Season's Gratings

by Olivia Kember / 25 December, 2004

While the howling winds of debate scour the globe, sweeping people out onto the street with placards in hand, and stirring bills, ballots and submissions into paper tempests, Jeremy Wells is unmoved. "Year of the argument?" he says. "Every year's the year of the argument, isn't it?" Certainly it was last year when Eating Media Lunch appeared, trailing tantrums and Broadcasting Standards Authority (BSA) complaints in the wake of Wells, with his smooth, straight face. But maybe he's in the eye of the storm. For, in a year of big issues - where are the weapons? Which bit's the foreshore? Who cares about Paul Holmes? - it was the little ones that got viewers really rabid. Who would have thought that the routine killing of a sheep could upset people so much? (Though who would have thought that Judy Bailey saying "kia ora" would cause a furore?) But Mrs Hull-Brown spoke for, well, dozens, when she complained to the BSA, "We were horrified while watching Eating Media Lunch ... to see the sheep, and especially Shrek, graphically killed."

A Super Size Me spoof that saw Jeremy eating nothing but kebabs for a month, reading the Koran and beheading a cat prompted Ibrahim Ikram to ask of TVNZ, "What in the world do you people think you are doing?" Despite noting that only "nazis and religiously intolerant people" would be amused, he failed to persuade the BSA. No decision has yet been published on Anal Mana, the Eating Media Lunch fake Maori porn flick. "We just explored why it seems strange to make a porn in Maori," says Wells. "But one [complainant] was an elderly woman who was living with her boarder. And she went out to prepare supper, and came back, and there was an interracial f---fest going on on the television, which deeply disturbed her and her boarder ... obviously, if she'd been watching it by herself it wouldn't have been so bad, but unfortunately she had to watch it in front of someone else. Which I understand can be embarrassing, because I don't enjoy watching sex with my parents." It's an oddly reasonable attitude for a stirrer, even one whose inappropriate questions are almost concealed by his soothing good manners. "You don't see the patsy questions I have to ask first. There's a lot of that that we just edit out."

Besides, he hastens to add, "It's [producer] Paul Casserly's fault. He's the shit-stirrer, not me." If he's not really the creator of controversy, he appreciates it in others. Brian Tamaki gets

high praise. "It's fantastic to have a superstar televangelist who's got all this confidence and merchandise. We were really lacking one. Like cricket. We lack a genuine fast bowler ..." Bowling turns out to be Wells's button. If he is not convinced by the year of the argument, he has at least picked an argument of the year. "Is it a bowl or is it a throw? Now they're saying that bowlers can bend their arms 15 degrees, because some players are trying to get away with throwing the ball, and saying former great bowlers bent their arms." The wannabe cricket commentator is appalled.


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