3rd Degree hosts spar over future of 3rd Degree

Duncan Garner (right) and Guyon Espiner (left) engage in a heated debate over whether their show should be cancelled

Duncan Garner (left) and Guyon Espiner (right) engage in a heated debate over whether their show should be cancelled

Last night, as members of Parliament debated the passage of a historic bill to legalize same sex marriage, Duncan Garner and Guyon Espiner, hosts of TV3’s struggling current affairs programme 3rd Degree, staged a debate of their own. The formerly successful political journalists converted their show into a special debate format where they engaged in a heated discussion about whether or not 3rd Degree should cease to exist.

The monthly debate version of 3rd Degree, called The Vote, was designed to be an audience-interactive event, where Garner and Espiner would pretend to disagree on a topic, and viewers would vote on who won. But the show took an awkward turn last night when moderator Linda Clark announced that the evening’s topic would be “Should 3rd Degree be taken off the air?”

Duncan Garner was assigned the negative position, arguing that 3rd Degree was a valuable addition to current affairs broadcasting, while Guyon Espiner was given the affirmative position, arguing that the show’s patchy content didn’t match its overly serious hard news posture, making it seem so over the top as to be comical.

“Look, Duncan, we’ve got to face facts” said Espiner. “You said it yourself, back in that first advertisement: there’s nothing more frustrating than seeing the real story get missed. Well Duncan, just look around you. The real story’s been here all along. It’s us.”

“Now that’s just nonsense” replied Garner. “I can’t believe you’re saying this, Guyon. And to quote that advertisement? My god. You said to me back then, you said ‘we’re going to get flak for this’ and I threw my hands in the air and I said ‘I don’t care!’ And I meant it.”

Over the course of the hour, the debate grew increasingly contentious, with Garner calling Espiner a “traitor” and Espiner remarking that it was “sad” that introductions to the show now had to refer to it as a “competitive” current affairs programme. There were tears, and at one point the two hosts nearly came to blows.

Each side was allowed to employ the aid of two guest team members, who would help back up their respective positions. Garner’s team consisted of 3rd Degree reporter Paula Penfold and executive producer Terence Taylor, while Espiner enjoyed the support of Prime Minister John Key and Labour Leader David Shearer.

“I think most New Zealanders would agree that this is show is a little bit hokey, frankly” said Key. “And I think the fact that David and I can agree on this is somewhat reflective of that.”

“Yeah, look, I was meant to be in the House tonight for the same sex marriage debate” said Shearer. “But I thought this was a little bit more important, honestly.”

As the two hosts worked toward their closing statements, their remarks struck a sombre, even desperate tone.

“Go back” said Duncan. “Go back and watch the end of that commercial. I asked you Guyon. I asked you very clearly: ‘don’t you want the answer?’ And you said ‘I do.’”

Espiner looked at Garner and shook his head. “I think we both already know the answer” he said.

TV3 declined to release the results of public voting.