As longtime host of primetime current affairs show Close Up, Mark Sainsbury became a household name; in 2007 the Sunday Star Times described his moustache as “the most famous in the country.” But the ginger duster doesn’t overshadow the experience and talent he’s brought to many roles over a long broadcasting career: from reporting for One News and Holmes, to officiating at Sir Edmund Hillary's funeral.
His great quality is that New Zealanders related to him. Mark was never the star of his own stories. He wanted to inform people and get people relaxed enough to reveal things. Tom Scott
Simulcast on TV3, RadioLIVE and online, Paul Henry debuted in April 2015. Not to be confused with late night's The Paul Henry Show, the new three hour 'multi-platform' morning show was billed as unique, allowing "viewers/listeners to move effortlessly between their bedrooms, living rooms and cars" with uninterrupted access. Henry was supported by Hilary Barry (later Ingrid Hipkiss), Jim Kayes and a resident social media expert. By September 2016 Barry had joined rival show Breakfast. Henry himself stepped down in December, opening the slot for Duncan Garner's The AM Show in 2017.
Using interviews, reenactments and archive images, each episode of Screentime series Descent from Disaster examines a major New Zealand disaster — what happened, and what was learnt. Presenters were chosen for their connection to each topic. Sailor Andrew Fagan outlines the 1894 wreck of the SS Wairarapa off Great Barrier Island; weatherman and pilot Jim Hickey looks at a 1948 Ruapehu plane crash; Leigh Hart asks his miner father about the 1967 explosion at the Strongman mine. The first season of seven episodes screened in 2013. Another six followed in 2015.
This 2010 Close Up excerpt sees presenter Mark Sainsbury interview rock band Dragon. After singer Marc Hunter’s death in 1998, the band went on hiatus until nearly a decade later, when Todd Hunter started rehearsing a new line-up, with Mark Williams on vocals. Hunter talks about reforming — "we are here to service the songs" — and he and Williams reflect on their rock’n’roll lives. "It must have been dangerous to be in the band?" asks Sainsbury. It wouldn’t be a Kiwi summer without 'Rain', and the band ends with a TVNZ rooftop rendition of the classic song.
“Through falling leaves I pick my way slowly…” In 1970 a musical paean to getting your nature buzz topped the charts. ‘Nature’, by The Fourmyula, became a Kiwi classic: in 2001 an APRA poll voted it the best local song of the past 75 years. This 2010 Close Up report, from Auckland’s Montecristo Room, sees presenter Mark Sainsbury introduce the band's second performance of 'Nature' in Aotearoa (the band were overseas when it topped the charts). He quizzes composer Wayne Mason, and drummer Chris Parry recalls encountering The Clash while working in the English music scene.
Neighbours at War was a popular reality show that ran for 10 years and eight seasons on TV2. Narrated by long-serving director Bill Kerton, it offered a quirky Kiwi take on a UK concept: take a seemingly unsolvable dispute over a boundary/ fence/driveway, and get a famous Kiwi to mediate the neighbours who can’t agree. Mediators included Mark Sainsbury, Tom Bradley, Police Ten 7's Graham Bell, and John Key. The purposefully cheesy music, and emotion worn on the sleeve, helped make the Greenstone TV show a “much-loved New Zealand staple” (The Spinoff's Duncan Greive).
This Close Up All Blacks interview was broadcast from Christchurch Football Club, ahead of the opening test of the much anticipated 2005 tour by the British Lions. Mark Sainsbury is the MC, as coach Graham Henry, captain Tana Umaga, vice-captain Richie McCaw and young lock James Ryan talk pre-game rituals, mentors, half-time food and nicknames (McCaw is known as ‘Fluffy’?). Umaga would shortly make headlines for his part in a controversial tackle on Brian O’Driscoll, which ruled the Lions captain out for the rest of the series (won 3 - 0 by the All Blacks).
Close Up was an award-winning current affairs programme on TVNZ, running from 2004 to 2012; it screened for half an hour at 7pm, following the nightly primetime news. Roving reporters filed stories presented in the studio, initially by Susan Wood. Mark Sainsbury was host from 2006 until the show went off air in November 2012 (with Mike Hosking and Paul Henry as back-up). Replacing the Holmes show and originally launched as Close Up at 7, it was rebranded in 2005, and in turn was replaced by Seven Sharp. Close Up is not to be confused with the 80s show of the same name.
The TVNZ Leaders Debate for the 2002 General Election attracted controversy for its use of an onscreen graph, which tracked the response of 100 undecided voters in real time. There was concern that the device – aka 'The Worm', first launched in 1996 – would put a focus on populism and TV performance over policy. This post-debate analysis, with broadcaster Peter Williams hosting a panel of political commentators, includes a behind the scenes look at The Worm. Peter Dunne’s later success in the 2002 election was credited in part to his mastery of the line's rises and dips.
In this 2001 documentary, popular columnist Joe Bennett goes behind the scenes of the “sausage factory” of Kiwi politics in Wellington – from The Beehive to The Green Parrot Cafe. Exploring the machinations of power in New Zealand, Bennett meets press secretaries, lobbyists, and spin doctors, from Helen Clark’s Chief of Staff Heather Simpson to press gallery reporter Barry Soper. The documentary marked a further collaboration between director Richard Riddiford and Bennett, after Jafas, where Bennett compared Auckland and Aotearoa's views of each other.
