he's the upstairs neighbour, like Rhoda from Mary Tyler Moore? "I've never liked Milo", he says dryly, in reply to the big news story of the day - that insane decision of Nestlé to change the flavour of our national chocolate drink. Of course to Nestlé it's just another brand, but so successful has their brainwashing of us been, that we somehow think it's a Kiwi drink.
Look! It's Paul Henry in the ad-break: "I love to make politicians sweat", he says, followed by footage of him giving the PM the televisual equivalent of fellatio. At least Farrier is a man of his word. He was literally about to make a politician sweat.
The daily grind of making a show like this means that some good regular features/gimmicks are a must. Imagine Letterman without the "Top 10" or Jimmy Fallon without his games.
Farrier in the sauna aka "The Sauna Sessions" looks absurdly promising so long as they can find people game enough. It helps that I miss Colin Craig, the Gomer Pyle of our politics, who was the first victim. As he heats up he says things like: "I used to like pie and sausage rolls"; "I always thought we did land on the moon"; "We don't give our kids fizzy".
At the 28-minute mark Farrier is on the floor, shirtless, panting. Craig is fully dressed and the colour of an engorged frankfurter. Farrier looked about to expire when he asked a serious question, threatening to find something newsworthy.
"Rachel, the press secretary leaving, that's still a big point for discussion out there, what happened?" This was a reference to Craig's staffer who sensationally quit just days before the election. Colin was cool in reply, channeling John Key with his non-answer, "at the end of the day we tried job-sharing her position to try and relieve the stress."
The stress was getting to Farrier who was about to pass out, and then without warning we are transported into a topless shower scene with the pair cavorting. And there was funny business going on downstairs. As the camera tilted down, we see Farrier in shorts and Craig with his suit pants on, and his slip-on shoes.
The absurdity continued back in the studio as Neil Finn shared some video of his own calves (leg not bovine) shot naked in various locations around the world. He was there to promote an upcoming Town Hall show and gave Sam and Dave the chance to indulge in some good talk-show style banter.
"Kia Ora I'm Samantha Hayes."
Tonight's guest is the charming young comedian Rose Matafeo, there to promote her comedy show based on her fear of death. Music streaming services were the theme of the night, and Matafeo was called on for her millennial thoughts but she was not tempted by the new Apple music service. She's on Spotify Premium. Some young people interviewed on the street preferred YouTube, some oldies mentioned records. Farrier is still on the CDs, Hayes on Spotify, which she listens to when she goes running. (No mention of the paddle board yet.)
The best bit was when reporter Jesse Peach stalked people at the remote seaside hamlet of Makara just north of Wellington. A lovely slice of unexpected journalism that involved simply going somewhere and seeing what happens. A young man who sits in his car playing a guitar has no idea where he is. An expert on the area is tracked down but won't go on camera because he is on the run from a gang. A couple had smashed a hole in their fence through which they conduct their now burgeoning relationship.
"Kia Ora, welcome to Newsworthy it's Wednesday the 10th of June, I'm David Farrier."
Arnold Schwarzenegger is the focus tonight. TV3's pop culture curator and Arnie tragic, Dan Rutledge, is the guest and is armed with an Arnie interview, shot to promote his new Terminator film.
"His whole life is so inspirational," Dan gushed, possibly only half seriously. Patrick Gower pitched in with his thoughts on Arnie as he stalked the halls at Parliament, comparing Arnie to "Winston Peters", and acting only slightly more bizarrely than he does when he's doing the 6pm news.
"Kia Ora, good evening I'm Samantha Hayes."
Farrier has already seen the new Jurassic World movie twice today. Tonight's guests are serious types: Jeremy Hansen from Home Magazine and Jill Proudfoot from an anti-domestic violence charity, there to promote a clever anti-domestic violence campaign that involves glossy house porn tricked out with blood stains and broken pots. It was thought-provoking stuff, but just as I thought about changing the channel, shit got real.
Reporter Jesse Peach gets the best bit again, thanks to the poo in the Victoria Tunnel story. We are soon reminded of other jobbies, like the one in the pool in Invercargill. Brown gold.
Farrier, a well-known Jurassic Park obsessive, ends with a review of the new film Jurassic World. "I'd give it a four out of five, but it has major issues." In the non-Jurassic Park nut world I'm guessing that equates to two stars.
"Kia Ora, welcome to Newsworthy, I'm David Farrier."
I was hoping for more of that southern rolling 'r' to be honest. Has he been in Auckland too long, I wondered?
Tonight they promise a show that reviews, umm, Newsworthy. A bit early to disappear up their own arse I thought, but I'm Gen X, and these Gen Y's are immune to such thoughts, I thought. I think.
Reporter Jenny Suo indulged in some in-house hijinks wandering through the TV3 building and asking, "What do our own colleagues think about Newsworthy?"
Lighthearted banter ensued but real tension arose when she arrived at TVNZ and got through the helpful security to quiz a startled looking Wendy Petrie.
"I haven't seen it but I will watch it," she promised.
Read more: Wendy Petrie burns TV3's new show Newsworthy
TV critics Duncan Grieve and Alex Casey fronted to review the show. "A good balance between the serious and the kind of comic" said Grieve accurately, yet diplomatically, "I thought is was pretty good." Casey had binge-watched it, and gave it four out of five.
But the best reviews came from the public via text and tweets read out by some other members of the public. "Farrier has a budget look about him", said one. "No more TV3 for me" another miserable sod said.
The only non-anonymous missive was from forthright music writer Simon Sweetman, who's made many newsworthy calls, getting stuck into the likes of Six60 and Lorde with a bracing honesty or meanness of spirit, depending on your taste.
"Watching this is terrible" he apparently said, obviously immune to the charms of Sam and Dave and their rather good new show.
* Watch highlights from Newsworthy's first week on air here.