The best, the worst and the weirdest of last night’s election TV coverage

Tara Ward recaps the highs and lows of last night’s free-to-air television election coverage. 

 “Thank God it’s over,” John Campbell declared in the opening moments of 1 News’ election broadcast, but really, we’d only just begun. John and Hilary Barry were in charge of the catchy ‘1 News Your Vote 2020 Election Night Special’, and Hilary needed to set something straight before any results arrived. Tonight was about the general election, she told us, not the referendums. “Jazz cabbage is not on tonight’s agenda,” Hilary reminded us, just in case we were hoping to up our 5+ a day. Simon Dallow was ready to show off his augmented reality graphic of the Beehive, but failed to conjure up some AR jazz cabbage. Not angry, Simon, just disappointed. 

The first preliminary result arrived quicker than David Seymour in a speed boat, giving Labour 50.5% of the party vote. There were gasps from the 1 News team, though maybe they were still mulling over Wendy Petrie’s cliffhanger about Jacinda Ardern’s cheese scones. It was Saturday night live starring jazz cabbage and cheese scones, and John had peaked.  “Is it too early to call it and go home?” he asked. It was 7.09pm.

The mood was more serious on Newshub, as Duncan Garner and Tova O’Brien chewed the political fat with Linda Clark and Paul Henry, while over on Māori Television, David Jones discussed election night nerves with Georgina Beyer and Claudette Hauiti. Everyone was ready to ask the big questions.  “Is Judith Collins toast?” they wondered on Three. “Has Mark Mitchell been abducted by aliens?” John Campbell mused. “What’s Neve up to?” Wendy Petrie asked Clarke Gayford, who was standing outside his house holding a platter of venison balls and snapper bites.

Wendy and Kanoa Lloyd were all over Clarke’s impromptu buffet of balls and banter. “Grab a plate and get stuck in,” Clarke told them, before Newshub cut to poor old Jesse Mulligan, trapped in a roadworks apocalypse somewhere behind SkyCity Grand Hotel, waiting for Judith Collins to arrive. National usually love a road, but this one sucked. Later, we saw Mulligan standing alone in the dark, with only Collins’ autobiography for company. It was one heck of a mood.

Reporters from each channel took us on a journey from north to south, crossing live to election parties and Kelvin Davis poetry recitals. After an hour of results, John Campbell wondered if the Labour Party was so excited they might start swapping keys, while someone at Newshub suggested they play a round of “Name That Act MP”. “No one can,” Linda Clark said. “Not even David Seymour,” Paul Henry added. Oh, how we laughed.

Seymour had the last laugh, though, as he sailed into election night on his speed boat of dreams. He was floating on air, a slippery sea nymph surfing a rabid wave of popularity. He crossed live to Newshub, where Tova asked him to name some of his MPs. “You’re very funny Tova, but I’ll make the jokes,” Seymour said. “Take it away,” Tova replied. “Sorry?” David said, as his sound dropped out and the opportunity for unprecedented mirth and merriment was lost forever.

When the swing to the left became evident, Newhub’s Patrick Gower released the beast within. Results were coming in thick and fast and hard and early, and Paddy was navel deep in a political bloodbath. “It’s blue murder on National’s dance floor!” he cried. “Collins has been crushed! Labour is creaming it!” National’s Chris Bishop closed his eyes and pretended none of this was happening, while on TVNZ, panelist Nikki Kaye became more and more miserable, forcing Hilary Barry to lighten the mood with another classic jazz cabbage reference.

“It’s an enema that’s gone through the caucus,” former National MP Chris Finlayson said of his party’s performance, but Paddy was hitting his second wind. He could barely contain himself when the Waiariki result kept changing before his eyes. “I wanna get tight! I want to do some things!” he shouted. “The geyser went KABOOM! I can’t turn my back! Whoa!”

“Would you like a gummy bear?” John Campbell asked sad Nikki Kaye. “They’re good lollies, eh.”

It was nearly over. Winston thanked his voters and the Greens co-leaders arrived, jubilant over Chlöe Swarbrick’s Auckland Central win. “It’s like a One Direction concert up there,” Guy ‘the poor man’s Clarke Gayford’ Williams told Samantha Hayes.  By 9.14pm, Paddy was ready to call it. “I’m going out on a limb!” he yelled. “Labour has won!” Judith made it through the road cones to concede, and just after ten o’clock, the prime minister arrived to address the nation. Who knows what Jacinda said? I was too busy staring at her security officer’s magnificent moustache. Two ticks for that sluggy masterpiece.

By midnight, the wheels were officially coming off. Newshub stayed on task until the bitter end, but 1 News was more Telethon than election night. “Who’d have thought, ten years ago, you and I would be here doing the election?” Hilary told John, before offering up more lollies and Girl Guide biscuits from her snack bag. Simon garbled something about a She-Wee, Hilary desperately dinged a bell to shut John up, and John flipped Hilary the bird. “It’s over,” Hilary said, sighing a heavy sigh that we all felt deep in our weary souls. “Nigh-night, see you at the bar.”  



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