TelevisionMade possible by

Five things election night TV coverage could learn from Havoc and Newsboy

What could a TV2 election special from 2002 teach modern news producers as they prepare for Saturday night’s big event? Calum Henderson investigates.

Election night has historically been one of the biggest events in live television, second only to the telethon. This year, all the major newsy channels will be working hell for leather, designing 3D graphics and herding in political experts, to make sure 2017 the best election night New Zealand television viewers have ever seen. But in their single-minded quest for greatness, they may have overlooked one key source of inspiration: an election special hosted by Havoc and Newsboy in 2002.

Choice! 2002 aired on the 18th of July, nine days before the July 27th election in which the incumbent prime minister Helen Clark saw off the challenge of National leader Simon ‘Bill’ English. The hour-long show featured highlights like Don Brash talking about his six-cylinder Ford and a speaker of the house Jonathan Hunt about debate chamber etiquette (“Can you say fuck?” “No.” “Shit?” “No.” “What about a browneye?” “What on earth is a browneye…”).

Political leaders were also subject to a 20 question general knowledge quiz (Source: NZ On Screen)

It was an argument for the importance of democracy, pitched at a generation of baggy-jeaned spiky-haired tongue-pierced youths. “If you don’t eat properly you get the flu,” preached Havoc. “If you don’t vote you have to put up with all sorts of shit until the next time you get a chance to. Which is in three years.” It was clearly ahead of its time, and shouldn’t be overlooked by the producers of modern election coverage. Here are just some of things they could learn from Choice! 2002:

Build a state-of-the-art new set

It is likely that all the televised election coverage will take place in the same old sets the news is broadcast from every night, maybe with a new graphics scheme if we’re lucky. While this may be practical, imagine the cut-through an all-new custom-built studio would have. Havoc and Newsboy’s 2002 election special was broadcast from a stainless steel question mark (“the same one used in the Brisbane mardi gras”) atop the neutral electorate of Rangitoto.

The “prefabricated political pavilion / portacom” featured a multi-level set, young people on iMac computers, and a state-of-the-art “360 degree graphics blob” (a bloke holding up a blue sheet).  Look, it’s the bloody election – go big or go home.

Dress for comfort

It could take hours until we know the result of Saturday night’s election. As a studio-based presenter, the last thing you want when you’re four hours into a political nailbiter is a too-tight tie pinching your neck or the frayed bits of your $2000 Armani jeans pulling at your leg hair. It’s best to dress for comfort and let your political analysis do the talking, and in this respect Mikey Havoc may have been onto something with this 2002-era Paul Frank pyjama set.

More Russell Brown supermarket analogies

You’re going to have to call on a lot of political experts over the course of the night, but there’s no rule that says you have to stuff them all into suits and sit them around a desk in the studio. Why not get Russell Brown to reprise his role as Havoc Political Analyst and station him at Point Chev Countdown to explain things in grocery-shopping terms.

“Going to the polls unprepared is like going to the supermarket after smoking marijuana,” he explains in this segment. “You’ll grab the first thing that looks good, but you won’t get what you really need. It’s a delicatessen out there, but [if you’re not careful] you’re going to end up with stuff that sits in the back of the fridge for the next three years.”

Drum and bass

It’s important to keep the energy up as the night wears on and half of your audience begins to slip into a deep depression. Havoc and Newsboy’s election special serves as a timely reminder that there’s no better mood-enhancer than a deep hard and funky blast of drum and bass. Not dubstep, not grime, certainly not house – it’s got to be early-2000s drum and bass or nothing.

Bring out a chainsaw

In case things get so bad even drum and bass can’t save your election coverage, it’s always a good idea to have a Husqvarna on standby. Here a shirtless man is chainsawing a cardboard voting desk in half, but you could chainsaw just about anything. Play it by ear.


This content, like all television coverage we do at The Spinoff, is brought to you thanks to the excellent folk at Lightbox. Do us and yourself a favour by clicking here to start a FREE 30 day trial of this truly wonderful service.

The Spinoff Longform Fund is dedicated to facilitating investigative journalism. Our focus is on supporting in-depth reporting on important New Zealand stories. Your donation will help us sustain this most resource-intensive form of journalism, ensuring that the most complex and important stories still get told.