Matt Nippert - couched potato, Auckland

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

The Maori Queen in white pants

On television the other night I saw the Maori Queen, and he was wearing white pants. The screen flickered with 12 dancers dressed in white belting out 'Find Me Somebody to Love' whilst I killed time channel-surfing before Eating Media Lunch. It was Maori Television, a show called Mau Mahara, a variety performance from the dreadful early 80s. I prefer Karaoke Japanese-style; in private, amongst close friends, and drunk. Now this was synchronised New Zealand Idol, with more moustaches, bigger hair and less branding. Painful, hilarious, amateur. I guess that's why it's on prime time...

The main event however, was well worth the warm-up. Jeremy Wells flying solo (except for the legion of fine writers and editors around him) is at his best doing deadpan self-deprecation. Arriving at the Qantas Awards he questioned his ability to accurately critique television, saying his experience came from "occasionally watching Flipside and cricket."

An excellent selection of clips rounded out highlights from the first half of the year including; Brash discussing mud-cleaning-remedies with his wife, Holmes scolding children for being lively, and a vitriolic Leighton Smith on Tama Iti. As Wells said, "2004 is already anus horribilis, and it's only June." Can't wait for that second half.

(I'm guessing the only people amused by Media Dog were Anthony Ellison and Jonathan Marshall - and the Beavis and Butthead generation. Anus: Heh heh heh.)

Normally I'm against product placement, but tying in Scoop with an interview with Robert Fisk is something worth saluting. Television inevitably has to edit to extremes, and having the transcripts available online is not only appreciated, but commended. Good to see Anita McNaught keeping her fingers in the New Zealand media pie. (If she's after a soft retirement option, Judy Bailey's looking a little creaky. I might even start watching One News again.)

Robert Fisk himself was, as expected, gruff and forthright. I like the cut of his jib, refusing to "climb the greasy ladder" into editorial positions, and preferring his home in Beirut to "an office in New York with air conditioning". From a man who's spent his professional career reporting conflict in the Middle East, he'd have to be classed as an informed pessimist. "Everything we're doing, we are doing wrong ... Bin Laden wanted to draw the West into the Middle East and trap them. And he's done that to a large extent."

Ouch. His response to claims he's lost his objectivity including emotion in his reporting was also interesting. He says he's a reporter, but because of his status he's "a reporter who's allowed to say what he thinks." Not having an open opinion, or reporting bare facts without context is, according to Fisk, tantamount to lying. Is reporting the personal corrupting news?

McNaught: Isn't this telling people how to feel?

Fisk: I'm telling people what I feel.
The self-congratulation of media awards were nicely skewered with wonderful writing. The preponderance of awards makes the event rather like Christmas "but with egos instead of egg nog". Kevin Milne was artfully drawn into a discussion on the foxiness of television reporters, only to be floored by Wells taking the conversation into the bedroom. Classic. Milne might feel compelled to complain he didn't get a Fair Go, but every cranium needs deflating every once and a while.

Comparisons between Eating Media Lunch and Quality Time are inevitably going to be made. But, in my mind, they are completely unfair. Eating Media Lunch has twice the budget, and takes a tighter brief focussing exclusively on media commentary. Quality Time is a vehicle for the larger (and louder) than life Mikey Havoc - a personality-driven show. Sure Wells and Havoc gigged together for a while, but they've now long gone their separate ways. It's time viewers realised these two were Siamese twins on television only - no surgery's needed except in our minds.