Hour-long prime time current affairs slot Assignment replaced TVNZ's long-running Frontline in 1995, after Frontline had won controversy for a couple of its stories. A number of Frontline veterans moved across to the new series, including Susan Wood, Rod Vaughan, and Rob Harley. Vaughan and Harley would both win local media awards for their Assignment investigations. At the 1996 TV Guide New Zealand Film and Television Awards, Assignment was judged Best News and Current Affairs Programme.
According to One Network News newsreader Tom Bradley, “New Zealand’s best hope for a prize” at Cannes in 1995 is Sam Neill and Judy Rymer's documentary Cinema of Unease. Neill’s personal history of Kiwi movies made its debut in the festival’s official competition. Mark Sainsbury reports from Cannes (where the awards haven’t yet been announced, but the film has won rave reviews) and interviews Neill – who reckons Kiwi film has come of age, but needs government support. He also meets Gaylene Preston, who talks sex during wartime, while promoting her documentary War Stories.
Journalist Mark Sainsbury accompanies Sir Edmund Hillary on a "testimonial trek" to Nepal. This segment was the first of three that screened on Holmes in April 1991. Sir Ed travels to Tenboche Monastery, meets son Peter and fellow climber George Lowe, recalls his famous climb and reconnects with the sherpas who call him Barrah Sahib: the Big Man. En route Sir Ed gets altitude sickness and needs oxygen. He comments on the risks of returning to Everest: "I have the alternative of lolling on a sun-drenched beach [...] something I find exceptionally boring".
One of three special Edmund Hillary in Nepal segments that screened on Holmes in 1991, this piece looks into some of the schools and hospitals Hillary helped establish in Himalayan villages. Hillary and Lady June Hillary join the 30th anniversary celebrations of Khumjung School, one of the earliest projects instigated by the Himalayan Trust. Reporter Mark Sainsbury visits the school shed first built by Edmund and Rex Hillary in 1961; Sir Ed talks about his satisfaction in responding to local's requests, and the pressure to raise funds as he gets older.
In the last of three Holmes pieces made on a 1991 trip to Nepal alongside Sir Edmund Hillary, reporter Mark Sainsbury looks into the lives of the Sherpas. Angrita Sherpa talks about how his people have been portering for Western climbers since at least the 1950s, and his concerns that they preserve their culture and Buddhist religion. He reflects on their unique connection with Sir Ed and their apprehension as he ages. Sir Ed responds typically "I have quite a lot of motivation, but I don't regard myself as a hero at all — I'm petrified most of the time".
Holmes was a long-running current affairs programme that followed the news each weeknight on TV ONE. Presented by veteran broadcaster Paul Holmes, the show was as famous for his showmanship as it was for examining the issues of the day. Holmes interviewed the day's newsmakers; often championing the underdog 'kiwi battler'. In 2004 Paul Holmes defected from TVNZ to Prime TV to set up a rival 7pm current affairs programme, Paul Holmes. That lasted a few months before being axed (due to low ratings).
In this 1989 Holmes excerpt, visiting Brit jazz musicians Acker Bilk and Kenny Ball meet Prime Minister Geoffrey Palmer, a self-described “mediocre trumpeter”. The trio play ‘Tin Roof Blues’ in the PM’s office, before a circuit of the Beehive balcony. Unlike Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign-defining saxophone slot on The Arsenio Hall Show, the Kiwi leader’s jazzy side earned more sniggers than kudos — although the former law professor recalled the jam fondly in his memoir as one of the lighter moments of his Prime Ministerial tenure: “I loved it”.
80s show Close Up had a similar brief to earlier current affairs show Compass: to present mini-documentaries on topical local issues. Stories in the primetime hour-long slot were wide-ranging, from hard news to human interest pieces, including a profile of 25-year-old foreign exchange dealer, future-Prime Minister, John Key. The show won Feltex Awards for most of the years that it was on air. Close Up is not related to the post-nightly news show of the same name, which was hosted by Mark Sainsbury until 2012.
Wellington's Today Tonight began, along with other regional news shows in Auckland, Christchurch and Dunedin, after the amalgamation of TV One and SPTV in 1980. Its catchment was diverse, covering the wider Wellington area, Taranaki, Hawkes Bay, the Wairarapa and extending to Nelson, Marlborough and the West Coast in the South Island. Presenters over the years included Roger Gascoigne, Leighton Smith, Mike Bodnar and Mark Leishman. The regional news shows bowed out in Auckland and Wellington in 1989, having yielded to the Holmes era.
In 1975 TV One launched with a flagship 6.30 news bulletin which went largely unchanged with the move to TVNZ in 1980. In a 1987 revamp, it became the Network News with dual newsreaders Judy Bailey and Neil Billington (replaced by Richard Long). In 1988, the half hour programme moved to 6pm. With the advent of TV3 in late 1989, it was rebranded One Network News; and, from 1995, extended to an hour. The ill-fated replacing of Long with John Hawkesby in 1999 saw it make headlines rather than report them. In 1999, there was another name change to One News.
In 1969, the arrival of network television ushered in a new era of regional news to replace Town and Around, whose four editions had served local audiences in the 1960s. Christchurch and Dunedin now got different shows, both called The South Tonight. The DNTV-2 edition covered Otago/Southland; it was presented by Derek Payne and produced by Bruce Morrison. The show disappeared in 1975 but, following the amalgamation of TV1 and South Pacific Television, re-emerged in the early 1980s (initially as 7.30 South), this time with Jim Mora in the front seat.