Justice for Seven Sharp, the only news program without a fancy studio

Seven Sharp rocks a curious backdrop of plastic containers and office sneakers, and Tara Ward is obsessed.

Five nights a week, Hilary Barry and Jeremy Wells sit on the Seven Sharp couch delivering a constant stream of news. There are stories to inspire, educate, inform and entertain us. Yet every night, no matter how good Seven Sharp and how important their stories are, I find myself distracted by the real story behind them.

Beyond Seven Sharp’s sofa lies an ever-changing exhibit, a fascinating portrait of modern office life. Swivel chairs sit at awkward angles, items are strewn across desks. A bag here, a Sistema canister there, a box of tissues behind Jeremy’s right ear. Personal items are tossed willy-nilly, with gleeful little care for a live TV show or a lonely TV writer who has nothing better to do than lay awake at night thinking about the rubbish washed up on the shores of Seven Sharp.

What do these objects in this dark still life tell us? Does this cup of coffee know that it is watched by hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders every night? What chaos is stuffed into these bags on the desk, and why is a single white sneaker lying on the floor? More importantly, is Seven Sharp filming from inside a closet?

Seven Sharp’s current set is a window into the soul of TVNZ, giving viewers a rare glimpse behind the curtain of the news. This is where the magic happens, but lately I’ve been out while Hilary and Jeremy were talking, focusing on the drama in the background instead. Every night, these mysterious objects move slightly. You might call it a working newsroom, I call it the soap opera we didn’t know we needed.

Exhibit A, your honor: this white picture frame, which appeared out of nowhere in mid-February and has not been seen since. It’s a cliffhanger that Shortland Street would be proud of. I zoomed in really close, and while the pixels are a bitch, my gut tells me it’s either got a nice shot of John Campbell or the crocheted budgie smugglers Hilary gave Jeremy for Christmas, immortalized for all time.

There is, of course, a valid explanation. Seven Sharp picks one up for the crew, as Covid-19 restrictions force the show to film from a temporary studio. A TVNZ spokesperson confirmed that Seven Sharp was broadcasting at a different level within TVNZ, to allow for social distancing within the newsroom. “It allows for less crossover between our different news and current affairs teams,” they said.

Hilary brought up the situation when Seven Sharp returned last month, calling it “camping”. “You probably thought, and so did we, at the end of last year, when we were in our little makeshift studio in our little isolation bubble, that this would be the end,” she said. “But no, no, omicron. That’s why we’re back here.

Seven Sharp makes the best of a bad situation, and for that, I raise my sneaker in their honor. TVNZ has confirmed that it has installed a replica of Central Perk on a floor surface with a rug, sofa, table and backdrop left over from Friends 25th anniversary. Everyone loves Friends. Hilary and Jeremy are friends, Seven Sharp is our friend. The link is clear.

Seven Sharp remained calm and carried on, even though Breakfast has a new set that seems to be broadcasting from inside a cathedral, and Simon Dallow regularly goes to the moon and to the supermarket with his fancy AR tricks on 1 News. Even Fair Go can stand in front of a stylish screen to discuss the dangers of fitted sheets. But Seven Sharp? No one told them life was going to be like this.

Does Seven Sharp need a jazzy backdrop to deliver our nightly dose of news and light entertainment? Of course not. Do they deserve one, though? Certainly. The primetime gem in TVNZ’s current affairs crown has earned well over half a wall of tribute for an American sitcom and someone’s purse thrown into the background. Light a candle, send thoughts and prayers. Justice for Seven Sharp. Justice for this basketball.

Seven Sharp screens from Monday to Friday evenings at 7 p.m. on TVNZ 1 and on TVNZ OnDemand.

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