Moa Please! Give Anika Moa a prime-time spot on TV right now

by Diana Wichtel / 21 April, 2018

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It’s time the tornado of Seven Sharp and Anika Moa Unleashed was set free on prime time.

There is something to be said for Seven Sharp. No, hear me out. The show certainly reflects these non-binary times by being largely unclassifiable. Is it entertainment? Not in any meaningful sense of the word. Current affairs? “Tonight: top sheets vs duvets!”

You could appreciate it as an exercise in tragicomic existentialism; like Seinfeld, a show about nothing. Trumping the time hosts went through Uber’s lost-and-found box was the infamous “Code Brown” item, about defecation in public swimming pools. The reporter used confectionery of various sizes to simulate the offending faecal matter, finishing up in the pool eating some. As electronic aversion therapy, triggering a viewer’s gag reflex at the thought of chocolate, aquatic exercise and television journalism, it was a triumph.

Seven Sharp is also effective as a machine for tormenting presenters. Watching such talented broadcasters as Hilary Barry and Jeremy Wells attempt to retain a shred of dignity in this desperate format is exhausting. It’s every presenter for themselves. “Are you my new best friend?” wondered Anika Moa, filling in for Wells. “Jeremy who?” cackled Barry.

Paula Bennett and Anika Moa.

Moa’s rackety presence raised hopes she might do some of her mad interviews in the studio. Instead, she and Barry fastened themselves into a couple of “fitness” corsets, because that’s how committed this show is to subtracting from the sum of human knowledge. Another night, as a madcap tribute to top athletes who have to give interviews right after competing, the two presented while riding exercise bikes. Coming up, surely: how many Seven Sharp presenters can you fit into a clown car?

Fortunately, Moa has another gig. Her take-no-prisoners interview style, honed on a web series, then on Māori Television’s All Talk with Anika Moa, is now showcased in all its sweary magnificence on a series with the tautological title Anika Moa Unleashed. Or as Sam Neill was heard to enquire during his inquisition, “Is any of it usable?”

Sample question: “Do you tend this garden or do you have slaves that do it?” We got to see the actor in action when he spotted a ferret in the garden. Neill leapt to his feet with the steely-eyed look of Jurassic Park’s Dr Alan Grant with an escaped velociraptor in his sights: “Little bastard!” Things ended harmoniously as the two did a charming duet of the Everly Brothers’ All I Have to Do is Dream.

Moa is not Michael Parkinson. As far as we know, the masterful English broadcaster never conducted an interview from a coffin, as Moa did during her encounter with undertakers Francis and Kaiora Tipene, who share star billing with an assortment of dead people on TVNZ’s brilliant reality series The Casketeers.

Paula Bennett: Moa called her “Paula Benefit”, then “P-Dole”. They threw together terrible-looking bacon and egg pie. Talk of taunts Bennett had taken in Parliament over her weight forged sisterly solidarity. Moa: “F--- them.” Bennett: “You said it, sister. F--- them!”

Moa is not so much a breath of fresh air as a bleeping force-nine gale. She’s fearless and therefore sometimes excruciating. In one episode, she supposedly calls her mum with news that she’s interviewing actor Martin Henderson. “The one that looks like a horse on Seven Sharp?” says Mum innocently. “You look deranged,” Henderson tells Moa at one point.

Moa can also get the goods. “I don’t hate her,” mused Paula Bennett, of the Prime Minister. “I quite like that we’ve got someone younger and she’s got a life that’s bigger than politics.”

Moa adds some desperately needed authenticity to Seven Sharp. Her answer to viewer Peter, who wrote in complaining about her tattoos, was to get another on camera. “I’m also a gay,” she reported. Never mind Seven Sharp. Give her a prime-time show with an industrial-strength sensitive-viewer warning and stand clear.

SEVEN SHARP, TVNZ 1, Weeknights, 7pm.

ANIKA MOA UNLEASHED, TVNZ on Demand.

This article was first published in the April 28, 2018 issue of the New Zealand Listener.

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