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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Paul Holmes interview

The infamous Dennis Conner interview - not as unmanufactured as we had believed.

I suppose it's only fair that when you have made so much money for TVNZ over the years you get a special 30minute interview on the eve of your passing.

My last criticism of Holmes ruffled many middle class feathers, so I'm expecting this column to draw the same level of tedious screams of how hateful I am from the more leafy burbs of the blogosphere as well.

I watched the interview with Paul on Sunday night out of curiosity. What does a man say at the end of his life after living so much of it in the glare of the media? There were times I was engaged, and there were other times I was sad to see my low opinion of Holmes met.

On his personal life, Paul seemed to have made some type of peace. Personally I never judged Holmes for the personal issues in his life, his private life is his and his alone to grapple with, it's none of our business who he slept with.

What was interesting to me was his admission that the extra media attention into his personal life and the walk off with Dennis Conner were manufactured. This lines up with what I have heard was his real desire behind his racist Waitangi Day column, to boost his media profile before going back on Q&A.

This represents the worst of Holmes, the blatant race baiting for ratings that he never could help himself from itching. It comes back to my point that throughout his career when it came to race relations that he played to the garden variety bigotry of NZ rather than challenge it.

The interview was good in that it reminded us of the solid broadcasting Holmes did achieve - his amazing work at making AIDs less demonized, his sharp questions to those in power, his humanizing of issues but his position to nurture NZs sacred cows on race relations rather than slaughter them limits his historical importance.

As we pass to lite infotainment at 7pm with Seven Sharp we will probably see Holmes through very rose tinted glasses, and perhaps that is for the best. Better to gloss over Paul's race baiting until the country is mature enough to confront it within ourselves than damn him for reflecting it so brightly.



At 29/1/13 1:56 pm, Blogger Tim Selwyn said...

People wondered why I watched Shortland Street during the 90s - the reason was Paul Homes.

I liked his hard arse interviews, but little else he ever did. On radio he was as awful as any of the other reactionary white arseholes on ZB, and in print his columns were so dire they were simply unreadable.

Being all personality showed his limitations: without the visual medium to see his array of mannerisms (that were like a spoof of himself within a few episodes) and without the audio medium to underscore the swaggering smugness he doesn't carry far at all. Outside of NZ no-one will know who Paul Holmes is.

As for his achievements? Turning current affairs into entertainment would be it.

His late acknowledgement that the Dennis Conner interview was contrived was telling, as was the marketing department's other demands he embraced like frollicking with kids. The whole "Angel" Eve van Grafhorst saga stretched disease-of-the-week to a new level - it was mawkish, voyeurism that made me feel almost as sick as she was.

As for his popularity: his TV show started when we only had two channels. He inherited his ZB morning post when they were at the top with Merv Smith; so he had massive advantages coming in. He kept the audience, but I'm not sure he really grew it. When he took a million dollar a year job at Sky because he was in a (booze/drugs/?) paranoid state that TVNZ would dump him in 2004hardly anyone followed him across - the straw man was revealed: his popularity revolved around the station and the slot and had little to do with him and his ego/personality. Then TVNZ took him back.

And then when his illness looks terminal the wide political connections in the establishment that he had gathered during his career do him a favour by giving him a knighthood at his Hawkes Bay manor. What an extraordinary honour... but what for!?

And now, in this small, insular, celebrity-obssessed country we will be saturated with the spectacle of his over-publicised death to match his over-publicised life. The fact is Holmes peaked with the Dennis Conner interview and it's been downhill ever since.

At 29/1/13 8:57 pm, Blogger paul scott said...

I was just about to give up Bomber. where was he, where was this intellect that entertained us and gave a new perspective name Tim Selwyn, and then he was gone away gone away. I saw him at jail and I thought to myself I make him a Minister in my Government, but first the revolution. Always speak and Tim, brother I vote for NZ First, you are welcome in my palace Tim. alw

At 29/1/13 10:26 pm, Blogger Rex Widerstrom said...

You're judging Holmes by the standards of journalism when he is in fact a celebrity.

He had no journalism or interview training, his degree was in stagecraft (which, it could be argued, was pretty much what he did throughout his career) and NewstalkZB took a huge risk in handing him a format in which he was required to interview politicians and others rather than what he had been doing for them previously, which was listen to talkback callers. I've done both and the former is hugely more demanding. That he did so well, with so few errors of judgement out of thousands upon thousands of hours of live radio and TV, shows his ability. I've done maybe a tenth of the hours Holmes did and I can recall things I said and did on air that make me absolutely cringe 20 years later.

You also display an ignorance of radio audiences. Yes Merv Smith had a huge following - a loyal one which was ready to riot (alright, more lilely bake lamingtons to throw) in protest at what was seen as a terrible betrayal. Holmes held some of that audience and lured others away from opposition stations, and held them there for years.

Most importantly, in terms of his legacy, he led a "loosening up" of NZ broadcasting which allowed those who were his contemporaries and those who followed to be themselves and not read liners (if your station thought the USA was the place to mimic) or introductions (if they were trying to be the BBC).

Like it or not Bomber, a line can be drawn from "Holmes" to "Citizen A" that takes in virtually everyone who's fronted their own show since. Not because we copy him, but because he helped make it possible to be yourself.

You may riposte that someone else could have done that. Indeed they could. But it was Holmes that did, and I for one tip my hat to him.

At 30/1/13 12:30 am, Blogger Joe W said...

Like it or not Bomber, a line can be drawn from "Holmes" to "Citizen A" that takes in virtually everyone who's fronted their own show since.

So it didn't all stem from Aunt Daisy, to whom Holmes sometimes bore a spooky resemblance - the known media universe really began decades later. All the best to the Great Man and his army of acolytes in setting a world record for an extended state funeral cum canonization.


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