Friday, October 22, 2010

What's In A Name

For a sharper image click the cartoon

For Paul Henry it would seem, quite a bit. He has finally resigned from his position as a presenter for TV1’s Breakfast programme after making too many offensive remarks on screen. He has had to apologize to singer Susan Boyle, Sir Anand Satyanand (Our Governor-General) and regret comments about the name of Delhi’s Chief Minister, Sheila Dikshit.

I find it really hard to understand how Paul Henry can win “The People’s Choice Award” at the annual Quantas Film and Television Awards recently and then lose his job only a few weeks later. It only goes to show how quickly praise from the viewing masses, can rapidly turn into disgust and hatred almost overnight.

In Paul Henry’s case, he appears to have gone beyond what is generally acceptable behavior for a TV presenter and exposed an ugly side of his personality. I wondered why he could not see that his chortling and sarcastic sneering were not very funny to many people. Surely a man of his obvious intelligence could see that his comments were definitely inappropriate on community owned TV – especially in a family viewing time slot.

I then recalled talking to a teacher a while ago, who specialized in helping children who were found to be struggling with Asperger’s Syndrome. The symptoms she described in her pupils seem to match some of Paul Henry’s antics that I had seen on TV. For example, times of being clumsy, rudely interrupting guests, blurting out inappropriate comments, easily distracted, irritating self obsessed behaviour, rapid changes in mood and often hyped up.

People with Asperger’s can be more intelligent and talented than most of us. Some are driven to be high achievers who win Nobel prizes and create amazing art and music. However, their lives can be plagued by bouts of depression brought on by the suffering they unintentionally cause in their personal and social relationships.

It is not all bad news, because they can create happier lives for themselves. The trick is, finding the right kind of work and being with people who appreciate them and who also understand their condition. In Paul Henry’s case, perhaps he should come back on TV fronting a comedy spot that satirizes politics and all our sacred cows. Paul Holmes is another one who appears to be a fellow traveler and I think they would make an awesome duo on a show that screened away from peak viewing times.

An early reaction from TV1, about Paul Henry’s controversial behaviour, claimed that Paul’s comments merely reflected what most New Zealanders thought. There might be some truth in that, but what we think and what we say about other Kiwis and International leaders on TV are two very different things.

It was therefore heartening to hear that TV1 is now reviewing its guidelines for presenters on live broadcasts. Even so, I hope they find someone like Paul Henry (without the side effects) and do not opt for another boring Barbie and Ken duo to replace him and Pippa.

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