Right winner for epic quest

TV TIMES

GORDON BROWN
Last updated 10:52 08/12/2012

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N ew Zealand's Got Talent finally came to an end on Sunday night, which was probably just as well.

After three months of competition, and that was just among the judges, it was time to find a winner and take a break.

The show badly needed a winner and the right one, which it got in the form of 15-year-old Blenheim schoolgirl Clara Van Wel. She was what the show was all about, as Rachel Hunter was so fond of saying.

With her Joni Mitchell- type voice, Clara looked great, wrote her own songs and had a real stage presence. She was a worthy winner and survived the vagaries of the public voting system to come through and win the not-to-be-sniffed at first prize of $100,000 and a new Toyota.

Runnerup was the amazing 11-year-old Jessie Hillel. She had the voice of an angel, but her time will come and again, you had to say the public got it right. Third was Evan Sinton, a singer in the James Taylor mould with a distinctive style.

As far as the hour-long final went, it was too long and took 55 minutes before Clara was crowned. Before that we had to suffer the not-so- musical offerings of judge Al Campbell, who did his usual reggae thing with limited success, and Rachel doing a spot of dancing on the stage.

There were another couple of offerings from New Zealand bands who were unknown to Mrs Brown and me, but gave me a good opportunity to go and make a cuppa. While the series wasn't perfect, and the over-the-top adulation of the judging trio was the most jarring note, apart from some of the contestants, it was the most-watched show on the telly in the last decade.

Perhaps next year there should be fewer semifinals and the whole thing could be done in eight weeks.

Finally, the Friday night before was the end of an era, we were continually told, with Mark Sainsbury signing off from Close Up after 31 years of working for TVNZ. I wouldn't feel too sorry for the walrus-moustached Sainsbury (the balder he got the more his moustache grew) because he stands to collect a Lotto-winning-sized payout from TVNZ because he was made redundant.

That said, he always seemed to be an amiable fellow and the final show captured that nicely to give him a decent farewell.

It was all done with typical television excess, of course. In this industry their people are bigger than the story and the final half hour was an unashamed tribute to mark the man rather than the show's demise. In its place next year we are set to be given an "infotainment" half hour in which comedians and other like-minded souls can poke fun at the news and issues of the day.

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If that is the case, and it seems likely, then we were given a sneak preview in the final Close Up show.

It started before it actually started with theOne News team, Simon and whatsername and the weather lady all hugging and kissing him. "A gentleman, a perfect colleague and a great friend," Simon called him, and all without a teleprompter.

Pretty much everyone else who had worked with Mark during the last eight years said something similar during the next 30 minutes.

The Close Up logo became Closing Down and from then on there was an orgy of gratitude, tributes and self-congratulatory moments galore. There were plenty of highlights from the previous eight years. There were moments of conflict, with reporters becoming an endangered species as some rip-off merchants got nasty; there was humour, with reporters falling off all sorts of things and getting dirty, wet or both.

There were sad moments as the show recorded the human side of tragedies and perhaps best of all, the oddball moments. "It's hard to have a conversation with a chicken," deadpanned one rural character, trying his best to do just that.

There was a classic piece of unintended humour when a reporter was on a farm and said to another rural character who'd been talking a bit, "you're hoarse".

"No, it's my dog."

"No, I meant you are hoarse . . ." amid much laughter.

There were the television moments the hosts so love, which featured shots of Mark with Sir Edmund Hillary, Helen Clark, David Lange and Paul Henry - although the relationship between the two was clearly not a friendly one.

Still, the show belonged to Sainsbury and he signed off as all good Kiwi blokes do, by pouring himself a beer, and, surrounded by his Close Up colleagues, all raised a glass and bade us farewell.

"That was New Zealand's Close Up," he said for the last time, a tear almost there.

And the logo flashed on to the screen "Sorry we're closed".

It almost brought a tear to my eye. Mrs B remained suitably cynical. "Self-indulgent nonsense," she declared. "It was never about him, or any of them, for that matter."

- © Fairfax NZ News

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