Seven Sharp's Jeremy Wells needs to take the gloves off

by Diana Wichtel / 11 February, 2018
RelatedArticlesModule - Jeremy Wells Seven Sharp

Seven Sharp co-hosts Hilary Barry and Jeremy Wells. Photo/TVNZ

New Seven Sharp co-host Jeremy Wells once said, "If you don’t look brave, you look particularly lame.”

Jeremy Wells on Seven Sharp: good idea or the fulfilment of some ancient prophecy heralding the end of times? When the over-optimistically named Seven Sharp replaced Close Up in 2013, it seemed to be aiming for a local version of jokey Australian news-panel show The Project. Heather Du Plessis-Allan visited then-Prime Minister John Key’s office for a tour of his toilet. It was the sort of pointless trainwreckery Mikey Havoc and Jeremy “Newsboy” Wells excelled in as semi-feral youth-television guerrillas. It didn’t work for Seven Sharp. Hosts changed like deckchairs on the Titanic.

Then came the Hosking years, from which some relief was provided by Wells’s “Like Mike” Radio Hauraki impressions, so preternaturally pitch-perfect in their epic smugness as to force you to seriously consider the possibility of demonic possession.

Now, Three is making an excellent fist of The Project. Seven Sharp has pinned its hopes on replacing Hosking and Toni Street with Hilary Barry and Hosking-impersonator Wells. Back in 2004, when he was the poker-faced presenter of Eating Media Lunch’s mentally scarring provocations – the Target take-off, heroically ill-advised porno spoof Anal ManaI interviewed Wells. He may have been serious when he said, presciently as it turns out, that the inspiration for his Newsboy persona was … Mike Hosking. Even in a world where television eats itself like so much media lunch, it does your head in.

It may be doing Wells’s head in, too. Barry is incapable of sounding nervous, except in the presence of Oprah. “The truth is you might get [Extreme Cake Makers] back on the schedule if we don’t rate as highly as they did,” she promised brightly on the first night. Good joke. It was downhill from there. Wells seemed to be having vocal problems. A cold? First-night wobbles? He looked as if he wasn’t quite in the room; more ghost than host.

It is hard to tell how the chemistry will go, such was the cracking pace the show set. Reporter Lucas de Jong did a sort of infomercial for an extreme-climbing company. Well, we know better than to expect current affairs. There was an item about women who are trying to introduce free school lunches. Good idea? No follow-up analysis to speak of. Best item by far: Anika Moa hilariously fan-girling Céline Dion while auditioning to open for her when she comes to New Zealand. Wells allowed himself some irony, going for a record number of uses of the word “songstress”. It remains to be seen if irony works in TVNZ 1’s stiff, ritualised news culture.

The show’s format is a shocker: two hosts cling forlornly to each other in an unwelcoming, inexplicably pink digital space. No in-studio interviews to warm up the dynamic. Why on Earth don’t they bring Moa in? She’s fearless.

The second night, reporter Maiki Sherman did a personal report from Waitangi for Seven Sharp. Over on The Project, Kanoa Lloyd did the same. Both items were highlights for their chutzpah and heart. Sherman’s piece included a little in-joke embedded in a dig at negativity in the media about our national day. In the collage of headlines was, “Mike Hosking: Why do we bother with Waitangi?”

Seven Sharp needs more of that boldness; some of the laughs and, when required, the tears you get on the opposition. At its best, Campbell Live managed heart, humour and analysis. So, on a good night, does The Project.

Barry and Wells are smart, talented, charismatic broadcasters. They should go for it. In that 2004 interview, Wells laid it out: “When the camera’s rolling, it gives you some kind of strange courage. If you don’t look brave, you look particularly lame,” he said. “It’s all or nothing.”

Seven Sharp, TVNZ 1, weeknights, 7.00pm. The Project, Three, weeknights, 7.00pm.

This article was first published in the February 17, 2018 issue of the New Zealand Listener.

MostReadArticlesCollectionWidget - Most Read - Used in articles
AdvertModule - Advert - M-Rec / Halfpage


How to lose weight without a diet
87141 2018-02-25 00:00:00Z Nutrition

How to lose weight without a diet

by Jennifer Bowden

"The irony is the intentional pursuit of weight loss – dieting, in other words – is actually a predictor of future weight gain."

Read more
Baby boomers are rethinking retirement for a later-life reboot
87313 2018-02-24 00:00:00Z Social issues

Baby boomers are rethinking retirement for a later…

by Sally Blundell

The biggest cohort of baby boomers is reaching retirement age – and many are not planning a quiet dotage.

Read more
School shootings and Russian indictments
87455 2018-02-24 00:00:00Z World

School shootings and Russian indictments

by Joanne Black

Slaughter in a school and Russian social-media mischief: the US is under siege.

Read more
Beck to go back to basics at Auckland City Limits
87417 2018-02-24 00:00:00Z Profiles

Beck to go back to basics at Auckland City Limits

by James Belfield

Before headlining Auckland City Limits, Beck talks about celebrating his musical past on stage and on record.

Read more
Islands of the Gulf: How the Hauraki has changed
87427 2018-02-24 00:00:00Z Television

Islands of the Gulf: How the Hauraki has changed

by Fiona Rae

A broadcaster revisits her mother’s iconic Islands of the Gulf TV series to see what’s changed since the 60s.

Read more
Hokianga's Wild West fest's unusual way of fundraising
86388 2018-02-24 00:00:00Z Life in NZ

Hokianga's Wild West fest's unusual way of fundrai…

by Peter De Graaf

Once a year, the Wild West saddles up and rides into Waimamaku for a day of highway robbery.

Read more
Back on track: $60m to go into regional rail
87519 2018-02-23 14:43:30Z Economy

Back on track: $60m to go into regional rail

by Jane Patterson

Five regions will receive just over $60 million for rebooting rail in the first chunk of money from the Provincial Growth Fund.

Read more
Ricky Houghton is about finding innovative solutions to the issues facing Māori
87510 2018-02-23 14:21:31Z Profiles

Ricky Houghton is about finding innovative solutio…

by Clare de Lore

No government on their own can fix the problems facing Māori in the Far North, warns Local Hero of the Year Ricky Houghton.

Read more