Last night TVNZ2 premiered their own panel show, where comedians riff on news from around the country and the world. Sound familiar? Alex Casey reviews.
I could only find one moment when Have You Been Paying Attention NZ took a breath last night. Guest quizmaster Ben Barrington, appearing for a special Shortland Street-themed round, was answering a question from host Hayley Sproull about his favourite day at work. He launched into a monologue about the mayhem of his very first day on set, being star struck by Chris Warner and then the surreality of watching it all on TV weeks later.
I say monologue, it was probably about two or three sentences – but it felt like War and Peace compared to the quips that had whizzed around the studio up until that point. Sensing the sag, Urzila Carlson hit her contestant buzzer, cutting Barrington off mid sentence. “Are we doing a whole episode now?” she asked, getting a huge laugh from the studio, and a relieved croak-chortle from this frog sitting at home.
To borrow a phrase from The Bachelor NZ‘s Jordan Mauger, Have You Been Paying Attention NZ did not come here to fuck spiders. Ploughing through rounds of news-based questions delivered at breakneck speed by Sproull to a keen panel of comedians, the energy stayed roughly as wired as Pax Assadi’s kid after eating a whole bag of gummy bears, her wide-eyed photograph shared in a sort of show and tell situation that opened the show.
For an internet goblin who will pull out my phone at any lull in a TV show, movie, conversation, wedding or funeral, HYBPA worked hard to keep my focus. Hayley Sproull, already fronting the exceptionally good Golden Boy on Three, is invaluable as razor sharp host. “We would have accepted equal pay, but that’s cute” she sneered of the Support Women’s Sport Basin Reserve rename, later guessing that the Ranfurly Shield’s first female referee must be due to pay cuts.
While those jokes sliced deep, Sproull similarly wasn’t afraid to play the fool. “C’mon Trump, call him by his full name: As Soon As Possible Rocky.”
Mixing panel stalwarts Urzila Carlson and Vaughan Smith with the more unruly likes of Brynley Stent, Tom Sainsbury and Pax Assadi made for a few golden moments. Stent feigned naivety at a sped up clip, noting earnestly that the camera man must have been running very fast. Assadi answered “what was Steve Hansen so happy about?” with a glassy-eyed “… rug…by?”. When pushed for more information, he offered “rug…by… ball?”
It feels like a bonus that HYBPA can afford to properly introduce the comedians, whether through sharing funny photos (not as lame as it sounds) or repeatedly roasting them for playing a slice of beetroot (not as funny as it sounds). It warmed up the show before the panel hit the ground running, and built up some goodwill for the fantastically stupid individual quiz round “Tour De France cyclist or Number One Shoe Warehouse Shoe” (Sfida Holly will surprise you).
That said, the main bulk of the rounds, spanning world news, showbiz and sport, happened in a blur. An advantage to the speed was that dud jokes were gone before you’ve even had time to realise they were duds. Sadly, that also meant that the best moments weren’t always allowed the time to breathe. One of the more recent strengths of 7 Days has been its willingness to follow the likes of Dai Henwood when they barge off script, off format and sometimes even out of the studio.
Of course, 7 Days has made hundreds of episodes and HYBPA has made one, so I will make like Ben Barrington and shut the hell up for now. I’m just excited to see all the ways the comedians will inevitably break through the rigid format, something there were glimmers of in episode one – if you didn’t make the mistake of blinking.
Join The Spinoff Members for as little as $1 to help us hire more journalists and do more investigations. Or get a free Toby Morris-designed tea towel when you contribute $80 or more over a year.
The Spinoff Weekly compiles the best stories of the week – an essential guide to modern life in New Zealand, emailed out on Monday evenings.