7 Apr 2015

Mixed reviews for Henry's show

4:02 pm on 7 April 2015

Halfway through the first hour of his new show, Paul Henry told his audience it was the anniversary of the birth of car industry pioneer Henry Ford.

Paul Henry

Photo: Facebook / Paul Henry

Ford, he said, had famously quipped that half the money he spent on advertising was wasted - and the big question was: which half?

After a huge advertising drive for the new multimedia Paul Henry Show, broadcasting company Mediaworks will now be asking the same question.

In advance, pundits pondered whether one programme - and Paul Henry's personality - would work on Radio Live, TV3 and online all at once. Some said it would be "radio with pictures" and others reckoned it was actually a cost-saving exercise in the long-run for Mediaworks.

But it is also an expression of its boss's belief that multi-media is the future for television.

The first morning of the Paul Henry Show.

Photo: Facebook / Paul Henry

It was heavily promoted as the first news show anywhere to be broadcast simultaneously on TV, on radio and online. 'Mornings will never be the same' was the slogan and Mediaworks head of news said big overseas broadcasters had been asking how it would work.

But Radio Live already simulcasts TV3's 3 News, and other broadcasters like the BBC and Al Jazeera have already built TV and radio programmes around social media.

So how new was this new Paul Henry Show on the evidence of day one?

The purpose-built studio looked like a the kind of brightly-lit set for most live breakfast shows on TV. News headlines were displayed in text at the bottom of the screen with a moving ticker below giving weather information and telling viewers what was coming up later.

So far so standard for morning TV - likewise, the three-way studio chitchat with the sports guy Jim Kayes and newsreader Hilary Barry.

The most obvious innovation was the "social media bunker" run by the programme's social media specialist Perlina Lau.

Standing awkwardly in front of screens displaying what's trending, she harvested talking points for the host, though as one critic noted, Paul Henry himself didn't seem especially interested in many of them.

And the risky decision to accommodate occasional talkback callers didn't pay off. The first caller on air hung up on Paul Henry, who was then rude about talkback callers.

The intensive pre-publicity revealed little about the programme's journalism - and the show's Facebook posts the night before its debut didn't promise to pull up any trees.

But in spite of the of repeated boast that the programme was "combining the power of our newsrooms" there was little news to be had in the show's first outing.

The programme's first interviewee Prime Minister John Key did deliver one news story for the news show on the likely cost of new passports but that was about it.

Many viewers of course didn't tune in for news, but to be entertained by Paul Henry's outspokenness and his occasional crude quips.

However, there was little of that on display until the final hour of the show when he asked netballer Maria Tutaia if she had been wearing underwear the last time they met at a reception for visiting supermodel Heidi Klum.

That at least did spark some of the lively social media comment for the show.

When day one was over TV3 boasted that #paulhenry was the country's number one trending topic but even though viewers were implored to get in touch by Facebook, Twitter, email and text, the show failed to spark online debate about the fate of the 'Bali Nine,' George Clooney, a joint currency with Australia or the cost of passports.

Early days of course, but the attempt to inject social media into what was in most respects a standard radio and TV breakfast programme was deeply awkward.