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Matty McLean’s life in TV (Image: Tina Tiller)
Matty McLean’s life in TV (Image: Tina Tiller)

Pop CultureMarch 2, 2024

‘I could’ve been arrested’: Matty McLean on the time Paul Henry made him break the law

Matty McLean’s life in TV (Image: Tina Tiller)
Matty McLean’s life in TV (Image: Tina Tiller)

The radio presenter and former TVNZ host takes us on a televisual trip down memory lane, from his teenage love of reality TV to an embarrassing encounter with Sir Peter Jackson. 

For over 17 years, Matty McLean was an early-morning fixture on our television screens. As a reporter, weather presenter and co-host on TVNZ’s Breakfast, McLean was always up for anything, whether that was serenading Paul Henry live on air, dressing up as a dinosaur to do the weather updates, perfecting TikTok dances, or biting a dangerously large chunk out of the world’s second hottest chilli. 

Earlier this year, McLean said goodbye to the show’s “brutal” hours and took up a new role on The Hits Drive with PJ Harding. Despite the move to radio, McLean remains a passionate television fan who’s been obsessed with reality TV since he was a teenager. His lifelong dream came true when he competed in not one, but two seasons of Celebrity Treasure Island, and claimed the win in 2023’s Fans v Faves season. 

In this week’s My Life in TV, McLean shares just what that CTI victory meant to him and reveals exactly what happened after he jumped the prime minister’s fence on Breakfast. 

Matty McLean in his new role as co-host on The Hits Drive (Photo: The Hits)

My earliest TV memory is… The Muppets. Anytime it was on, I was just glued to the television. They had this spinoff series called The Muppet Babies, and there was this particular episode that had an Indiana Jones theme. I don’t know why, but it really stuck with me all these years later. 

The show I loved watching as a kid was… I have very vivid memories of the family shows we would watch together. One of them was Lois and Clark, with Teri Hatcher and Dean Cain. I remember Gladiators and Who Dares Wins, and I think that was the first stirrings of my love of reality competition shows, which then became my entire teenage life. I was totally into Popstars with TrueBliss, Celebrity Treasure Island, Mitre 10 Dream Home, all those shows from the late 90s, early 2000s. 20 years later, I ended up on a deserted island with Joe Cotton – a dream come true. 

My earliest TV crush was… Jennifer Aniston. I had this TV Hits magazine poster that was 10 A4 pieces of paper stitched together of her. It took up an entire portion of my bedroom wall, and I was just obsessed with it. I found her beautiful and so glamorous and exciting. It’s almost like the Taylor Swift effect – there’s just something about them that is intoxicating and you can’t help but be drawn into her world. 

The TV moment that haunts me to this day is… The time I jumped the fence at the Prime Minister’s house in 2009. I was just a naive 23-year-old kid when I was doing those live crosses on Breakfast, and you don’t think about the consequences. I was there for a specific news story about Peter Jackson, who was being knighted that day at Premier House. It started out as a very normal live cross, but then Paul [Henry] got sidetracked by the fence and how low it was. Then we got talking about how someone could easily jump over it if they wanted to, and he suggested that I do it. 

I’m very susceptible to peer pressure, and I love making a good story out of something, so I jumped across and jumped back. I didn’t even think about the fact that there would be police stationed at Premier House. This guy sprinted down the driveway and told me I could have been arrested for it. I had to go back to Premier House later that day and actually report on Peter Jackson being knighted. Peter Jackson did a press conference and I asked him my question and he goes, “I saw you this morning, you jumped the fence”. It was so embarrassing. 

Big deep trouble (Screengrab)

My favourite TV moment of all time is… The first season of New Zealand Idol in 2004. I was doing a student exchange in Austria in my last year of high school, and my mum would send me care packages with VHS tapes of New Zealand Idol. I watched the whole season while I was over in Austria and, god, I so looked forward to it. Luckily it was the early days of the internet and I could easily avoid spoilers, because I had to wait weeks before I got the tapes. The whole country knew that Ben Lummis had beaten Michael Murphy and I was just sitting in my bedroom in Austria, waiting.

My favourite TV character of all time is… Valerie Cherish from The Comeback. It was so ahead of its time and so meta, it was at the very start of all of those shows like The Simple Life and certainly before the Kardashians and the Housewives were a thing. You couldn’t help but fall in love with her. Her desperation to be someone, to be liked at any cost. I just thought she was so clever, and Lisa Kudrow is such a brilliant actress. The second season is amazing. 

My TV guilty pleasure is… The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. We were late to The Real Housewives party, I must say. It’s only been in the last couple of years that we’ve started watching. We started with Beverly Hills, and now we’re watching New York. It’s a wild ride. 

My favourite TV project that I’ve been involved with is… Breakfast has such a special place in my heart. I loved doing this thing called Bespoke Weather where we travelled around the country to small towns that weren’t on the weather map, and gave them their own weather forecasts. If we went out in Auckland and said to people “come on down, we’re broadcasting live from Mission Bay,” no one would turn up. Well, we’d go to these small towns and say, “come on down,” and literally the entire town comes down. They go all out, there’s a coffee cart, the people are dressed up, the mayor’s there. Everyone makes the effort, and it reminds you of the things that you love about this country. 

Matty during his Celebrity Treasure Island experience (Photo: Supplied)

The best part of competing on Celebrity Treasure Island twice was… The culmination of a lifelong dream. Not just to win, but to be a big part of a reality TV franchise was just so exciting. That moment with the thud of the treasure chest – even when I hit it, it took a few moments for my brain to catch up and realise that I’d done it. It was so cool. 

The most stylish person on television is…  Hayley Holt. Every time I see her, she looks so effortlessly cool on television. She is such a beautiful soul inside and out. She wears sneakers on TV and makes them look really elegant, but she does not give a shit. She really doesn’t care, which makes her even more beautiful. She’s amazing. 

My most watched TV show of all time is… Friends. I would have started watching it when I was probably like nine or 10 which feels so young, but it was just on and it became part of my life. It’s my comfort show. I put it on when I’m happy, when I’m sad, when I’m bored, when I need a good laugh. I still crack up to this day. It’s just brought me so much joy over the years. 

The TV show I’ll never watch, no matter how many people tell me I should is… Game of Thrones. I think the moment has passed me by. I feel like I know a lot of the main plot points just by osmosis and so I have no desire or interest in watching it, and probably never will.

The last thing I watched on television was… Schitt’s Creek. I got home from the gym and was eating lunch and I just recently started rewatching it, so I’m only on the first season. It was just as good as I remember.

Matty McLean co-hosts The Hits Drive show with PJ Harding every weekday at 3pm.

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