The Project and Seven Sharp returned last night - but how do they fare in 2019?

Which returning 7pm news show made a stronger start to 2019?

The Project and Seven Sharp screened their first episodes of the year last night – so how did they fare upon their return? 7pm newcomer Sam Brooks watched them both.

I’ve never watched a 7pm show that isn’t Shortland Street. It’s not a television hour for me; usually I’m playing video games, catching up on a non-news related TV show or pretending to want to write.

However! In 2019 I am moving securely out of my mid-20s into my late 20s, thanks to the slow march of time. That means I’m squarely in the demographic of people who have nothing better to do at 7pm, so why not start watching Seven Sharp and The Project?

Here’s my verdict on both our 7pm current affairs shows, as someone who has never before watched either.

Jesse Mulligan and Kanoa Lloyd, projecting.

The Project

Here is where I have to disclose that I have, on occasion, tuned into The Project. When there’s been a friend on it, like our own former business editor Rebecca Stevenson, I will watch and cheer them on, so I’m not entirely ignorant about The Project‘s meal of vital protein (Kanoa Lloyd), wholesome carbs (Jesse Mulligan) and obligatory vegetables (Jeremy Corbett). I’ve liked it well enough without ever wanting to sit down every night and watch.

From the get go, The Project 2019 comes out with all guns blazing: Fish Murderer Clarke Gayford is the first guest. As Big Freedia says at the start of ‘Formation’, “I did not come to play with you hos.” The presence of our First Parliamentary Man means, at the very least, a few guaranteed eyeballs belonging to the sort of people who want to know anything and everything about Jacinda.

The First Parliamentary Man and Fish Murderer, Clarke Gayford.

Of course there’s the obligatory Jacinda Ardern questions, which involves a lovely screenshot of her schedule (she has a meeting at 4.20 with David Attenborough, which deserves a shaka in itself) and the similarly obligatory capper from Jeremy Corbett, “She must come home crabby!”

That Jeremy Corbett, consistently meeting expectations.


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Where The Project genuinely piques my interest is when Kanoa Lloyd gives an emotional response to seeing Scott Kuggeleijn playing cricket the previous week. It does neither Lloyd nor The Project any service by attempting to sum up what she’s saying here, so I entreat you to go and watch that part of the episode here (her monologue starts around 3:00).

Lloyd touches upon ideas that make me nod my head, and will hopefully make others squint in concentrated thought at their screen. Yes, sport is like a religion! Yes, sports players and organisations do have a responsibility to their communities, because they are often viewed as heroes!

Even better, Lloyd ends with a call to action: They’ve invited NZ Cricket onto the show to discuss the Scott Kuggeleijn issue. In response, NZ Cricket has issued a statement, screenshotted below:

It’s a great segment, but these first few minutes work even better as a statement of purpose and declaration of identity for the show: We’re the show that gets Clarke Gayford, we’re the show that isn’t afraid to comment on controversial news stories, and we’re the show that isn’t afraid to get personal and impassioned when it’s required.

The rest of the show plays out pretty much like what I expect from a standard episode of The Project. An interview with Gareth Jacobs, currently playing the Genie in Aladdin, passes by very quickly, which is how things go when you’ve got three interviewers and one interviewee. A feel-good story about a little kid throwing shade at Clarke Gayford and his fish passes by with the requisite amount of hearts softening (and after last night’s Newshub debacle, some heart softening was required). We learn that Kanoa Lloyd is ageless, thanks to her Ten Year Challenge:

Kanoa Lloyd, ageless.

The episode rounds out with an interview with British TV journalist Michael Mosley. He’s talking about dieting, which is fairly uninteresting to me – until he very casually drops the trivia that ‘Kellogg’s Corn Flakes were invented to stop the youth of America from masturbating.’

Charming, personable presenters. Good guests. Hard-hitting content, when required. Heartwarming content, when required. Masturbation trivia.

You’re off to a good start, The Project.

Hilary Barry and Jeremy Wells, sharping.

Seven Sharp

When I watched this show at my desk this morning (because, despite what I said in my opening, I did actually have plans at 7pm last night, so this entire ‘act like an adult in 2019’ endeavour may be futile), I loudly exclaimed to the room, “Is Seven Sharp really like this?”

I love Hilary Barry. She has a lot of room in my heart, space in my brain, and a corner of my soul. She’s exactly the kind of person you would want delivering any kind of information to you, whether it’s that you just won the Lotto or you just got diagnosed with cancer. She makes information digestible, she makes it human, she makes it relevant. There’s a reason why she’s a living legend.

I am fairly unfamiliar with Jeremy Wells. Seems like a nice guy! Seems like a good foil for Hilary Barry, with an offbeat sense of humour that resembles David Farrier if Farrier hadn’t slept very well the previous night.

The cast of Wellington Paranormal.

Barry and Wells have a fascinating chemistry. At times, it resembles the relationship between your aunt and uncle who the entire family knows would get divorced but they have to stay together because it’s too much work to sell the house, and what would the kids do, you know? It’s easier just to sleep in separate beds and treat each other like flatmates.

At other times, the dynamic really works. There’s a light, gentle banter between them that goes down well with your dinner and first glass of wine. But it’d work better if they were doing a straighter news show with a funny edge.

Which is… not Seven Sharp. I don’t know quite what Seven Sharp is aiming at with its segments, which at time tip into sketch-comedy humour that even the likes of Jono and Ben would label as being a bit too broad. The second segment, with the cast of Wellington Paranormal running through the news of the past month – the change in Roses’ flavours, the stolen gnome, the travelling family – is especially guilty of this. It’s not relevant enough to the current moment to be news, and not funny or tight enough to be good comedy.

Hilary Barry, sparking pure joy.

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A later sketch/segment, and it’s hard to tell the difference between the two sometimes, fares better. In it, Hilary Barry sets herself up as the Marie Kondo to a co-worker, Michael, whose desk is covered in a comical amount of notebooks, dictionaries and thesauri. I would happily watch half an hour of Hilary Barry asking people if what they have on their desk brings them joy, and encourage TVNZ to look into this as a spinoff.

By the time Seven Sharp ends, it feels like a bit of a blur – there’s been a quick segment on Chinese gardens, and an interview with our best professional female surfer, Paige Hareb, both of which are nice, slice of life stories. I’m not quite sure what I’ve learned or really what I’ve watched – is it news? is it magazine? is it sketch? – but I don’t quite regret the experience. It’s like sitting down for dinner with an old friend. You catch up, you ask all the questions, but you end up wondering if maybe it’s time for this particular friendship to end.

Maybe it’s time for Seven Sharp to admit it has run its course. Split the cheque, say your goodbyes, and end things with a warm hug. Nobody did anything wrong, it’s just time.

You can watch The Project at 7PM on TV3 and Seven Sharp at 7PM on TVNZ1.


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