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RecapsDecember 16, 2014

2014 in Review: The Paul Henry Show Hits Bottom, and Likes It There

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Duncan Greive looks back at the bizarrely entertaining shambles that was Jesse Peach’s live cross from APRA Silver Scrolls on the Paul Henry Show. //

In late October songwriting organisation APRA held their annual Silver Scrolls ceremony at the TSB Arena in Wellington. The Silver Scrolls are like VNZMAs for grown-ups. They recognise craft and are chosen by musicians, rather than general industry bros. It’s a nice night, but more to attend than to watch, unless you’re a proper nerdy music fan.

The Paul Henry Show sent Jesse Peach down to cover the show, and seemed to quickly realise that it lacked for starpower and staging. That alone is barely of consequence, but somehow events conspired to create the most bonkers live cross of the year, an epic, slovenly clusterfuck of poor planning and worse execution.

The throw starts innocuously enough, with PH throwing a couple of jabs, at Wellington (for dressing badly), and the event itself (for not mattering). It’s all very on-brand, but foreshadows a general ‘who even gives a shit?’-vibe which never once lets up.

Peach starts off by pointing out the One News crew filming alongside him. This must occur at almost every event in this cute lil country, because we don’t make all that much news and therefore the networks often cover the same happenings. For some reason it sets Peach and Henry off on an odyssey of hijnking, each egging the other on into a series of sophomoric pranks.

They ask for the neighbouring reporter’s advice –”plan better,” she says, perfectly – before sticking a mic in her shot. Peach then proudly admits to knowing almost nothing about the awards. And that’s just the first minute.

It quickly descends into a shambolic piece of meta-reporting, unintentionally revealing the dark truth that sometimes no one involved in a piece of television is remotely invested in the outcome. We see as much as the back of Jesse Peach’s head as we do of Scroll winner Tami Neilson, and Henry has no interest in disguising his bemusement at the chain of production errors that must have ensued to get the great Paul Henry Show at such a fusty event.

The only time he gets excited is when he sees a brunette at a lectern. “Lorde’s on stage!” he snaps, with an edge in his voice, suddenly caring. False alarm, it turns out. It was the boring old award winner Neilson. Which at least gives Henry the opportunity to call someone fat, as he’s contractually obligated to do at least once per segment.

They try to carry the audio of Neilson’s speech, but swiftly tire (“that’s not English”) and settle for interviewing the One News reporter. This lasts about 20 seconds, before they realise they’ve wandered into someone else’s feed. “This is terrible television,” Henry says, shocked at what they’re transmitting. And it was.

But it was also strangely magical, a group of people having a grand old time, disregarding the audience and any notion of professional standards, or what proper TV was supposed to look like. It’s really something.

Paul Henry somehow carries it off. He finds himself so extraordinarily amusing that it’s difficult to avoid being swept along with him – so even when you’re unavoidably aware that he is being a terrible person, he’s near-impossible to entirely dislike.

This strange little episode was an extreme example of what The Paul Henry Show provided every night – an intimacy and disregard for formality that made it a far more entertaining show, night in, night out, than it had any right to be.

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