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Mark Richardson’s life in TV (Image: Tina Tiller)
Mark Richardson’s life in TV (Image: Tina Tiller)

Pop CultureFebruary 24, 2024

‘She’s fantastic in my eyes’: Mark Richardson’s surprising TV crush

Mark Richardson’s life in TV (Image: Tina Tiller)
Mark Richardson’s life in TV (Image: Tina Tiller)

The sometimes controversial broadcaster and cricket commentator takes us on a colourful journey through his life in television, including his love of talent shows and that Jacinda Ardern moment. 

Not so long ago, you could turn on the TV and watch four-and-a-half hours of Mark Richardson. You’d find the former cricketer and cramp sufferer at the AM Show desk as the sun rose, sharing the latest in sport news and going head to head with the likes of Jacinda Ardern. As the sun set, he’d return to living rooms once more as the regular fourth chair on The Project NZ, before bellowing from scaffolding as the host of The Block NZ

He’s also known for over a decade of outbursts on The Crowd Goes Wild, working the airwaves on his daytime stint with Leah Panapa on Today FM, as well as popping up on Radio Sport and The Sounds. Most recently Richardson has been one of the commentary team for TVNZ’s summer of cricket which he describes as a “massive honour” to be a part of. “Cricket is in my soul, so to be able to commentate on it is a lot of fun,” he says. 

Mark Richardson and the TVNZ commentary team (Photo: Supplied)

When he’s not commentating, Richardson can be found working as an investment advisor with Forsyth Barr, a career which he reckons is “less precarious” than television. “It’s a lot less likely that someone’s going to go, ‘hey, look, we’re just making a change and you’re out on your arse’”, he tells The Spinoff. “I love it – apart from the fact that I do a lot of exams.” With that said, he’s got one more very important exam to finish: this one about his life in television. 

My earliest TV memory is… Being on Telethon. We went to the studio in Hastings and you got to watch a little bit of the filming as you went through the public viewing area. I put a $1 note into the bucket and all of a sudden there was some famous person there – I’ve forgotten his name – and I was on TV and he was asking me questions. I think I completely froze. That’s my first ever memory not just of telly, but of being on the telly. I would have been five or six. 

My earliest TV crush was… To this day, I still have a soft spot for The Briscoes Lady. She’s fantastic in my eyes. I play golf with Rod Duke who owns Briscoes, and he just said that she’s been fantastic because she has this ability to resonate with everyone. She’s just got a likeability about her. She’s very quintessentially New Zealand, you know? 

My favourite TV project that I’ve been involved with is… The Block NZ. It came along at a time in my life when I needed something like that, and it was a great opportunity. It took me from sport into mainstream television, which was a really important step to make. It’s such a cool concept, and I just love being part of the whole housing development and watching this beast unfold. 

There were some hard times on auction nights and throughout the show, because the contestants are put under a lot of stress and pressure. But it’s amazing when someone wins a life changing amount of money, and you’re right there with them. Equally, there’s the low of when it hasn’t gone well and you know how much work they’ve put into it. It’s just a great beast to be involved in. 

Mark Richardson yells from a portaloo on The Block NZ (Screengrab: Three)

My TV guilty pleasure is… The Chase. I get home about 5.30pm and I make sure I catch the end of The Chase, normally with a bowl of chips and a beer. It really is appointment viewing. It’s my little telly time before dinner. I also love talent contests, like The Voice, X Factor. I’ve got to avoid them, because once I start on a talent show, it’s all over. I’m hooked for the whole series. 

I love the jeopardy of not doing well. It’s life-changing stuff. I think it is quite genuine, the nerves and the anxiety. You’re watching The Voice blind auditions, and you’re like “Turn! Turn!” When they don’t, you feel that sadness with them, or the elation when the chair turns. Talent shows are a guilty pleasure, to the point where I have to avoid them or I watch too much telly.  

