Is Paul Henry really an obnoxious prat or is this just an act to keep him in the papers? If it’s the latter, then he’s succeeding admirably. There is no better way to raise your profile than to polarise your audience. In general, the most successful broadcasters – Judy Bailey being the glorious exception – have been simultaneously loved and loathed. It’s the same for newspaper columnists. People with considered views, who can see both sides of an issue, need not apply. A columnist’s success is judged by the number of irate letters his or her editor receives. Essential characteristics – one-eyed, dogmatic, over-the-top, contemptuous of other views. Best current New Zealand examples – Michael Laws and Garth George.
A very clear idea of how perfectly Henry fits the loved/loathed paradigm was to be found in the on-line responses of Herald readers to what has been termed ‘moustache-gate’. There were 45 pages of them when I last looked. Almost none came into the ‘considered, see-both-sides’ category. A majority thought that hanging, drawing and quartering was too good for him: Paul is a self-righteous, obnoxious and overbearing twat. God, I feel like chopping that little toe rag’s head off and watch him run around like a little cockroach. Paul is a mean, sadistic bully. One can imagine him at school; organising a willy-stretching competition behind the bike shed without taking part himself. Paul Henry is an embarrassing fool. When he was a National Party candidate for Parliament he was beaten by a transsexual. Perhaps he has not got over it.
His defenders, on the other hand, though Paul was God’s gift to television and were equally virulent: Paul Henry is hilarious and is the reason that Breakfast rates so much higher than the TV3 version. And what is the harm anyway? Its probably a compliment for a greenie chick for someone to notice her moustache. Goes with the hemp singlet and underarm hair. Paul Henry is a mastermind! Those of you damning him to hell should know you are playing right into his hands. He enjoys the backlash and you are shooting him straight to super-stardom. Paul is a living legend. Recognise! I also cried when I heard Paul’s comments about the ‘Mo’. Well, to be more accurate, I had tears rolling down my cheeks from laughing. What woman would go on national TV with that enormous ‘Mo’?
It would have been rude not to mention it! Paul’s keeps it real and makes the breakfast show fun to watch some Nz’ers just need to stop being flipin dry balls and if you dont like it then all good just breathe and change the channel. Because we all know you love him too.[Punctuation and spelling not supplied!] And, finally, there was this novel theory: It could just be a result of years of French nuclear testing and nuclear fall-out. It could make women grow moustaches and turn men into rude, politically incorrect brutes. Who’s right – his critics or his defenders? Both. Henry is an obnoxious prat. His ego is out of control and, as a broadcaster, so is he. He has done more than enough to deserve the boot. BUT he is also one of the most intelligent, most incisive, most accomplished, most polished, and most entertaining broadcasters this country has ever seen. Can’t live with him, can’t live without him. So what should be done with Paul?
Well firstly he should be fronting Close Up. Mark Sainsbury may be a nicer person, but he isn’t a patch on Henry as a broadcaster. He stumbles his way through the programme, is often barely articulate and his interviews are a shambles. But he’s responsible and safe and Henry isn’t. So here’s my solution. Mark goes back to his previous job as a political editor. He was extremely good at that. Paul takes over Close Up where he is likely to beat the pants off the much nicer John Campbell. But there’s a proviso. Henry’s contract includes a ‘penny in the jar’ clause. Every time he breaches the Broadcasting Act’s standards of balance, fairness, decency or good taste, $10,000 is deducted from his salaryand donated to the Society for the Promotion of Community Standards. Should work. Meanwhile, check out this hilarious Media 7 compilation from Russell Brown and his Paul Henry Dick-o-meter.