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InterviewsMarch 20, 2015

My Life in TV: The Bachelor NZ’s Mike Puru


My Life in TV is a weekly feature interview with a member of the television industry. This week Alex talked to Mike Puru, enamoured host of The Bachelor NZ. //

Mike Puru has stepped back in front of the camera this week to host the journey of love that is The Bachelor NZ. On the day of the premiere, he was released from his straightjacket on The Edge’s Morning Madhouse to have a chat about arranged love, fixing his teeth, and crying at The X Factor.

He was severely suited up on arrival, explaining apologetically that he got dressed at 4am and had to find a suit that would tick all the boxes for his big day. It had to be green (for St Patrick’s Day), formal enough for The Bachelor NZ launch party that night and Willy Moon-esque enough to show his solidarity for Joe Irvine. He had done a pretty good job in a swanky forest green number.

Sipping on an orange juice, Mike was contagiously excited about stepping into the polished hosting shoes of one of New Zealand’s most anticipated reality TV formats. I didn’t need a lot of convincing that he was perfect for the job.

How was the hosting process on The Bachelor NZ? Was it a crash course for you?

Actually, it was bit. It’s quite different from doing radio on a day to day basis. I’m not going to say that the host role is easy, but it’s small enough to not hold up production, which is good. My job was just to intertwine between the Bachelor and the girls and let everybody know what was happening. When you’re in radio, you tend to be very dramatic and loud, whereas in television you’ve got pictures to do all that for you. I realised quite fast that I am very “hand-sy”, so that’s been knocked out of me. I loved sitting back and watching it all unfold, you realise just how hard it is actually to make TV.

I’m assuming there’s going to be a lot of conflict between the Bachelorettes. Did you find yourself in the middle of drama at all during filming?

There were some moments where I had to do stuff out of the blue. Sometimes there were certainly scenes that I wasn’t expecting, and all of a sudden had to be part of. That’s when your heart starts thumping, because all of a sudden you’re thrown onto the set, and it’s like “okay, we have to sort this out.” For me as the host, I often just get to sit back and see a lot of what is happening. I’m on this journey with the viewers, really. Most of the time I’m going, “oh my god, what’s going to happen next? Who is he going to choose to go on this date?” I was riding it with everybody.

On the Edge, you’ve been involved with a few arranged marriages, which is a similar approach to love as The Bachelor. Can you vouch for their authenticity?

I have complete faith in a relationship being developed like this. Those weddings we’ve done on The Edge have all been very successful. I put that down to the fact that people behind the scenes do so much research into those involved, you even go back and interview their families and everything. It’s such a big process that people go through, it’s hard to get it wrong.

If everybody who went on a date or wanted to find true love went through a process that was under the microscope like that, whether on the radio or The Bachelor, there is a much stronger possibility of true love being found. It’s not like randomly dating somebody that you found in a pub, because the groundwork has been done at the start. I am a firm believer that arranged marriages like this do have happy endings, with a high probability of it being successful.

Ultimately with The Bachelor and these weddings on the Edge, you are dealing with real people. I think that it’s even more powerful when love is involved. Because you can love building a house, but that’s a material asset. People on The Block fall in love with their houses, but at the end of the day a house is not a person. That’s what I found when I was doing the show. Ultimately, it is a love story. It is the love story of one guy who has decided that the time is right for him now to find a companion, and he is willing to put himself out there to find that one person.

Prior to hosting The Bachelor, you spent a fair bit of time on Flipside. How was that as a hosting experience?

I loved that, it was good fun. It was a live news format, so everything was very scripted and we would read from an auto cue. There was a lot of work involved, you always had to go out and get three or four stories a week, it was all your responsibility. It was such a shame that show ended actually, it was quite disappointing. It was a weird slot though, we were coming off the back of Spongebob Squarepants into trying to dissect the situation in the Middle East for teenagers.

It definitely had its place though, there’s nothing quite like it on TV now for young people.

People certainly remember it. It was kind of an early Seven Sharp. We were the first to have the option to text in and the first to integrate a website into the show. We had that little thing that ran across the bottom of your screen, called a ticker, and it was the first time that TVNZ used one of them. The whole concept was a multi platform social discussion, maybe it was just a little too early for everyone.

What happened to you when Flipside got cancelled?

