Image: David Cornish / Flickr
Once upon a time, so I’m told, New Zealand had a range of current affairs programmes. Covering stories from small rural towns and large international cities alike, New Zealand shows like The Holmes Show, Close Up, Campbell Live, 20/20, and Frontline, among many others, made sure that Kiwis were up to date with the big stories of the day, many of which they themselves broke.
Yeah, I’ve never seen any of those. After all, I’m a pretty recent immigrant to the Land of the Long White Cloud. So when my editor – in what I assume to be her infinite wisdom – asked me to spend a day watching some of the major New Zealand current affairs programmes, she said it would be a good way to learn a bit more about Kiwi culture, and this great country that I’m proud to now call home.
I’m now starting to suspect it was her way of punishing me.
You see, up until that point, I was blissfully unacquainted with “The Hosk,” and the weird mutant T-shaped desk thingy on The AM Show. What followed was “an education.” Or something…
The AM Show
My day of watching every Aotearoa current affairs programme that I can starts promisingly enough – which is a relief considering I’m rather intimidated by the task ahead of me. Will I emerge with my sanity intact? Will the over-exposure to a screen make my eyeballs melt and my eardrums explode?
Things certainly start with a bang, but in a good way. The AM Show reminds me a bit of NPR, but with more of an edge and a more local focus. Interesting stories get my brain working far earlier than it normally does. Should we ban homework from schools? SHOULD WE?! I imagine everyone under 18 is screaming “YASSS!” I think otherwise. I’m officially old. That’s a scary thought – especially because I really didn’t want to begin my day contemplating my own mortality.
Paula Bennett and Jacinda Ardern are debating on the show, and my little feminist heart is doing cartwheels as they discuss important issues and refuse to allow the plaid suit straight out of 1977 and the man wearing it to talk over them. They have real disagreements, but real facts to back up their differing views on climate legislation. Fuck yeah.
I’m also digging how this is something I can listen to (LISTEN TO!) while doing other things. Multitasking for the win.
Verdict: A kickass way to start the day with the big local stories. It could do with a bit more international news, though. Amazing as it was to see Paula and Jacinda debate, I did not hear them discuss reducing NZ’s high rates of sexual violence and youth suicide, ending the gender pay gap, decriminalising abortion, or sex education in schools. Gratuitous self-promotion: this is why we have outlets like Villainesse.
I’ve always found looking at a screen at any time before noon (except for work) to be weirder than spaghetti on pizza, so I watch this with the same trepidation of dipping your toe in an alpine lake. I don’t really know what to expect. Maybe something like Good Morning America or The View in the US. Side note: Whoopi Goldberg is a boss on that.
Anyway, this isn’t too bad, if watching people talk about stuff while you wolf down a bowl of cheerios with milk dribbling down your chin is your thing. The cereal, that is. Not the sausages. No Jacinda Ardern and Paula Bennett (tears), though.
Wait, hold up. What. The. What the fuck?! The host and another dude are debating weird places New Zealanders watch porn. Apparently eight per cent of Kiwis have watched porn in a public library, according to a poll. I say what the fuck because that seems really low. Puritans. These fellas (it’s two dudes talking about this. Of course) clearly have never been to the library in downtown Portland, Oregon. Don’t. Touch. Anything. Your hand might get pregnant. As a matter of fact, don’t go within 500 metres of that place. Seriously, just don’t.
On a similar topic, the show’s co-host Hilary Barry is discussing how hard it was to get one of her kids to eat porridge. My eyes instantly glaze over. I hate children.
The other thing I’m noticing is it’s super Kiwi. Like, Kiwi as, man. At least, it’s choice if you’re a Kiwi who thinks she’ll be right, even out in the wop-wops. Too much? Can I at least have points for trying?
Seriously, these stories need context, because us immigrants have no clue what any of the things they’re talking about quite excitedly are. And they should s-p-e-a-k-m-o-r-e-s-l-o-w-l-y.
Verdict: Lighter than the AM Show, and almost entirely focused on local stories or quirky features. VERY parochial. Really needs someone with the gravitas of Whoopi Goldberg though. Lord, is she awesome.
Ah, here we go! Some real, meat-and-potatoes, hard news journalism! Chaos in the Middle East! Trump being the dick that he is! North Korea threatening to kill us all! Natural disasters around the globe!
No. Instead, it’s basically all local news again. Something about a suspended rugby player, some guy who beat Sir Richie McCaw at something, a stoush over a music festival in Rotorua because the organisers plan on importing five tonnes of mud from South Korea… well, at least it’s not the other Korea. Because the New Zealand Herald reported the day before that the GCSB is investigating reports North Korea is obtaining backdoor internet access through NZ servers. Seriously, if I were high up in the GCSB or working in security at a bank, I’d be sweating bullets right now. The fact broadcasters aren’t talking about this is getting ridiculous. Yes, I know TV and the internet are visual mediums, but can’t you just throw up some images of hordes of goose-stepping soldiers and some menacing-looking missiles while Kim Jong Un gives his best Darth Vader impersonation? It’s at least something to look at, yes?
