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Lawless Floors Holmes

The Dominion
(New Zealand)

7 April 2006

If you've been whizzing out to the airport of late you may have noticed the giant Prime billboard with it's Not the 6 O'clock News advertisement and mug shots of the presenters.

In the ageist tradition of television hosts, the women have been airbrushed to look younger and in their prime while anchorman Eric you-make-me-feel-so Young has been aged to look ever-so-distinguished in the mode of the late Peter Jennings of ABC.

But all air brushes and grey power aside the "new" 5.30pm news is as smart as paint and it's great to see Young back unencumbered by a toastie hostie (Kate Hawkesby) and giving us a news bulletin which cuts to the chase in the first 15 minutes.

And what a relief to have a break in the weather, as in not have a specially assigned weather presenter, with Young giving us a mercifully swift precis of the temperatures before the bulletin's close.

I do hate the way the main centres' predictions for the following day are held back to the bitter end so that we city folk wind up feeling like the kiddie on Christmas morning waiting to be told when we can unwrap our present.

As for occasional weekend presenter Brendan Horan over on TV One, the big lug seems obsessed with the promotion of school fairs in small villages and hamlets, regularly busting a gut to give them a mention.

No town is too small or insignificant for the self-appointed Mr Heartland to overlook while the big smokers' bun rushes are given the tiniest of mentions.

I know regular weather presenter Karen Olsen comes across as a bit prissy, but she's rock steady and gave quite a moving interview on Close Up with Susan Wood about her previous work experience taking the pulse of the volcano on Raoul Island the night the big one blew and a Conservation Department worker tragically perished.

As for Prime's other new show, Holmes (Wednesday, 7.30pm), it was far better than I thought it would be. He did elicit sides we had never seen before with the country's biggest pay packet, Telecom boss Theresa Gattung, and movie and TV star Lucy Lawless. More on those two local dames later, but I was absolutely staggered at the appearance of Judy Collins on the show as the first guest.

When Holmes introduced Collins her white hair swept up in an old-woman-in-the-shoe bun and her slightly lopsided mouth didn't equate with the angelic visage on the cover of her Both Sides Now album back in her heyday.

My immediate reaction to the introduction of Holmes' big star to kick-off the comeback kid's brand new show was Judy Collins who she?

Holmes had read her autobiography and talked her through her early years while she sang snatches of ditties her father used to warble such as "Grab your coat and get your hat".

Shutting your eyes one could have been listening to late-night talkback when the old ducks ring in and start singing songs of yesteryear till the host hits the exit button.

It wasn't long before Holmes cut to the nitty gritty, bringing up her son's suicide. "He takes his own life. How did that affect you?"

Move over Babs Walters. Later in the interview he adopted the royal We, saying: "Now we are on to our 43rd album" which made one think immediately of his own sallies into croondom.

But ah, when Collins ended the show with an unaccompanied rendition of Both Sides Now, the song Joni Mitchell wrote and sang over the phone to her in the middle of the night all those years ago, it sent a quiver of shivers up the spine.

His next guest, Theresa Gattung, was clearly so chuffed to be on the show her eyes couldn't stop twinkling as she sat parked up next to Judy in the big red chairs that did nothing for a girl's legs.

But it was Lucy Lawless, or Flawless Lawless as Holmes referred to her, who was the most engaging guest. I thought the show was supposed to be live, but he had prerecorded a "rare interview with our most distinguished actress" (now that really is going too far) and my golly she was frank.

Thanking the lesbian community for clasping her to their bosoms after the eighth episode of Xena Warrior Princess went to air, Lawless told how big Xena was in Iran and Turkey and there followed a rather hilarious discussion about undercover lesbians in that part of the world.

But it was Lawless' recollections of the happy time she wiled away while working in Kalgoorlie with her boyfriend gathering minerals and how there was nothing but beep beep beep to do all day long, that had me gasping.

To which Holmes had to beep her back as you do when a beautiful dame goes ballsy on you mid-interview.

And then, as she so delicately put it, she "got knocked up" and the fruit of all that beeping is now 18 years old and has a green mohawk and is an amazing woman.

The cameras cut to Holmes as he pulled his puzzled pixie expression and then it swung back to Lawless who was so terribly engaging to look at. For the first time I got her.

It was a top show and nothing like Parkinson, which it purported to be based on. All his guests behaved as if they were under the effects of a full, slightly crazy moon and that made for great television.