Hard News by Russell Brown


It seems to have escaped some people that NZ Idol isn't a talent quest, it's a TV format. Sure, it's a TV format based on a talent quest, but that's not quite the same thing.

Frank Haden was frothing yesterday about the "cruelty" and "bad taste" of the televised auditions, missing the point in a fairly major way. If NZ Idol were to be run as a proper talent quest it would be dull: a whole bunch of fair-to-middling singers trying dutifully to impress the judges and all sounding roughly like each. This is, after all reality TV: and if drama, pathos, bathos and farce don't emerge in their own right, they have to be constructed - that's what a TV format is.

Sure, it's unfortunate that the "na na na" guy (apparently) feels bad - he's mildly autistic and therefore an innocent soul - but while he has a Sunday News reporter in his ear telling him how bad he feels, is there anyone next to him pointing out that people are talking about him and imitating him and, at least for a little while, he's famous?

It's been amusing to watch the Sunday News - miffed that its exclusive candidate Meryl Cassie failed, with rather poor grace, at the first hurdle - digging out other rejects to mutter darkly about who was the meanest judge of all. But not quite as funny as watching the judges trying to appear hard-assed under instruction. I know two of them, and let's say that they are not exactly dark personalities.

So, yes, I've been watching it. I didn't see the point in devoting any attention at all to American Idol and Australian Idol - why should I care? - but the local version has some interest: it's a new direction for South Pacific Pictures, and Andrew Shaw's first big project since leaving TVNZ. And, even as it wraps itself around the scaffolding of the bought-and-paid-for-for format, it is actually about us.

Other points of interest: a comprehensive but really dull blog about NZ Idol and - as you'll see if you start Googling - an apparently deliberate attempt by someone to link NZ Idol search terms to unrelated webcam porn. It never seems to matter to these scumbags that children will be using those search terms.

But that's it for me when it comes to reality formats. I once watched about 10 minutes of Celebrity Treasure Island, and it was the most uninteresting thing I've ever seen, apart perhaps from the truly sad Going Straight. You people got into television to make this?

I prefer to get my drama from sport - which is, as I once heard T.P. McLean say (I think I first quoted him on it in 1996), "a study of the human being under stress". The Black Caps' first one-dayer against the Proteas on Friday could have done with a re-write. After making about 25 too few runs, the New Zealanders struggled to take even one South African wicket for some time; rather taking the wind out of a good-sized crowd at Eden Park.

Although the Proteas looked just a bit too good throughout, the Black Caps showed the skill and determination to make it hard for their opponents, and had a sniff of a win right up until the last over. I suspect this may be the story of the tour.

The Proteas were impressive. Apart from the obligatory couple of little guys, they are big, highly athletic men. TV tends to even out everyone, but in the flesh, Jacques Kallis is a monster of a man.

Makhaya Ntini is the most compelling player in the side. The most potent of a pretty good pace attack, he is also extraordinary in the field. His bullet-like throw to run out Stephen Fleming was but one of a series of heroic feats. He is, as a black man, well on the way to becoming one of the republic's great players - and that's good for the game and the nation.

The big-little disparity is even more pronounced in the case of the Black Caps, for whom Marshall and Papps look like super-fit hobbits as they dash around the field. It was extremely heartening to see Daniel Vettori bowl with such guile, but McCullum at the wicket is proving a worry. If you can't catch the ball, you can't be the wicketkeeper: simple as that.

Still, it wasn't a bad day at the park. There was the usual palaver buying tickets at the ground ($5 more than advertised), but I've given up on them ever getting that right. Big Gay Paul and I got good seats in the ASB stand, looking down the wicket. They would have been ever better had we not found ourselves sitting directly in front of a dreadful thirtysomething Grammar Bore, who tortured his mates, and everyone in a five-metre radius, with self-regarding anecdotes, ceaseless name-dropping of minor cricket stars and bleeding obvious commentary. It went on for hours. At one point I thought he'd stopped, but he had only gone off to bore someone else for a while. In the wake of TV One's recent corporate video documentary, Grammar Boys, I am forced to conclude that sending boys out into the world with a raging sense of entitlement is not necessarily a good idea.

PS: Alex Spence had a feature story about blogging in the SST yesterday. I'm quoted as is Gordy (apology: I attributed a post about Parliamentary filth by OtherPundit to Gordon last week) and NorightTurn and others. (BTW, nice post by NoRightTurn on the Brash business. And happy first birthday.)

PPS: Remember, friends make friends take David Slack's Treaty Pop Quiz.