The entertainment news here in New Zealand has been going crazy this week, with one of the biggest entertainment news stories in some time dominating the headlines: Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez have broken up. Is there no justice in the world? Won't somebody think of the children?!
But if you look past the teen antics of those two, you'll find that Paul Henry has been everywhere this week. It started when his Australian breakfast show was canned on Monday (as reported here, here and here) and continued in the afternoon with a report that he might be returning to Kiwi TV, and an opinion piece from John Drinnan that speculated Henry could be returning to front the replacement for Close Up, due to be axed before Christmas.
Things started to go crazy on Tuesday: an opinion piece by Michael Idato talked of why Henry's Aussie show failed, and a report at TV3 said staff on his show were ready to walk out, such was their resentment of Henry.
Then a story by Rachel Glucina - yes, the gossip queen from the finale of The Ridges, whose reports should all be taken with about 3kg of salt (in my opinion) - claimed that Henry had implied he had been approached to front the Close Up replacement (even though the story reads as though he only implied he had only talked to someone about what the show might look like). Read the story: all Henry says is that he could return to New Zealand, and that TVNZ has an idea what the show would look like. It's hardly confirmation.
That didn't stop everyone else from piling on: the Herald uses shaky evidence to claim that Paul Henry and Pippa Wetzell are the favourites to front Close Up 2, a fake Paul Henry Twitter account simply typed "7pm" and grabbed a stack of re-tweets, a RadioLive poll yesterday morning asked if people would welcome Henry back (70 per cent said yes), and the NBR wrote that no announcement had been made yet, though talent agent Karen Kay thought "Paul would be marvellous. He would be a great replacement."
Interestingly, no announcement about the future of Close Up's 7pm time slot, or of Henry's involvement in the future, was made during TVNZ's new season launch yesterday afternoon - the perfect opportunity to make such an announcement, given this week's media interest and the fact that Henry is (presumably) looking for new opportunities.
The question none of these people are asking, though, is why.
I don't think the move makes sense for TVNZ. It hasn't even been two years since Paul Henry left the network under a cloud of perceived racism and sexism, and the fact that he is such a polarising figure means they risk losing even more viewers from their coveted 7pm timeslot. Plus, Henry used to be an occasional host on Close Up; having a familiar face front a new show in that slot flies in the face of their stated aim to do something completely new.
I don't think it makes sense for Paul Henry, either. If nothing else, the fact that he so quickly signed a contract to front a show in Australia shows that he has a desire to make the Paul Henry brand bigger and bigger; giving up on that after just one failure, and taking a spot at 7pm back in New Zealand, is a step backwards, an admission that he wants to hit reset on the career he had going before any of the "Dikshit" stuff went down.
Not to mention that Henry is still under contract to Mediaworks, who are only TVNZ's major television competitor. Do you really think Mediaworks will hand over a valued asset like Henry without kicking up a bit of fuss? Doubtful. If I were them, I'd be coming up with exciting shows for Henry to front* without needing to sign new paperwork.
This is all just my opinion, of course - anything could happen. But whatever the outcome may be, it's going to be interesting to see where Paul Henry lands and what happens with that 7pm time slot on One.
What do you think TVNZ should do with Close Up's time slot in 2013? And where should Paul Henry end up?
(*) Can I interest anybody in a Kiwi version of The Daily Show, fronted by Paul Henry, and airing after Nightline at 11pm Fridays? Anybody? Seriously, Mediaworks ... call me.
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