TV Review: 3rd Degree: surviving the burn



If you can survive an hour of World’s Deadliest Most Boring and Monotonously Windy Roads then you deserve a lot more than what airs next on TV3 Wednesday. Not to say the swaggering, open-necked shirt bromance that had all the appearance of a Brute-drenched mating dance around a barrel at the Loaded Hog was entirely without merit – mainly in the field of marketing. Marketing and the cynical use of the show as a an extended screen test for the nation’s weeping victim celebrity, Anna Guy, and as a content mill for Duncan Garner’s new Radio Live talkback slot.

It’s been sold as GQ, but the inside is all Cosmo. This is both grating and genius. But promising burn and delivering tepid is a risky over-sell. An hour of “Kiwi current affairs” is what they were promising. This turned out to be a mix of internal promos for prospective network talent and a hidden camera oriented ‘gotcha’ expose – all heavily personalised. The Guy piece was mostly her own video diary, and the New Plymouth wheel clamping story appeared to be a profile of a failed job placement for a high-functioning Aspergers as much as it was about Police intimidation.

Toxic to critics – certainly. The twittersphere’s eruption of real-time criticism was hilarious and devastating. I thought the rights angle and the ‘Bok bitch bag bash’ incident AKA the Veldt Viper (a hissing, striking, spitting South African lady who described the clamper, named Mr Clout, as being ‘lower than a snake’s shit shadow’) saved the clamper story with her tirade; but not even an out of character skull smashing attack with a hammer by a non-murdering husband upon the staff in the editorial suite could not have saved the other Guy. They still would have had the as-live studio interview to contend with. Not that she had to contend with any razor questions – the whole encounter was scripted and rehearsed. Maybe she’d make a fill-in weather presenter? But really. Not what the promise of a blistering edge of current affairs ought to look like.

However it is what that looks like and it has the same taste as crack cocaine. I think it will prove a winning formula for ratings. More 20/20 than 60 Minutes (which is where they got the budget from after 60M when to Prime). Not my cup of tea, but this is an opium den now, not a coffee shop.

The Garner-Espiner combo is what is being trialed here and they are tight. They are pros and they do not fuck around – as is apparent from the clipped interchange and macho dialogue. Garner (still sporting the Bellamy’s bulge from his gallery days) broke the mould withan aggressive approach to TV political reporting- scathing more than crusading. Espiner is more straight – as he would be marching along the narrow corridors of TVNZ for most of his career – but no less tenacious. And all that undoubted credibility was utterly wasted on that first episode. The duo were just meat puppets for the marketing department. It’s a populist start, not an auspicious one.


  1. Just thinking more about it this morning… Melanie Reid was actually good story-telling, with the town villan made victim, but she didn’t broach why he got into clamping and what his cut was, ie. Motivation, which is a crucial omission. And they never confronted the police, a cop out literally. Clout had more balls than TV3 FFS!

    Those boys lost a lot of cred with their ”interview” at the end. It must have infuriated them to have to do it. What is Espiner being paid for, to lean against a bar? It was like they were bachelors and whoever asked the softest question got the girl. They must of felt pretty dirty after that. Is Mark Jennings in control or is some other department? They start so low they are going to have to crucify Don Elder over his own hot coals next Wednesday to salvage any respect.

    • Story-telling is indeed what Reid was doing; another example of Reid’s poor quality ‘journalism’ (her unfeigned credulity when cold-read by a ‘psychic’ is a lingering memory).

      Her interview with Duynhoven was, plainly and unfortunately, a meeting of the minds.

      Garner and Espiner are in their element as light entertainers, however.

    • Tim, what I found strange was that Reid was doing the hard work interviewing the characters in the “clamping” story – whilst Garner and Espiner stood around offering editorial-commentary every so often…

      This may be the ‘norm’ for internet messageboards (oh, yes, the irony, I know…), but seemed out of place in a current affairs programme.

      The Anna Guy “story” was pretty much a “non-story”, leading me to wonder that all was 100% hunky-dory in the Land of the Long White Cloud; child poverty had been solved; we had nil unemployment; Novopay was working; Solid Energy had had a miraculous turnaround in the last week; the asset sales problem had been sorted and dumped; and National was being proactive to grow the economy.

      I give the first episide 6/10 and reserve further comments until the next few episodes.

      Meantime, thank the gods that Q+A is back. (Though I miss Greg Boyd in the main role. He was perfect for the role.)

  2. Actually this programme is a cunning ploy by TV3 to show it can produce rubbish current affairs just as well as TVNZ

  3. I thought it would be a show that got to the bottom of the wrought s ruining this country (isn’t that what they promised) or at least tell the facts – sadly it did none of that and was instead another load of boring mindless bullshit. Why would TV 3 waste the money having two senior ‘journalists’ stand around talking shit and looking like dicks.

  4. If this ‘3rd degree’ is supposed to be TV3’s new “current affairs” program, God help NZ. I watched it and later thought, is there nothing else to report in this country? Of course there is.

    Yet no media of mainstream character seems to bother or dare to discuss for instance the most draconian, mean spirited, half-baked, in part even illegal (and bound to be disastrous) new “welfare reforms” before Parliament at present.

    Or is it the frightening thought, that all those working poor “Kiwi battlers” out there would only get too worked up – and end up having heart attacks during angry outbursts about all those supposed “bludgers” living off their “hard earned” dollars? Is it a fear for being sued for causing such harm, or is it a total silent complicity and agreement on the side of the mainstream media, that they see no reason to discuss, what they may see as “overdue” and “necessary”?

    I cannot help it, daily I wonder whether I am living in the most perfect dictatorship on earth, one that is not even perceived as such? NZ does more and more fit that kind of system, from my view.

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