José Barbosa goes to the future to visit the set of TV3’s current affairs show Story, and reports back on just how much fun is in store for Heather du Plessis-Allan and Duncan Garner.
This week MediaWorks made public its plans for a new current affairs show in the 7pm slot recently vacated by Campbell Live. The new show is to be called Story and is to be presented by former TVNZ journalist Heather du Plessis-Allen and MediaWorks’ Duncan Garner.
At this point it’s unclear what the show will look and feel like. However, as luck would have it, The Spinoff recently purchased a swag of stuff from a self-storage unit auction. The lot we won just happened to have once been owned by Usborne Books and contained not only a communicator wrist watch, but a time travel helmet used to research the classic Time Traveller book series.
Our course was clear. We loaded up José Barbosa on the necessary cocktail of barbiturates needed to survive the physical stresses of time travel and sent him into the future to secure a behind the scenes look at the first episode of Story.
I’m wearing my time helmet with the visibility setting way down so no one can see me. I’m hovering in the top far corner of the studio like a spectral Dan Carter heat pump. It’s 6:58pm, I’m waiting for a story. The Story.
Duncan Garner walks straight through the doors to the Story studio like a SWAT team breaching the front doors on a trust-afarian villa in the Aro Valley. Bits of wood and hinges fly everywhere, the industrial lock strikes the nearest camera operator on the back of his head.
Struck dead, he drops to the floor. Fortunately the implant above his right eye blinks to life and orders the legs to stand. The head lolls like a scrotum while the arms awkwardly take their former position at the controls. In the basement surrounded by monitors displaying every nook of the TV3 hanger, Mark Weldon sits on a throne made of skulls and pulls a pleased Skyrim Jarl pose. The new zero life contracts have saved the company millions.
Duncan’s fizzing. He slaps every crew member right between the shoulder blades before shouting “YOU ARE A UNIQUE ASSEMBLAGE OF GENES, COGNITIONS AND HOPE!” He stabs his buttocks into his new Story presenting harness. Fortunately the rest of his body follows.
The co-host of Story, Heather du Plessis-Allan, picks her way through the debris of Duncan’s entry. “Now THIS is fucking current affairs! Hosking could only push his way through perforated MDF, the bloody weakling!” She pauses to Snapchat the kitchenette (“Greggs FTW!”) and backward flips into her harness. Duncan and Heather give each other a nod. An AUT student intern presents the head of Russell Rooster for the two presenters to kiss, an old TV3 custom Mark Weldon imported from NBC during a “MediaWorks Hangout” broadcast to all staff through their dreams. “Although,” laughed Mark, “there they snort the ground up bones of the NBC peacock!”
It’s nearly showtime. As both Heather and Duncan are winched into the rafters. The 6pm news starts its wrap up. Hillary soldiers on, drains the pint glass of its last drops of vodka. Mike looks grim, snapping a rubber band around his wrist. “And now it’s …time for a Story…”
A monitor shows what literally hundreds of people watching at home see. I float in for a closer look. An animated sequence of Matisse’s The Dance begins, the figures rapidly morph into emoji, specifically the bowl of spaghetti, the potato half, the man in the bath and the DVD. Suddenly through a puff of smoke Heather and Duncan’s disembodied heads appear. From their nostrils extend large outside brooms that sweep the emoji up into a six burner Bunnings barbeque. The Story logo descends onto the screen. They’ve used Curlz MT.
The Story set is dominated by Heather and Duncan suspended from the ceiling. At stage left is a massive fan. Heather spins Duncan around so he’s facing the camera.
“Hey, listen. This is Story, so glad you could join us tonight for our first show.”
Heather nods, “we’re going to have heaps of fun! You might have wondered what this huge fan was for.”
Duncan chips in “I know I was!”
“It’s the Story social media wind tunnel. Every time someone tweets hashtag blowme…”
“It’ll start blowing!”
“Thanks Duncan. And we’ll start swinging! It’s a new way to tell us what you think about the show at home!”
“And first up tonight: a story about how many politicians lied to us when we asked them if they’d ever worn nappies…”
At that point I direct the time helmet down into the bowels of TV3 and to Mark Weldon’s hangout. He leans back in his throne and gives himself a double thumbs up. This was what he needed, he thinks: fun, laughter and entertainment. Give it time and there’ll be a wind tunnel in every newsroom.
He needs to put a cherry on the victory sundae. Weldon gestures towards Jennings, “I want to see their faces” he said. Jennings switches the channel on the feed. His twitching is barely noticeable these days.
“Welcome to Seven Sharp,” says Toni sparking radiant TV energy like a fork left in a microwave. “You’ll notice we’ve changed the set,” says Mike, somehow managing to be uninterested and yet engaged enough to decide to dismiss everything outside the perimeter of his own body.
Weldon leans forward. They’ve changed the set. They’ve changed the bloody set.
“There’s been a lot of back and forth, which I’m told was tedious but I guess in this day and age it’s inevitable, isn’t it?” Mike let the other one speak.
“Yep, that’s why I’ve been placed inside this giant centrifuge. So if you want to me throw up all over myself, but mostly on my own face, text SPEWSTREET to the number below.”
Texts cost 40 cents.”
Jennings has disappeared. Weldon looks like he’s seen someone eat a puppy.
“Fuck,” he says.
The Spinoff Weekly compiles the best stories of the week – an essential guide to modern life in New Zealand, emailed out on Monday evenings.