I thought Australian television was feral, but the wailing and gnashing of teeth over the impending arrival of TV One's Seven Sharp has surprised me. Seldom indeed has so much been said by so many about something no one's even seen yet. No wonder Ali Mau, Greg Boyed, and Jesse Mulligan are crapping themselves. I would be too.
Next Monday's debut is shaping up as the television equivalent of going over the top of the trenches during World War I with a target painted on your forehead while holding a large "Kaiser sucks" sign. Unless you're incredibly lucky you're going to go down in a hail of bullets.
I've been pondering the reasons behind the electronic vitriol that has been spraying around the internet and social media in particular since TVNZ announced the successor to the Walrus's weeknight 7pm slot.
And as hugely fond of Mark Sainsbury as I am - he's an absolutely top bloke - I can't bring myself to believe that the shabby way he was treated by the state TV network is responsible. After all, shabby treatment is pretty much par for the course at TVNZ.
Is it because the co-presenters of the new show aren't well-liked? I doubt that. I don't know them personally, but Boyed seems a pretty honest and likable chap with at least some of the gravitas required to host a current affairs show. Mau, too, has a pretty good journalistic pedigree and wasn't terrible on Fair Go.
Yes, I know she dumped Simon Dallow and later partnered up with a woman (I haven't been out of the country that long). But surely we're a bit past that in 2013, aren't we?
|Greg Boyed and Ali Mau: Let's at least give them a chance.|
In other words, there's no Paul Henry-type, love 'em or loathe 'em figure to exercise emotions one way or the other.
So maybe it's the show itself? Are we lamenting the demise of decent current affairs on telly? Perhaps. Though in truth I suspect that died - or at least was placed on life support - some time ago. Current affairs television is, and has been, dire for the most part long before TVNZ axed Close Up.
Though it's still not as bad as on the Australian commercial networks. Anyone who has suffered through the nightly battle between A Current Affair and Today Tonight to produce the most crass, low-brow, infantile television will know what I'm talking about.
Could it be, then, that much of the fire directed at Seven Sharp is due to the unfortunate Kiwi habit of attacking the tallest poppy? One thing I will say for the Aussies - they may be feral, but they generally give you a chance before they shred you to ribbons.
Paul Henry got six months' worth of chances on Ten's breakfast show, though little good it did him.
Part of the blame for the dreadful lead-up to Seven Sharp's launch must, of course, be placed at TVNZ's own front door.
It's got a stupid name, for starters. And the marketing and publicity campaign has been woeful. Whoever thought of hijacking Close Up's Facebook page (and then posting instructions on how to unsubscribe when bombarded with hate mail) needs to be sacked.
The fleeing of the man who dreamed up the show, former TVNZ news and current affairs boss Ross Dagan, back to Australia for ''family reasons'' can't have helped either.
And letting John Campbell get a two-week head start over at TV3 was a big mistake. Launching in February, well after JC has got his teeth into the New Year (and the audience), wasn't just lazy, it was dumb.
But I can't help but wonder whether we ought to hold fire before we bury Seven Sharp before its first broadcast. It's not that I have terribly high hopes for it. To be honest, it sounds like a ripoff of The Project (which actually isn't all that bad, though Network Ten has never pretended to be interested in serious journalism). But if we're honest, how many of us were still watching Close Up every night? I think even Sainsbury would probably agree in hindsight that it was time for a change.
There are those who reckon the whole exercise is simply part of TVNZ's master plan to get rid of current affairs from the 7pm slot so it can air reruns of M*A*S*H or something else cheap and probably more popular.
It's said we elect the politicians we deserve, and the same's true of free-to-air commercial television. Lowest common denominator usually wins.
Let's at least give Ali, Greg, and Jesse a go, though. If it's really as bad as everyone fears, that's the time to bag them. Not beforehand.
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Correction: An earlier version of this blog stated that Ali Mau "dumped Simon Dallow for another woman''. Mau points out she didn't leave her husband for anyone, and only began seeing her current partner at a later date. Sorry Ali, I could have worded that better.