Duncan Greive finds some sweet reprieve in the shambles of The Crowd Goes Wild, the only seven o’clock show New Zealand can count on right now.
In these times of dread and chaos it’s hard to know what induces more anxiety: being away from a constant supply of breathless reporting, or mainlining it ceaselessly. On Monday, after a weekend in which I was never away from the latest updates on Trump’s blundering descent for more than a few hours, I took a break, and watched the cricket.
It was a truly joyous spectacle, each side possessed of sporting madness and genius, leading to a conclusion gripping enough to temporarily free your mind from the bad thoughts. Marcus Stoinis’ innings was accurately described as an “attempted heist” by Cricinfo, a thing of beauty and terror which mercifully and unfairly ended agonisingly short of victory.
After this eight hour break from the gathering global storm, I wanted to get right back into the eye of it. Who knew what might have been banned, which imbecile might have been added to what committee, how close we had ticked to midnight? It was 7pm, the home of current affairs and analysis ever since Holmes arrived there in 1995, joined by Campbell Live a decade later.
And yet, during this January’s period of societal decay and uncertainty, the likes of which we haven’t seen since the Berlin wall remained upright, only one live 7pm show is currently screening.
The Crowd Goes Wild is back and still doing brilliant things on a tiny budget, when its far richer and more important siblings are on an extended vacation. TVNZ1 is airing Purina Pound Pups to Dog Stars, perhaps the only show which can make The Block Australia (airing on TV3) seem like appointment viewing.
Neither can hold a candle to the Crowd, which came in hot and ecstatic and entirely ill-prepared to broadcast.
Mulligan: “Leading your sports news tonight: the black caps win the cricket!”
Holt: [screams like a wild animal, freshly shot]
Mulligan: “Straya! [mic audibly distorts, something I’ve never heard on a studio show]. Now, we’re going to get to that once our fabulous editing team has turned around the story.”
This kind of rickety, happily shambolic television is now depressingly rare on our screens. Where once Moon TV, Back of the Y and Eating Media Lunch all embraced their outsider backgrounds somewhere near primetime, now it’s just the Crowd Goes Wild, which has roots in the original amateur hour, Sports Café, whose host Ric Salizzo still runs this show. He’s credited as High Commander; other titled staff include Amazing DA (Clare Head) and Producer of Big Ideas (James McOnie).
Being a consistently indifferent-rating sports show on the consistently fourth-placed network (Prime) means that this thing is resourced incredibly poorly: Monday’s episode only had a single correspondent piece, a press conference with the Blues announcing a Super Rugby game in Apia. Nothing of consequence ever happens at those things, so the show has turned embracing their emptiness into a kind of forever game amongst staff. Today we learned that McDonald’s has the best air con on the island, and that (via captions) Michael Jones ‘invented rugby’ and Tana Umaga ‘invented dreadlocks’.
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In between times Mulligan joyously interjected with “Straya!” upwards of 20 times, while his co-host Hayley Holt – likely standing for the Greens this year, which would be a major loss for the show – grinned winningly while cracking good dumb jokes, like the Breakers’ loss being “what happens when someone loses an eye,” a reference to the side’s forward Akil Mitchell’s horrific injury last Thursday (he’s fine now, hence it’s OK to joke).
It’s maybe the cheapest show on New Zealand television, and the lack of money shows. But it retains an unmistakable exuberance that Seven Sharp has never known, and the forthcoming The Project would do well to emulate. And, better than both, it’s on air right now, when we need it.
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