My most memorable TV moment is… It’s a strange one, because it’s probably a very controversial moment. It’s when Jacinda Ardern came in and had a pop at me on The AM Show. I didn’t go out to do that on purpose. I didn’t go out to say something outrageous and controversial for the sake of a “hot take” and to get some coverage. It just happened. I’d say the fallout wasn’t particularly pleasant, but I was a strong enough person to be able to handle it. It did a lot for my brand as a television personality and what I was trying to achieve, which was to go well beyond being the sports reader former jock who’s the bit of TV fluff on The Block. 

The moment Jacinda Ardern called out Mark Richardson (Screengrab: Three)

I think the production team in the control room panicked and freaked out, and tried to get Duncan [Garner] to take it back. Then the red light went off the camera, it was an ad break and she [Ardern] just stood up and just went “good debate, see you next week”. I knew at that point in time that this thing was gonna go around the tracks. I was quite shaky after it, there was a big adrenaline rush. She wasn’t the PM but she was a very significant person on the way up and I thought “right, here I am, I’m playing with the big boys now.”

My favourite sporting moment on TV is…  Without a doubt, the cricket world cup final, New Zealand versus England. Possibly the greatest game of cricket ever played. Unfortunately, I got right up to the last ball and then we had to go to air for The AM Show, which I thought was a mistake. We should have just stuck with it, but I was getting reports from the producer about what was happening in the super over. I went back and watched the two super overs at home later that day – it was getting me then, even though I knew the result. 

The TV moment that haunts me is… On The Cricket Show we’d rewrite the lyrics to a song and then perform them. I can’t sing, I can’t dance, I don’t have any theatrical ability, and there was one that was so bad that it just wasn’t funny. I was dressed up as a rock star and we changed the words to The Who’s ‘Pinball Wizard’ and made it ‘Swingball Wizard’ after Chris Martin, a swing bowler for New Zealand. I had to sing, and it was rubbish: flat, awful, pitchy, disgusting. I was in high platform boots, a silver suit, chest showing, and I couldn’t move. I couldn’t even lip sync to my own song that I’d written and recorded. It was just abysmal. Luckily, it’s never made its way into digital media, but I still think about it to this day.

The TV show that defined my lockdown was… The Young Ones. I had to isolate a couple of times out in my pool house, which is probably the best room in the house. It had the best telly, the best sofa and a bar, you couldn’t ask for anything better. So I watched a lot of reruns of The Young Ones, and Sky was also playing some old 1980s cricket from when I was a kid. I watched a lot of that as well. Otherwise most of the time, I chipped a golf ball around the property, just sort of pondering. I found it a bit like being that old polar bear at the Auckland Zoo, just pacing around his enclosure, jumping into the water. 

Mark and his tiny chair
Mark conducting The Block auctions while in lockdown. (Screengrab: Three)

The TV show I wish I was involved in is… New Zealand’s Got Talent. I’d be the mean judge, without a doubt. I always thought with New Zealand’s Got Talent, why do you need to be a former singing producer? Let’s face it, this is about talented New Zealanders, and we can all identify talent. I’ve also always wanted to present the weather. I did a commercial pilot’s licence, and, as part of that, you learned about the weather. I found it fascinating. 

My most controversial TV opinion is… The news is way too long. I don’t think you need an hour of news. So much of it is fluff. If you don’t have to provide so much content, you can do a better job with the important stuff. So I would definitely shorten up the news. 

The TV show I’ll never watch, no matter how many people tell me I should is… A lot of those cult things like Game of Thrones, I sort of missed the boat. Now it’s like, nah, not going to do it. No one talks about it now, so why should I do it? Because then I’ll only want to have conversations about it and people will say, that’s so 2019. 

The last thing I watched on TV was… Ocean’s 12 on TVNZ+. It takes me three nights to watch a movie. Once the kids are doing their thing and I’ve had dinner, then maybe I start watching at 8.30pm. It takes me an hour to watch 40 minutes because every time someone comes in, I pause, because I want to be able to concentrate on the show. That really annoys my wife, because she thinks I’m pausing as if to go “ugh, could you get out”, but I’m pausing so I can actually give her my attention. So generally it takes me three nights. Ocean’s 12 was really good, actually. I quite enjoyed it. 

Mark Richardson is part of TVNZ’s cricket commentary team. Full details of TVNZ’s cricket coverage can be found here

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