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Tube Talk: Election 2002 - 24 Hour Party Poopers

Tube Talk With John T. Forde

Election: 24 Hour Party Poopers

Like the birth of a giant panda, a general election is a rare, wondrous, but agonisingly drawn-out experience.

As my friend Jackie du Bois and I donned our fox furs and Gucci specs and took the Bentley down to the polling booth, we spoke of many serious things. Would Helen Clark get a new haircut for her TV close-ups? Would the Greens get smashed on too much feijoa wine and start accidentally cuddling up to Winston Peters? And would Michelle Boag bring out another horrendous 80s Mafia Wife tracksuit?

Predictably, TV1 and TV3 sparred off, both claiming to have the most comprehensive election coverage and quickest results. Whatever. Thank God someone at TV2 had a sense of humour and broadcast Mrs Doubtfire at the same time. The sight of Robin Williams in a facemask and a kilt, trilling “More porridge, sweetie?” made an amusing counterpoint to the assorted wrinkled-looking journos and politicos, most of whom looked like they’d had too much porridge themselves.

TV1 went for full-scale Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory excess, complete with Mike Hosking in a badly-cut Victorian pinstripe suit. As beleaguered party presidents blobbed around on a couch watching figures, anonymous gnomes toiled away at desks in the background. You suspected they were actually downloading porn or secretly text-messaging their friends for the whereabouts of election after-parties.

Still, they got the basics right – regular poll stats in nice big Nana-friendly print and lots of fancy graphs on giant screens - even Hosking’s high-speed ramblings seemed on the ball. Everyone was a bit too earnest, except Pam Corkery (cackling like a hag as she recalled her Parliamentary days), and Nigel Roberts, who made an elegant and witty political weather girl.

Meanwhile, TV3 set itself up as the hipper, sexier show. Lacking TV1’s budget for big graphs, they went for talking heads. An unlikely grouping of journalists (Jane Young), politicians (an sweaty Rodney Hide, and a depressive Sandra Lee) and commentators chewed the fat – all eclipsed by host John Campbell, in full hyperactive puppy mode. Were his teeth always so brilliantly, scarily white?

As the night went on, TV3’s stats got better, letting you see each candidate’s vote. But their lame attempts to appeal to youth misfired. The Vodafone-sponsored text message poll was a waste of time, and Raybon Kan’s stand-up comedy interludes died on take-off. (Don’t call us, Raybon honey…)

But you don’t need stand-up when you’ve got an election on - it’s a ridiculous enough prospect for TV on its own. Is there any need to have televised election coverage before, say, 50% of the votes are counted? Until then, we’re subjected to endless speculation by journalists who largely aren’t as smart or funny as they think they are.

In the end, I followed Helen Clark’s lead, turned off the tube for an hour or two, went to the Film Festival, and tuned in later for Labour’s (cautious) victory lap. After six weeks of worms and killer corncobs, just one thought remains – thank God it’s all over!

- Contact the author on... tubetalk@nzoomail.com

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