Wake up New Zealand!

02:07, Jul 23 2014

With the election so close I was thinking I'd take a wee look at our current affairs programmes and how they were covering things in the lead-up to the September vote.

Unfortunately last night I chose to tune into Seven Sharp (TV1, 7pm).

From the start host Mike Hosking was in typical Hosking mood - including some barbs at female drivers which... well, would have been out of date and inappropriate in a 1970s sitcom.

But worse was to come. Much worse. After an emotional story about the burning down of a kindergarten and how it affected the community and kids we were treated to a profile of controversial blogger Cameron 'Whale Oil' Slater.

I say 'controversial blogger' because that seems to the standard phrase used to describe him rather than the more accurate, in my opinion, 'odious creep'.

We are told that Slater is a changed man and is even quite likeable. He's got all the good people on his phone - John Key, Judith Collins, Paul Henry etc so he must be worth listening to. Sheesh.


What followed was a complete whitewash of who Slater is and what he does. It's funny there was no mention of him thinking parents who allow their child to wear both girls and boys clothes are guilty of child abuse and him thinking the child would be better off dead because then it would be funny.

Or about him branding a victim of a car accident 'feral'. Or his denial of rape-culture in New Zealand while dreaming up a conspiracy theory in his head because Tania Billingsley chose to speak out rather than remain quiet about an alleged sexual assault by a foreign diplomat. Or the apparent victim blaming that goes along with his theory.

It's dishonest and morally unacceptable to pretend he's a good guy and a changed man, while ignoring all the blatantly offensive things he's still doing.

I'm sorry, but if this is the standard we can expect from Seven Sharp then I'm out. And I won't waste any more words on a show which subscribes to such a one-sided profile as being somehow appropriate.

So instead I thought I'd take a look at Sunday Theatre's Nancy Wake: The White Mouse (TV1) instead.

The story of Wake is incredible - born in New Zealand and raised in Australia she became one of the Gestapo's most wanted during World War II.

She had run away from home, trained herself as a journalist and then witnessed the rise of Naziism in the 1930s - and then eventually worked for the French resistance and then as a British agent.

She truly was a remarkable women and her way with words - "I can feel it like shit on a liver" - gives you an understanding of her personality.

And parts of this show were excellent - particularly when the likes of Peter FitzSimons, who wrote a comprehensive biography of Wake, were sharing their knowledge.

But what killed it for me was the format. It was a documentary/drama meaning that talking heads and real life footage were interspersed with dramatisations of actual events.

I had no beef with the acting, although some of the lines were a little tone-deaf for my ears but I just didn't feel the need for those dramatisations.

Surely there is enough actual footage of what happened in the war that could have been used?

And it's not like the talking heads portions were faultless either.

It felt weird to me that men should sit around discussing how attractive she was and how she used that to her advantage, particularly when here own words would have been enough.

Take this, for example, on her tactics during the war:

"A little powder and a little drink on the way, and I'd pass their (German) posts and wink and say, 'Do you want to search me?' God, what a flirtatious little bastard I was."

I think TV3 suffered from the same issues when it came to Hope And Wire. We're dealing with real people and real stories - a dramatic take on such events distances viewers from the emotion and realism of what actually happened, in my opinion.

Yes, it seems churlish to complain given that such an historically important woman's story is afforded a decent amount of primetime television - but I ended up hoping for better.

Actually, what I ended up hoping for was video of Wake herself, talking about her experiences. She was clearly articulate and intelligent and able to speak for herself. Yes, she died in 2011 so new interviews weren't possible, but I can't believe there aren't plenty of historic ones.

The show cried out for her, rather than just her words uttered by an actor.

So kudos to TV1 and NZ On Air for commissioning this work - it's a great step forward.

But less of the documentary/dramas. Please?