It’s been exactly a decade since Seven Sharp first appeared on our screens. Remember the first episode? We’ve unearthed the tapes.
On this day in 2013, a bombshell was thrown into the New Zealand television landscape. “Time for us to make way, because you’re here to see what everyone’s talking about, aren’t you?” said Simon Dallow at the tail end of 1News. And he was right – everyone was talking about Seven Sharp.
A decade on, the 7pm light entertainment show is a fixture on the New Zealand television landscape. It’s produced thousands of episodes, been through several set changes and debuted a handful of new hosts over that time. It’s a ratings juggernaut too, at least by today’s standards, and routinely pulls in big name guests from Hillary Clinton to and Celine Dion.
But the Seven Sharp of 2023, with Hilary Barry and Jeremy Wells sitting on a lovely couch, is very different to what we started out with. For starters, there were three hosts: Jesse Mulligan (now on Three’s Seven Sharp rival The Project), Ali Mau and the late Greg Boyed. There was no couch, with the trio perched at a long, curved desk. There were lots of jokes. Maybe too many jokes. There were snappy effects, monologues and a lot of janky social media integration.
It wasn’t an instant success. Just eight days after launching, TV3’s Campbell Live began out-rating its TVNZ opponent for the first time.
Ordinarily to mark the 10th anniversary of a show like Seven Sharp I’d have chatted to some of the names that made the show what it is today. Nobody was that keen to look back on history. I did, however, acquire a short message from former host Mike Hosking: “Ill pass thanks I am not a rear view mirror sort of person ,it was a project ,we had fun ,it was years ago now.”
So, instead, and with the help of the TVNZ archives, I’ve managed to hunt down the very first episode of Seven Sharp to remind us all: what actually happened on this day in 2013?
Subliminal messaging in the title sequence
Today, Seven Sharp’s opening titles showcase places and people from Aotearoa. In 2013, things were far more intense, with coloured boxes flying at the screen displaying such relevant references as “Skype Me” and “Pin This”.
Others are even more obscure, with one briefly visible box appearing to display the word “subliminal”.
How many chicken wings?
The very first words spoken on the very first episode of Seven Sharp: “February 4, the day Americans ate 1.2 billion chicken wings during the Super Bowl.”
Close Up would never.
Carrying on from that chicken wing fact came this zinger from Jesse Mulligan. “The Super Bowl, an annual afternoon of televised violence that divides a whole nation. We’ve got one of those coming up in New Zealand this week, it’s called Waitangi Day.”
There was also a monologue on the Labour Party leadership, also by by Mulligan, which can be summed up via this image.
So many polls
Seven Sharp was clearly big on social media, from Skype to Pinterest, and went very hard at trying to foster online engagement. “We’re real keen to hear what you think about the stories,” said Ali Mau, directing viewers to an interactive website that viewers could use to get in touch, vote in polls or watch additional content.
The poll on the first episode was asking who should lead the prime minister on the marae on Waitangi Day, and it appears the gag answer – disgraced Belarusian shot putter Nadzeya Ostapchuk – was the viewers’ favoured choice by some margin.
The set was a big empty room
We’ve written extensively about Seven Sharp’s set evolution here at The Spinoff, but the very first iteration was one of the most intriguing. The hosts were positioned in front of a large, dimensionally confusing wooden room, almost entirely empty aside from a sparse book case and a single couch. Where – or what – was this room?
John Key holds things
The very first segment on Seven Sharp was a tour of John Key’s Beehive office. The former prime minister described it as a “fluff piece” and then proceeded to call the show “Sharp Seven”. The extensive tour included a brief peek at Key’s personal bathroom, but the real highlights were:
1. Sir John Key brandishing a sword at Heather du Plessis-Allan.
2. Sir John Key brandishing a can of beans.
He then cracked a bottle of red wine, which du Plessis-Allan proceeded to spill on the ground.
Chris Hipkins hasn’t aged
From one prime minister to another, that Beehive tour also features proof that new PM Chris Hipkins somehow has not aged over the past 10 years.
Josh Groban really liked Kanye West’s tweets
In other content that hasn’t aged especially well, Seven Sharp’s first big celebrity interview was with singer Josh Groban, who discussed his love of Kanye West’s Twitter account. “His tweets are comedy gold,” he said, before a clip of him singing the tweets was played.
Happy 10 year anniversary, Seven Sharp.