Oh, and free advice: asking pro netball player Maria Tutaia if she plans on having babies with her partner is just plain sexist. Don’t do it again.
I’ve made it about halfway through the day’s “news” cycle. My head is spinning trying to figure out what any of it has been about. I need a Panadol.
Verdict: Needs. More. International. News.
I haven’t been living in Aotearoa long, but I have serious admiration for Mike McRoberts. The dude’s been to Afghanistan, East Timor, the Solomons, and more. He’s seen some serious shit go down. Respect.
This show’s not half bad. No nonsense. The news. No muss, no fuss. Like plain toast without the avocado, or a flat white with no sugar. In a lot of ways, the tone reminds me of the uber-seriousness of my old job at Deutsche Welle in Germany. Humour? Nein.
Unfortunately, Mike’s not on the desk tonight. Instead, it’s some guy with a short haircut and – as God is my witness – a green tie with polka dots and a navy blazer. The show’s usual co-anchor, Samantha Hays, is also absent. The two replacements are OK, but it’s still not what I was expecting. Think bread and butter being replaced with peanut butter and jelly; still good, but not the same.
Thinking about sandwiches has me distracted. Not that I want to eat one, but that I’m genuinely glad this programme is covering serious issues (like synthetic cannabis killing vulnerable people in Auckland) instead of showing something ridiculous like talking sandwiches. The way this day is going so far, I half expected to see one.
Verdict: The current affairs programme your parents and grandparents probably prefer. But I’m OK with that. It serves a need, and I don’t mind it. I must be getting old.
I don’t have a clue what this show is about, and didn’t learn much more watching it, either. There were five people behind a desk. They said stuff somewhat related to human interest news. Dr Siouxsie Wiles talked about science, which was cool. But then there was some clip of kids talking about doodling and cookies. YOU CAN DRAW WITH COOKIES? I don’t know, the clip didn’t explain it.
OH LOOK, AN ALL BLACK. Some dude named Kevin. He is very big and seems good with kids. I have no idea why he is in this clip because he sort of randomly appears.
The show goes back to four people behind a desk now talking about celebrity lookalikes or something. Siouxsie is gone. I’m sad. But the woman on the far end has an amazing multicoloured shirt and an awesome pink haircut. I want them both.
Oh, and there’s also a live audience for some strange reason. Judging by their awkwardly-timed laughs, they seem as confused as I am.
There is a drag queen at the end though. She seems awesome. Or at least more awesome than the strange man on stilts in a yeti costume.
My head is swimming. I also want pink hair.
Verdict: Understanding anything on this show is harder than figuring out why Prince changed his name to a symbol. Someone should create a drinking game where you take a sip every time something random happens. We would be crawling on all fours very quickly.
Ugh. Mike Hosking. UGH.
I’m having a hard time watching this objectively, given that Villainesse has written about him several times. The words “fuck my life” whir about inside my head faster than a particle accelerator. My head feels as if it is ready to not just explode, but simply dissolve into nothingness. I’m wishing my whole body could do the same. Sweet, black nothingness.
The hot rumour is that Hosking is the highest-paid broadcaster in New Zealand, and the thought has me mortified. Seeing Hosking makes me think some very unpleasant thoughts. I feel a strong need for a very hot shower.
I have incredible respect for the woman “co-hosting” with him. I unfortunately say that in quote marks because Hosking seems to talk over her for about 95 per cent of the programme. She deserves a raise, or at least should be given a medal for restraint in not knocking him out when he tells her she “probably likes to drink on a Friday.”
I am exhausted. My day of binge-watching every current affairs programme I can is mercifully over. I get up and go take that very hot shower. It is also a very long shower. Miraculously, my eyeballs and ears remain intact.
I also realise I need wine. Immediately.
Verdict: In all seriousness, the fact that this show is even on the air is proof that sexism remains a serious problem in New Zealand.
So, what did I learn from my long, strange dive into New Zealand’s current affairs landscape? Truthfully, I’m not sure.
On the one hand, it seems Aotearoa’s broadcasters have local news on lock. But there was a noticeable lack of international news, and there were WAY too many jokes that just didn’t seem all that funny.
Then there’s the issue of the stories themselves. Most of it was quick-hitting, human interest-type pieces rather than hard-hitting investigations. Is that because news budgets are tighter than ever before and audiences’ tastes are changing? Perhaps. But aside from that AM Show debate between Paula Bennett and Jacinda Ardern, it didn’t seem overly intellectually stimulating, either.
Another thing: if you want more people to watch streams of your content online, don’t make them sign up and provide all kinds of unnecessary information (like gender. WHY do you have only two options for gender? What relevance does that have to watching a TV programme? And FYI, the question is pretty damn distressing for us genderqueer folks).
Oh, and for those keeping track at home: I did not hear the words “feminism” or “feminist” once. On any of the programmes.
Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect those of Villainesse as a whole.Support Villainesse