Satire’s back on the box – about time too

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Satire has made a return to the Kiwi TV scene – and not before time.

If you rule out Parliament TV’s Question Time, and some random cameos from accidental wits such as David Garrett, Bill English and Melissa Lee, our current affairs landscape has been starved of comedy for far too long.

It was with much relief then, when TV3 last month launched their 7 Days initiative (Fridays 10.05pm), featuring a panel of comedians in a quiz-show format addressing the past week’s news.

Hosted by Jeremy Corbett and featuring a special guest each episode, it’s snappy, funny, necessarily irreverent, and at times a shade vile and obscene.

To be fair, the amount of profanity is probably just standard fare for a bunch of stand-up comics but it offers a hint on why the show screens at such a late hour.

The F-bomb is detonated on a regular basis and it’s rare for the panellists to make it through an entire episode without indulging in some sort of denigration of former Prime Minister Helen Clark.

Last week’s teams – Paul Ego, Rove McManus and Steve Wrigley, and Dai Henwood, Ben Hurley and Madeleine Sami – were joined by special guest, Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei, to ponder everything from the double-bunking prisoner proposal and the invasion of the Australian dust, to Auckland’s Boobs on Bikes Parade and the Glenn Martin Jetpack.

At one stage, Corbett informed his panellists that the Auckland City Council had refused to offer financial support to the BOB parade because it refused to be associated with an event that objectified women and promoted unrealistic body shapes.

Instead, he said, it had thrown its weight behind Fashion Week.

7 Days uses a variety of devices to provoke the apparently boundless imagination of its panellists – to start with, a straightforward challenge to identify a news item from the smallest of clues, then a captioning contest followed by an invitation to interpret a kid’s drawing of a recent news event.

It also stages an old-fashioned game of “yes-no” with its special guest – which meant a torrid time last week for Turei, who was bombarded with questions about her previous links with the Aoteoroa Legalise Cannabis Party.

In the end, it looked as though she caved in deliberately as Corbett screamed at her: “Don’t worry about the game, save your career!”

New Zealand television satire might not have set the world on fire in recent years but for all its occasional trashiness 7 Days is capable of producing some side-splitting moments and laugh-out-loud hilarity.

For those who look forward to TV One’s dry and earnest Q+A on Sunday mornings, this is the perfect antidote at the other end of the week.

It’s also a small but important step in the right direction. Kiwi current affairs might be small beer elsewhere in the world but they’re our current affairs, and we might as well get a laugh out of them.

We can’t rely on the Minister of Finance all the time.