Back Benches was a brilliant show. A lovely amateur air that never became awkward thanks to the unflappable humour of Wallace Chapman and Damian Christie. I never got along in person but it was a great watch. And it was clear that it was the audience that made it. They brought a vibrancy and a direct interaction for the politicians that no other show has.
It’s a sad world where the self-indulgent wankery of Media 7 gets to live on where a show that actually provided a public service as well as being good entertainment gets canned.
The last show was classic Back Benches. A massive crowd packed in to the new pub with the Backbencher closed by fire. Peter Dunne was greeted with a minute of massive boo-ing – the man must have stab-proof hair to face that kind of overwhelming criticism and not realise that some serious self-reflection is in order. Wallace naturally tried to control the boo-ing, but what can you do? The audience spoke. The other four MPs all got applause, including the Nat – only Dunne has acted in such a way as to prompt a polite, middle-class Kiwi audience to boo.
The debate was good and feisty. Turei, Harawira, and Ardern had some great lines, although Harawira needs to get that gay marriage policy sorted – the Overton window has moved.
There was a great moment when Wallace called Ardern the Labour leader – having the previous week attributed David Shearer’s New Zealander of the Year award to David Parker!
Dunne tried to bore you to death, while Burrows was his usual nutty self – he denied that there are 200,000 children in poverty! Then he told us how lucky we are to have National because government debt is low by international standards before turning around and saying that asset sales are needed to control government debt. Burrows is great because he tries to run the government lines but does it so badly that he reveals to everyone that they are lines. He did everything but drop his cue cards!
An MP can get away with running lines in an interview with a journo who’s only half-awake and doesn’t know the facts but in front of an audience of half-soozled political watchers, it just doesn’t fly – the moment a stock line starts to come out, the boos start. Good MPs learn; Nats don’t.
And, then, the fire alarm went off and they had to evacuate. But in that great, by their bootstraps, way, they kept on filming and interviewing the MPs out on the footpath. Hilarious.
The show ended with some heart-warming statements and some hypocritical crocodile tears from Dunne who said it was a tragedy to see TVNZ7, even though – as Ardern pointed out – as Minister of Revenue, Dunne was the only one in a position to make a difference. I think it’s great that the last show didn’t opt for soppiness, that the arguments were still there, and the audience told the MPs exactly what they thought of what they said.
Let’s hope we’ll be saying Back Benches again before too long.
(PS. I love Farrar whining about the audience in his post on the last show: ‘there should be two National MPs – lolz, ho quickly he’s forgotten that National had a policy of not putting MPs on the show in the 2008 campaign; ‘the audience has become too partisan’ – people with political opinions taking an evening out to attend a political TV show, who would have guessed?; ‘they shouldn’t have booed Dunne’ – yes, they should have, if no-one else provoked that response even from audience members on the other side of the spectrum, then the problem is with Dunne. But, then, of course Farrar hates the audience, he would prefer to pontificate and only listen to the sound of his own voice. That’s the liberal elite for you. Maybe Russell Brown will have him on the new Media 7 … I’ll never know because, like everyone else, I won’t be watching.)