A disastrous decision to do Sing Like a Superstar is what happened. In all honesty, there is nothing quite like singing live on TV with an audience and cameras. I found that quite cool. The show got a bad rap and none of us could really sing that well, so it was pretty awful and got buried pretty fast. I did alright though – I think I was about fourth if I remember correctly. But I won’t be stepping out onto a stage anytime soon.

So from there, how did your Shopping Channel gig come about?

It was weird because I don’t know if Sing Like a Superstar ruined my career, or the fact that I went and spent lots of money fixing my teeth. Everyone used to write in when I was doing Flipside that I had really bad teeth. I decided to spend a bit of money getting my teeth fixed up, and then I never had any work. I often wonder whether or not fixing my teeth or Sing Like A Superstar were responsible for my non-work. I’ll never know.

Around that time, TV shows were very rare. There were the big shows, but obviously few opportunities for a silly little Southland boy with minimal TV experience. Bizarrely, a friend of mine wanted to audition for the Shopping Channel so I helped him do his audition. On the day I came along to support him, and they said to me, “oh are you here to audition?” I said “well no, not really,” and they said they could squeeze me in if I wanted. So I ended up getting the job, and my poor mate didn’t.

The Shopping Channel sort of wound up, and then Yes Shop was starting, so I joined them. Those shopping formats are quite different from everything else I’ve done, and I learnt another set of skills that I hoped might help the chances of another role coming up further down the line. There’s always a lot of very talented people in this country who are ripe for the picking of hosting a show, so you have to stay proactive in the background. You’ve got to be chipping away at it like the Shawshank Redemption, and constantly letting people know that you’re available.

You’ve managed to spend a fair bit of time onscreen, but what are your TV watching habits like? Are you a big TV fan?

God yeah, I am a huge TV watcher. I have two MySky units on the go. I have a passion for NZ made TV. I watch both the news channels. I used to tape Breakfast every morning and go home after work and watch it, but I would fast forward through everything bar the Paul Henry bits. When he got fired from that I stopped watching. I’m really excited about his new show coming up, actually I managed to fill in a couple of times for him last year on the Paul Henry Show, so that was quite good fun. Again, it was just a random opportunity that presented itself. I thought “is this a prank? Oh well, I’ll just turn up and see what happens anyway.”

I used to watch Friends and those sorts of shows. More recently I’ve just sort of watched real life TV. It’s hard, I don’t get into Game of Thrones or anything like that, because time is so precious. I’m the kind of geek that watches The Nation on a Sunday morning

Is current affairs watching quite crucial to your radio job as well?

Yeah, I leave the Kim Kardashian and the E channel to Jay Jay and Dom. I quite often watch Heartland as well because I love this series they’ve been running where they play old shows. Last night I was watching a documentary that was filmed around the 1978 Telethon. It’s crazy, everybody’s sitting there puffing away on cigarettes, with these great big huge cameras that look like they need a forklift to move them anywhere. For a little country like New Zealand, I love watching those old shows and seeing how far we have come in the TV landscape.

Do you think reality TV has it’s place in New Zealand?

Absolutely, you learn so much about human characters when you watch all those shows. On The Block and X Factor, I don’t really care what the actual process is – for me it’s about how their lives can be changed by taking part in something like this. I cry a lot at TV shows like that, I just love watching people realise their dreams. I buy into that stuff so easily. Im such a wuss!

Even when I was growing up, there was that Heartland documentary that came to town when I was at St Peters in Gore. Maggie Barry and Gary McCormack went around NZ and focussed on small towns. We were so damn excited that there were a few TV cameras in Gore, and I just took the day off school and followed them up and down the street watching how they made TV.

And there are a few southern Bachelorettes aren’t there? It’s good to see a lot of contestants coming from all around the country.

That’s just people looking for that opportunity to try something unique and different to put themselves forward. I really hope Kiwis buy into the love story, and they all want a happy ending. It’s been so much fun to be a part of, but ultimately the show is not about me, and to be honest it’s really not about the girls. It’s about this guy and his search for love, and I think we’re very lucky to be able to see that unfold and for him to put his heart on his sleeve in front of the country.

So what’s next for you on TV after The Bachelor?

I’m not too sure. Will have to see how this unfolds first. Might be back to Yes Shop for a little bit.

The Bachelor NZ airs Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 7.30pm

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