Over the past couple of months I've been trying to see a pattern emerge in what Those Who Know best at TVNZ are up to. Increasingly, I get the feeling that I've been staring at what I thought was a Magic Eye picture, only to find it's nothing but a wallpaper sample. In the case of Edwards At Large, rather tatty old wallpaper, nicotine-stained, bubbling and cracking, yet still asserting there's nothing wrong with it, nothing at all, in fact it's far superior to all those newfangled varieties on the market.
I realise that of the various programmes to have been introduced, removed and otherwise fiddled with of late, some come under the jurisdiction of Bill Ralston as head of News & Current Affairs, while others fit under general programming. But when Brian Edwards interviews Rodney Hide, and Mike King asks Winston Peters about the foreshore issue, is the distinction a valid one?
Only this morning did I get to see for myself the Ralston Effect on Breakfast. I used to quite enjoy the Hosking-Hawkesby combo, taking turns to interview, sharing the duties, even areas where one was clearly more qualified to comment (e.g Hosking on sport) were delegated to the other, often with humorous results. And then there was the banter. No doubt this drove some people mad, including it would seem, Bill Ralston, but for me it worked. Mike hassled Kate for asking a stupid question, Kate hassled Mike for being an old fuddy-duddy, they laughed, we laughed.
This morning, Bill needn't have feared, no-one was in any danger of laughing or otherwise enjoying themselves. Kate read the news with all the joy of the protagonist in a Kafka novel. Hosking and Hawkesby's ten second crosses are conducted via a video screen, as if to prevent the transfer of any warmth between the two. In case the low-rating TelstraClear Business wasn't compelling enough at 6.30am, "highlights" from the show now also apparently bear repeating at 8.15am. Joe Bennett, the 'humorous social commentator' from Christchurch, has wisely decided not to break rank, and ensures the programme remains as dry as a Canterbury Nor'wester.
I only saw a little of Mike King's new show last night – I was interested to see him interview Winston Peters, and couldn't have cared a jot to see Shortland Street's Karl Burnett. TV2 celebs interviewing other TV2 celebs on a TV2 programme, it's all a bit Strassman Ungloved, really. The cloned Late Show set is a bad idea, serving as it does to highlight the many ways in which Mike King is not David Letterman. Like Russell, I'll wait and see – to an extent – but at the same time, if TVNZ feel it's fit to broadcast, then it's fit to comment on.
His interviewing technique certainly needs some work, and last night it was only Winston's charisma that carried the segment. That, and the sheer disbelief at watching the New Zealand First leader do his Asian takeaway shop owner impersonation – surely valuable footage for someone come the next election.
Pam's gone, Richard Long is counting the days, Edwards will hopefully soon be literally 'at large', and the cane seems to be extending from stage left towards Hosking and Hawkesby. An end to TVNZ's problems? So what's the solution? Much like the English/Brash dilemma, are we left with the inevitable conclusion that Simon Dallow and Mike King are to be the answer to our broadcasting woes? Oh dear.