Thursday, 11 December 2008

NOT PJ: Dancing with New Zealand’s Next Biggest Loser

Bernard Darnton offers some helpful suggestions on how to boost viewership of Parliament TV… 

Politics geeks have printed off their copies of the Parliamentary seating plan and locked their Freeview boxes to Parliament TV.

For some reason there are people who voluntarily watch this stuff – regularly. Don’t get me wrong: there is some value in watching Parliament. It’s like eating haggis. It’s something you should do once, for educational purposes, but don’t be surprised when you feel disgusted and don’t ever want to do it again.

The greatest commotion so far in this 49th Parliament’s short life has been over the 90-day probationary period for new employees. This is a stunningly good idea. The New Zealand public has just hired a bunch of new employees and it would be nice to know we could toss out the reprobates if they don’t behave.

Even better, if Parliament TV wanted to bump up the ratings a bit they could run it as a competition. Bring in Donald Trump for a series of Parliamentary Apprentice: “You’re fired!”

The Athenians knew a thing or two about democracy, having invented it, and they came up with the brilliant idea of ostracism. Each year they would rope off part of the agora in Athens, hold a tribal council, and vote someone off the island. Well, out of the city. The nominated person was exiled for ten years. Think how much sooner Winston would have gone under the rules of Survivor: Molesworth Street.

If we voted one MP a week out of Parliament we’d be down to a sensible number in just a couple of years. No more need to invent nonsense ministries to quiet the ranks. As a bonus, 99 cents per call to the 0900 number for getting rid of the buggers would probably fund all the government functions that we actually need.

Given that people will watch any old crap, Parliament TV could pack its schedule with dozens of shows like this. Rodney Hide’s formidable being-on-telly experience would set him in good stead for Dancing with the Members and he’s already got plenty of points on the board for Parliament’s Biggest Loser – a much contested title.

The choice of Lockwood Smith, a former game show host, as Speaker is inspired. No one could be better qualified. “Your starter for ten. Has the Minister received any reports showing the government in an improbably good light?” Bzzzt…

You at home could join in too. In Mitre 10 Nightmare Home contestants will attempt minor renovations while busybody neighbours appeal their choice of paint colour to the Environment Court. In the final episode, when the renovations are eventually complete, a gay building inspector will come round and criticise the contestants’ choice of lightbulbs and shower fittings.

New Zealand Idol could present some problems. No doubt our representatives would be keen for the title but, seriously, anyone who idolises MPs needs mittens and rubber wallpaper. New Zealand Idle, however, could become the smash hit of the season. The contest is wide open. Last year’s champion, Judith Tizard, isn’t returning and all-time superstar Jonathan Hunt’s seat has long gone cold despite decades of gentle warming. Let’s hope the competition for this one is stiff because, if all MPs did as little as these two, New Zealand would be a far freer and more prosperous place.

I hope this comes to pass. With more time spent preening for television and less time spent passing legislation – and don’t forget the frequent eliminations of contestants – it would be goodbye Big Brother and goodbye Supernanny state. But a warning: These programmes will contain scenes that some viewers may find offensive.


  1. Brilliant! Still chuckling!

  2. Well done Bernard.

  3. Am I the only one taking these ideas seriously?


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