Paul Henry - review

by Diana Wichtel / 19 April, 2016
Paul Henry has a show in his name because he is a born broadcaster in a land without many.
Paul Henry on air. Photo/Getty Images
Paul Henry on air. Photo/Getty Images

"'Paul Henry scolded for comments about Hilary Barry’s breasts.’ Do people read this shite?” wondered Paul Henry. It was a typically meta moment: Paul Henry reading an idiotic headline generated by something idiotic Paul Henry said on a show called Paul Henry.

Can it really have been a year? Time flies when you’re having fun. Well, Henry’s having fun. The remarks in question happened when Barry’s shirt needed adjusting, the sort of moustache-on-a-lady occasion that Henry is incapable of letting pass unremarked upon. Henry told her, Barry reported, “I can see breast” (which is oddly similar to what he said to Pamela Anderson in an interview once).

There were complaints. “You gave the impression that you’d seen them,” Barry pointed out. “Which you haven’t.” She wasn’t bothered. “This isn’t a boardroom. It’s a dinner party,” she said. More like a chimpanzees’ tea party, but never mind. “I gave him a slap down. It’s all fun.”

Incapable of recognising when he’s being let off the hook, Henry’s mouth motored implacably on, bypassing his brain: “One of the puppies ­threatened to come out to play … It’s like a ­balcony collapse,” he said.

“Mine are reinforced, I’ll have you know,” said Hilary, narrowly averting a visit from OSH.

Do people watch this shite? The show reportedly saw in its first anniversary with a good week in the ratings. You can see why. At a time when many ordinary people feel increasingly powerless and ignored, Henry’s attention-seeking antics can seem like some sort of bravery. In some ways he’s the Donald Trump of New Zealand broadcasting. Times are tough. Send in the clowns.

Henry’s still around because he’s a born broadcaster in a land without many. On the show’s birthday, he reminded us of one of his more career-limiting moments: “My breakfast television career in Australia.” He didn’t mention the moments – not funny, just unpleasant – that saw him leave TVNZ’s Breakfast. He’s possibly grown up a little. Or not. See his contrived-looking dropping of “clusterf---”, a fine word but not for breakfast.

And he can do a tough interview. See his Tarantino-esque encounter with Fonterra finance chief Lukas Paravicini. Some suppliers say they’ve had their payment times extended from 30 to 90 days. “There is no such thing as 90 days!” cried Paravicini as Henry read out emails from suppliers saying there is. More heat than light, but Henry won that round.

Alleged deficiencies in the food offered to patients at Dunedin Hospital was played for laughs. “I could do the taste test. Quite frankly, don’t trust a skinny cook,” cackled Paula Bennett. “I don’t think he likes me. Does he like me, Paula?” fretted Henry, of Health Minister Jonathan Coleman. “No. You’re awful, Paul. To him.” Sadly, we learnt nothing about the food except that it looked like toxic waste.

Even a broken clock is right twice a day. Henry seems to be for upping the quota for refugees. “And if we have the funds to improve the lives of foreign nationals, we must have the money to fund world-class drugs for melanoma sufferers.”

And Barry is a better match for him than many – poor Kay Gregory. Though she’s in danger, like someone bitten on The Walking Dead, of becoming too much like Henry. See the clip of a parrot landing on a bird-phobic Australian reporter. “Take it off! It’s not funny!” screamed the reporter. “It’s a little bit funny, you silly bint,” commented Barry. “Bint’s a bit harsh,” said Henry. Was this weird role reversal a triumph of feminism or a worry? I really don’t know.

As for Henry, maybe he’s mellowed too much. Never mind Trump. With his mindless “Have a brilliant day in paradise!” signs-offs and his purple suit, he’s in danger of becoming a version of Mike Hosking. Who knew Hosking was contagious? It’s like the current affairs presenter zombie apocalypse out there. We should be afraid.

PAUL HENRY, TV3, weekdays, simulcast on Radio Live, 6am.

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