Q+A goes prime time with an interview with Trump's former press secretary

by Diana Wichtel / 05 August, 2018

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Corin Dann: politics in prime time.

It's what we said we wanted. Political talk show Q+A has escaped its Sunday-morning exile and arrived on prime time.

Here’s one they prepared earlier. TVNZ 1’s Q+A, apparently too brainy for an evening slot, has long languished in the viewing hinterland that is Sunday morning (Three’s Newshub Nation also screens on Saturday and Sunday mornings). Now the TVNZ powers-that-be seem to have decided that maybe it wasn’t a great idea after all to throw out the long-form interview baby with the prime-time serious current-affairs bathwater so that, mostly, the only politician we saw on our local channels on a Sunday evening was dressed like Richard Simmons and twerking.

Happily, all they’ve had to do is tart up the Q+A set, drop it into a 9.30pm Sunday slot and pretend this innovation doesn’t smack a little of rearranging the deckchairs. Still, it’s what we said we want. Corin Dann was certainly excited. “It’s our first night in our new time! Fantastic to have you along!” he yelled. “This is politics in prime time!” he marvelled, all but pinching himself in case he was hallucinating. “Let’s get on with it!” On with it he got. Acting Prime Minister Winston Peters – “My lead interview!” – is always fun. He was soon to fly off to make up for lost time as Minister of Foreign Affairs. Jacinda Ardern would, like a prime ministerial version of Cinderella, turn back into the leader of the country at midnight on Wednesday. “As the plane leaves the ground,” Peters declared, chuckling silently. No, he hadn’t been in touch with Ardern very much. “The last thing you would do to a young mother is keep on waking her up!” He fobbed off a bunch of questions about the economy – “There could be some blimps on the horizon,” he predicted enigmatically. He didn’t seem so chuffed about Q+A’s time change. “It was very good of me to come in so late at night,” he pointed out.

The new time slot seemed to throw Dann off a little during his interview – “Exclusive!” – with former Trump press secretary, Sean Spicer. “Did he lie for the President Trump?” wondered Dann. Spicer has a new book out about his time with the President Trump in which he describes his former boss as “a unicorn riding a unicorn across a rainbow”. That’s the sort of fanciful discourse we might expect from a man who, during a White House media briefing, described Syria’s leader to gobsmacked reporters as “someone as despicable as Hitler, who didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons” against his own people. In a lamentable attempt to clarify, he acknowledged that Hitler “brought them into the Holocaust centre”. Dann didn’t ask about that. To be fair, he was never going to get much sense out of Spicer, who explained, “I made my fair of mishakes”. This creative approach to English was apparently catching. “Was the foot on the other shoe?” Dann was soon wondering of the occasion when a Time correspondent mistakenly reported that a bust of Martin Luther King Jr had been removed from the Oval Office.

Well, we all make mishakes. The interview didn’t stray into more pressing areas, such as Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation and any number of other Trump scandals. Was that a condition of the interview? If so, we should probably have been told.

Still, it wasn’t Seven Sharp. Whena Owen turned in a searching, distressing piece on the heartbreak for farmers hit by the Mycoplasma bovis culls. This after a particularly strong episode of Sunday earlier in the evening – synthetic meat, former Wallaby Peter FitzSimons on the Kiwis getting deported from Australia. Q+A really needs to do something about the panel. The makers should watch old episodes of The Ralston Group until they get it right. But here was evidence that a reasonably serious current affairs show can be an engaging and at least fitfully enlightening prime-time watch. Of course, we always knew that.

Q+A, TVNZ 1, Sunday, 9.30pm.

This article was first published in the August 11, 2018 issue of the New Zealand Listener.

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