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Dame Susan Devoy’s life in TV (Image: Tina Tiller)
Dame Susan Devoy’s life in TV (Image: Tina Tiller)

Pop CultureMay 4, 2024

‘Everybody rolls their eyes’: Dame Susan Devoy’s guilty TV pleasure

Dame Susan Devoy’s life in TV (Image: Tina Tiller)
Dame Susan Devoy’s life in TV (Image: Tina Tiller)

Dame Susan Devoy takes us through her life in television, including late night ER debriefs, her proudest CTI moment and the show she watches in secret. 

Quite aside from her four world champion squash titles, Dame Susan Devoy will likely go down in history as one of the best Celebrity Treasure Island contestants of all time. The former athlete and race relations commissioner became beloved for her no-bullshit catchphrases and acts of spontaneity on the show. Who can forget when she vomited mid-interview, assessed a possum’s “big vag” or described her own tired eyes like “pissholes in the snow”? 

Dame Susan Devoy, mid-interview.

“I think people over the years have had a perception of me as being stoic and cold,” Devoy tells The Spinoff, “but I think people like that I call a spade a spade and a shovel a shovel.” Long off the island, she’s funnelled some those unique turns of phrase into her new autobiography Dame Suzy D: My Story. “I sort of laughed when I got the offer at first,” says Devoy. “Who the hell would want to read that?” 

Fans of Celebrity Treasure Island, for one. “There is quite a lengthy bit about CTI in there,” says Devoy. “I talk about my escapades off camera, and the reasons why I went rogue and would wander off in the middle of the night.” She also delves into the reality of sleeping rough on a stormy tropical island, spitting the dummy in front of producers, and some of the more meaningful bonds she forged while on the show. 

And while fans of Devoy might be hoping for as much effing and jeffing in the book as we got on the island, she admits to maintaining a “modicum of decorum” during the writing process. “I think the language is a little more toned down – it’s still me, but probably not quite as rough or crude.” Thankfully, she was as candid and hilarious as ever in taking us through her own life as both a TV fanatic and star. 

My earliest television memory is… It’s in the Bag with Selwyn Toogood. For my parents, It’s in the Bag was the be all and end all of everything. It was a real family occasion. We would all gather around, as if we were contestants ourselves, and we would play along and it was so exciting – people would win the most amazing prizes.

The show I used to rush home from school to watch was… I used to wag school to come home and watch Days of Our Lives because I wasn’t allowed to watch it. It was on at one o’clock, and I’d go home for lunch and just not return. Aside from that, I never got to watch the television after school because my two brothers would always get home first to watch either Hogan’s Heroes or Dr. Who.

My earliest television crush was… Lee Majors from The Six Million Dollar Man. He is the only person from that era that I thought was pretty hot, so the others must have been really terrible.

Lee Majors: not terrible

The TV moment that still haunts me is… Trump. The moment he became president still haunts me. Every time he came on screen as president, it made me feel sick. I just remember thinking “how could this possibly have happened”. And the fact that history might repeat itself makes me feel even sicker. I can’t believe that it’s real. 

My favourite New Zealand ad of all time is… Cars, cars, cars, cars, cars! I think Tina from Turners should be on Celebrity Treasure Island. She just seems like an average Kiwi chick who is just so real and comfortable in her own skin. I just love her. 

My television guilty pleasure is… Shortland Street. I’ve just watched it through so many milestones with my kids. I don’t watch it all the time, but you only need to watch it once a week to catch up. I grew up with Chris Warner, and I just find it so good and so bad at the same time. Everybody rolls their eyes at me, so I never watch it in front of anyone. 

My favourite CTI moment of all time was… Probably when I was in that pushing challenge with Matty McLean. It was classic Susan Devoy giving it heaps caught on camera. I spent most of the time moaning about how old I was and that I was pathetic and couldn’t do anything, but then when push came to shove, that challenge showed I’ve still got a bit of that guts and drive left in me. I didn’t watch much of the show back, but I did tune in for that. 

My favourite TV character of all time is… I like Kate Fleming in Line of Duty for being a ballsy cop. Probably that or Spongebob Squarepants. 

The most stylish person on TV is… Hilary Barry. She gets so much flak and she’s not afraid to call people out. She was in the news recently because someone told her she was showing too much skin and she gave it to them. She’s got her own style, and I think she’s a woman who is ageing very elegantly and gracefully. 

My most used streaming platform is… TVNZ+. I’ve watched absolutely everything in the British drama section. We use a bit of Netflix, but we’re just not that great with technology. We’d just lose all our passwords if we had bloody Neon and Apple and Prime and god knows whatever else. We have quite enough to watch between TVNZ and Netflix. 

Get Dame Susan Devoy in there ASAP (Photo: Supplied)

The TV project I wish I had been involved in is… Given my deep seated guilty pleasure, I would like to be on Shortland Street before I die. Or before Shortland Street dies, one or t’other. 

My most watched TV show is… Probably ER. I used to watch that religiously. I’d put the children to bed, watch ER, and then my sister would ring and we’d talk about it. That was my all-time favourite show. And of course that led to Grey’s Anatomy, but when Dr McDreamy left that was it for me. 

My controversial TV opinion is… I think it’s a real shame that Sunday is going. We have so little in-depth longform journalism left on television in New Zealand. Soon, there’s going to be nothing left that digs deep into what is really happening, that challenges our intellect and tells the real stories of New Zealand. 

The show that I will never watch, no matter how many people go on about it, is… Until last week it would have been Married at First Sight, but I’ve started watching it after dinner and now I’m hooked. God, it’s so bad. I’ve got a judgement and an opinion on everyone, and now I’m getting all this MAFS gossip on my phone about what’s going on with these people. It’s absolutely engulfed my life. I think I should be more like Lucinda Light

Dame Suzy D: My Story is available in bookstores now.

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