A MediaWorks focus group put together last Wednesday to gauge reaction to TV3’s new current affairs programme, 3rd Degree, reported that viewers felt that they’d just had a sexual experience they didn’t quite understand.
Those who watched the programme as part of the hour-long focus group pointed to the disturbing, even aggressive levels of sexual tension between hosts Duncan Garner and Guyon Espiner as the primary reason for their discomfort. “It was just the way they stared at one another with that intense gaze as they awkwardly traded lines” said Michael Grange, a 42 year old participant in the focus group, who described Garner and Espiner as “sexually frustrated.” “You really got the sense they were having trouble keeping their hands off one another” he said.
The pilot of the current affairs show comes after an intense two week advertising campaign featuring Guyon Espiner and Duncan Garner having excessively passionate conversations about news and “digging deeper.” In one advertisement, a visibly upset Garner confides in Espiner that he finds “nothing more frustrating” than “seeing the real story get missed.”
“You could just feel, when you watched those ads, that they had an uncontrollable lust for the news” said a participant who wished to remain anonymous. “It was a bit much, frankly. I wouldn’t let my children watch it.”
At numerous points throughout the pilot, viewers were reportedly confused as to whether they were upset, intimidated or aroused, often reporting that they experienced all three emotions simultaneously. They recalled being most uncomfortable toward the end of the show, when Garner and Espiner jointly interviewed Anna Guy, the former wife of Ewen MacDonald.
One viewer described the scene: “So at the end, they get this one woman up on the set, and they sit her down in a chair that they call ‘the hot seat’. They come up on either side of her, basically flanking her, and tell her that she’s about to get the third degree.”
“I was pretty frightened at that point” said another viewer. “And slightly aroused.”
The pair then proceeded to ask Ms. Guy a series of penetrating questions, before plunging deep into her past.
Leader of New Zealand’s Conservative Party, Colin Craig, was outraged by the display. “Look I was disgusted” said Craig, who refused to make eye contact with us. “Not only is it a complete affront to traditional values, but that show airs at eight thirty in the evening. What if kids saw that?”
After it had ended, viewers were asked a series of questions about their reactions to the programme. One question asked what emotions viewers recalled experiencing throughout the show. The most common answers included “confusion about my sexuality” and “an erection.”
Asked if they would watch the second installment of the current affairs programme, the vast majority of respondents said that they would.