A window into Holmes

It's been a good week or two for stuff on the telly.

There were so many good things to write about, it was a case of where to start.

TV One's Breakfast programme has benefited enormously from Toni Street replacing Petra Bagust, who would instinctively react to everything and just burst until she got it out, no matter who she had to talk over the top of.

Toni on the other hand is everything that's good about being bubbly. In fact if she was any bubblier she'd be a bottle of Moet. Co-host Rawdon Christie also seems far more at ease with her by his side and it's far less frenetic and back to being a programme you can wake up to, rather than turn off because it's driving you nuts.

Mrs B used to have a bigger problem than me with Petra, and is also now back watching it, although alternating with TV3's straight version of the news with Rachel Smalley.

The other programmes I was going to write about were Silk [Prime, Saturday nights, 8.30] and The Syndicate [UKTV Channel Six on Sky, Mondays, 8.30pm). I shall do so soon, but suffice to say for now that both are top British dramas and are absolutely essential viewing.

Then of course there was the one- off special on Prime [notice how many good British programmes they are getting these days] of Downton Abbey. It was a year after they left us when the last series finished, and it was another brilliant offering - right until the end!

At that stage disaster struck, when Matthew was killed in a car crash, just after having seen his son and heir for the first and last time. Oh dear, how sad, we minded a lot. The tissues came out that night.

So when series four is back on our screens, it will be sans Matthew.

So those were the programmes I was going to cover in more detail, but then along came something quite extraordinary on our screens, Paul Holmes: the interview (TV One, Sunday, 7pm, on January 20).

Here was a man who enraged a nation when he interviewed Dennis Conner, the yachtsman who walked out on him in the first Holmes programme. Holmes was a man many of us [including Mrs B] loved to hate, a man who arguably was the most influential media person in the country for more than 15 years.

As he has got older and sicker, we became more affectionate towards him, respected him more for his body of work and eventually knighted him. What could be more natural than watching him perform in his own eulogy?

Before we delve further into Janet McIntyre's superb interview, which should be a model for every aspiring interviewer, let me share an anecdote about Holmes.

It was 2002 and he was at the peak of his profile. The Taranaki Polytechnic [as it was then known] Journalism School was having its graduation dinner and Holmes was the guest speaker.

He gave a brilliant address, not a note in sight, and pitched his delivery perfectly to the students. They were his priority and it showed.

After the formal part of the evening, one of the students' parents came over to his table and told him, with a wide smile, that she couldn't stand him or his TV programme.

I'll always remember his gracious reply: "As is your perfect right, madam." No offence taken, or at least shown, he was the perfect gent.

It also transpired that he'd readily accepted the invitation, knowing that there was a limited budget. He waived his four-figure fee, used his air points to fly from Auckland and back and his only request was "find me a bed, and I shall be happy".

It was a nice gesture by a nice man, and it's fair to say he savoured the occasion by being part of the festivities until 6am the next day.

That was all in the back of my mind when I watched his interview last week.

"Too much hard work, too many beautiful women, too much booze," he admitted near the end of the interview.

All of those things came to mind of the night he made such an impression, but he had few regrets.

McIntyre asked him the hard questions. Why did he spend so much time working when he had two small children? Did he pick them up from school? "Once," was the regretful reply.

Did he regret it? "Of course."

At other times there were tears welling in McIntyre's eyes as she empathised with this remarkable man "staring death in the face" as he described it.

It was a wonderful 36 minutes of television.

Taranaki Daily News