Alex Casey and Duncan Greive share ten observations from the premiere episode of an all-new Seven Sharp.
1) Is Jeremy Wells… okay?
“It’s lovely to be with you tonight,” said Hilary. I believed her. I believed her all the way to the back of her craft beer fridge, and all the way to the bottom of that pile of bargain Whopper burgers she bought on Twitter that time. Jeremy, on the other hand, had a distance behind the eyes like an alien in Men in Black that’s trying to pass as a functioning member of society. It was especially ripe whenever we returned to the studio after a segment. Hello darkness me old comrade, we meet again. / Alex Casey
2) Also… can Jeremy Wells tell the truth?
Having never heard Jeremy Wells be knowingly sincere, my first thought was that he was making everything up. That voice has told me only lies – why would he suddenly be speaking from the heart? That will probably change with prolonged exposure, but for now it’s hard to hear him talk about anything without expecting it to veer rapidly off into something weird or porno. / Duncan Greive
3) Extreme Cake Broadcasters is very cool though
This is probably a bad, unsophisticated take, but my favourite bit in the whole premiere was an extremely unclear cake making challenge between the hosts. With Hilary and Jeremy worried that fans of Extreme Cake Makers might have tuned in and been disappointed, they set about whipping up their own sweet treats in the TVNZ foyer (where Hosking used to make his coffees, RIP(ped jeans)). Jeremy was wearing a novelty apron, and I was ON BOARD.
“Do you bake?” asked Hilary whilst spooning some marge into a bowl. “Most days,” replied a dead pan Jeremy, before trying to whisk the batter inside the cake tin. I couldn’t help but think of Moon TV’s Speed Cooking segment here – not directly related to Wells but a spiritual sibling for sure – and pine for the days when broadcast TV was just absolutely fucking batshit. We got a glimmer of chaos later during the cake reveal, when Jeremy Wells unveiled his special “Waitangi” tribute cake. See for yourself. / AC
4) Cakes aside, the fundamentals are largely the same
The Hosking/Street Seven Sharp was a pair of hosts with no audience and no guests doing links between magazine-style segments. So far, we’ve seen nothing to suggest that fundamental structure has changed. The opening story covered school lunches, and ended with the hosts dropping the stat that 88% of countries provide them for pupils – something it’s hard to imagine Hosking emphasising. But aside from the brilliant Anika-Celine encounter, the remainder of the segments stuck with the familiar formula, and thus made it feel more re-fresh than reboot. / DG
5) The chemistry is real
They’re funny, attractive and charismatic. They like each other. While Barry is manifestly the more experienced journalist, neither has any interest in dominating the show or dismissing the thoughts of the other. Thus it represents an enormous change to Hosking’s blithe dismissal of Street. As a male/female dynamic to watch at work each night, it’s infinitely healthier and far more fun than the one that preceded it. / DG
6) … but Anika Moa should probably be the host of everything
Look. I’ve said it once, I’ll say it again, I’ll continue to say it until the stars turn cold – the secret to success is just to give every single television job to Anika Moa. The big closing act of the episode was her sit down interview with Celine Dion – just two songstresses, songbirds, warblers, having a bloody melodic yarn. If it had been anyone else in the interviewing chair, it probably would have been boring as hell.
The great thing is that Anika isn’t one to play it cool. She insisted on Celine Dion touching her before proposing a singing battle to prove herself worthy of an opening slot when Celine performs here in August. When Celine admitted to wearing pyjamas all day when she’s not touring, Anika offered a “YAS QUEEN” that was so gutteral, so primal, that it might as well have been a belch. I loved it. Celine loved it. Anika loved it. Deborah Pead loved it. / AC
7) There was a Caro Robinson Buzzfeed explainer on a Westfield parking ticket
The most modern flourish on the show was a pacey explainer on how Carolyn Robinson got out of a parking ticket at Westfield. It looked like a Facebook explainer, only on TV, and felt jammed in as a way to fill out the show. On a more substantial topic it might have value; in this context, on the first show back, it felt redundant. / DG
8) And the deafening sound of silence…
With their kajillion-week head start, I’ve been watching a lot of The Project recently, which means I’ve also become extremely accustomed to the presence of a studio audience. Without any people providing energy within in the cavernous void of the TVNZ studio, watching Seven Sharp felt a little bit like watching Friends without the laugh track. With Wells trading in awkwardness during moments of banter, some of the pauses felt like they stretched deep into my soul and squeezed my heart and made me feel a bit bad. / AC
9) Also Holmes is back, baby
“Those were our people today, that’s Seven Sharp tonight,” was a wonderfully weird callback from Jezza that almost certainly jolted awake some of the fogies that had fallen sound asleep in front of the TV in about 1998. See look everyone! It’s not scary! It’s just Holmes but with fun cakes and not as much racism! Actually, that bit about the “eskimo” lollies wasn’t great. / AC
10) So, will it work?
It is always, always too early to say after a single episode. But… if I had to bet, I’d say yes. Wells will need coaching into engaging with more earnest issues (unless they let Barry handle them long-term), and the first crisis that cannot be ignored will be a marker of how this dynamic will work. But Wells’ satire of New Zealand’s cultural touchstones was made possible by his acute observation of them – one that could only be driven by a genuine affection on some level. This should ultimately mesh well with Seven Sharp’s breezy tone, and be amenable to its older, more rigid audience.
He’s extremely fortunate to have Barry alongside – enormously experienced with the demands of primetime, and possessed of both a superb sense of humour and the ability to handle tragedy or horror when the news cycle demands it. Given that they’ve been working together for all of a week, and cannot have had time to impose any creative input on the existing infrastructure, it was a surprisingly even episode.
If they’re allowed to nudge it into new areas – letting the tone of the inserts more closely mirror the hosts, perhaps the occasional in-studio interview – then this new Seven Sharp could become the affably wide-ranging magazine-style show it was originally pitched as, before the panic hire of Hosking radically altered its tone. / DG
Seven Sharp continues at 7pm tomorrow on TVNZ1
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