Hilary Barry's sad goodbye

Hilary reflects on the big move from Breakfast to Seven Sharp. "I certainly don't think I'm the perfect host by any means – I still have a lot to learn."

When Hilary Barry pushed her little filing cabinet across TVNZ's newsroom floor and under her new desk, the new Seven Sharp host wasn't quite prepared for the apt welcome that awaited her at her new home.
Straightening up, she thought she'd give her fresh digs – which once belonged to former host Toni Street – a bit of a dust after the summer holidays, "and it was covered in glitter!" Hilary laughs.
"I thought, 'Oh, my gosh, that's so Toni.' She is just so sparkly and gorgeous. I couldn't think of a more perfect kind of accidental welcome."
While the glitter of TVNZ 1's primetime current affairs show might now have gone, it's been replaced with Hilary's own brand of excitement and humour – who can forget those brilliantly timed snorts of laughter and giggling fits? – as well as, of course, her 25 years of experience on our screens.
Her move to the 7pm desk has meant a whole heap of change for Hilary. For the first time in 19 years, she won't have to set her alarm for an ungodly 3am wake-up call, for a start.
Husband Michael (52) and youngest son Ned (15) might actually get to see her – her eldest, Finn (18), has flown the nest for university. However, Hilary isn't sure how the pair will feel about her poking her nose into their well-honed morning routine.
"I haven't had mornings with them for a long time, so that will be interesting to see how quick everyone is at getting themselves organised and out the door!" she laughs. "We might have some new systems in place in terms of making that happen quicker – I'm not quite sure. Maybe I'll just sit back and appreciate all the years my husband has done it on his own."
And she might even get to enjoy a few more nights out on the town with Michael, a history teacher, now that her working hours finally resemble the norm. No longer will the couple's dates have to fit around Hilary's afternoon naps and 8.30pm bedtimes!
"Even though Friday is a night off, you're so poked by the time it comes around, that's off the table too. So really, you only have a Saturday to go out.
"It's quite tragic. To be able to go out during the week suddenly does sound very exciting, although knowing us, we'll probably just limit it to a good book on the couch rather than hitting the town!"
And, of course, Hilary is presenting alongside a brand-new co-host, Eating Media Lunch and Radio Hauraki broadcaster Jeremy Wells (41), who is making his first foray into primetime television.
"Jeremy's a perfect fit for Seven Sharp because he is just that – sharp," says Hilary.
"His dead-pan humour and way of interpreting news events are really unique and hugely entertaining."
Her and Jeremy's paths have crossed professionally before, although until now they've never had the opportunity to work with each other. Hilary is confident about the pairing, though.
"We'll work well together, mainly because he cracks me up. Who wouldn't want to work with someone who's capable of that?"
Despite the lure of a lie-in, Hilary says making the decision to leave Breakfast wasn't one she made lightly. When news boss John Gillespie approached her about taking over from Mike Hosking and Toni Street – who left the show abruptly at the end of last year – she took time to discuss it with her close circle.
"It was lovely to be asked, but it was a really big decision to go to 7pm. I talked to Jack [Tame] in particular – just to see how he would feel about it and the wider team too. Then I took the leap and they found someone to take my place who is doing a great job."
With husband Michael in 2011.
Hilary doesn't feel any pressure to step into the former hosts' shoes, or even any anxiety about taking the reins of one of New Zealand's highest-profile shows, saying she's "excited, not nervous".
"We're not trying to replace Mike and Toni. We're simply occupying the seats that they were in, but bringing ourselves to it – that's all you can do. You can't try to be someone else.
"Jeremy and I are who we are, and it will be a bit different in that sense, but the content of the show and the reporters that people love and the stories they're telling will still be the same quality."
Hilary and the rest of the Breakfast team in 2017. From left, Brodie Kane, Matt McLean, Jack Tame and Daniel Faitaua.
Speaking of seats, will she be perching in Mike's allegedly preferential position? Much was made last year of the fact male hosts always sit on the left-hand side of the presenting desk as it is the "more prominent position", but when asked about it, Hilary shrugs, saying her seat preference comes down to something far simpler.
She's just always presented on the side of the bed she sleeps on – and she adds that her former Newshub co-host Mike McRoberts did the exact same thing!
"So I'm really hoping that I'm going to sit on that side – which was the seat occupied by Mike Hosking – but the only reason I want to sit there is that's always been the side that I present on. I'm used to it."
Thanks to her year-long stint presenting Breakfast, which followed her high-profile exit from TV3 in 2015, Hilary says she is now comfortable in a hosting role, with her time on the couch alongside Jack Tame acting as her training ground.
Doing three hours of live television, five days a week, helped her master timing interviews properly, keeping the news punctual and deftly moving on if her interviewee went off topic.
"I've been in a really advantageous situation of having worked with some great hosts over the years. You do learn a lot about how they operate. I certainly don't think I'm the perfect host by any means – I still have a lot to learn."
Now Hilary has landed the plum 7pm slot, she says she'll be drawing on all of the skills she has learned throughout her career. Alarmingly, she is the oldest female host in broadcast television at 48, a situation she describes as "unacceptable".
"It genuinely makes me cross because the people you see on television should reflect who we are as a nation. If the oldest woman you have on television is 48, that's actually sad and it's not right."
But Hilary doesn't believe you can lay the blame for the lack of women over 40 on our screens on network bigwigs.
"I think audiences are more shallow than they care to admit. The research is done from time to time and while people will live with an older man, they're not comfortable with an older woman on television and that needs to change."
In between her morning trips to the gym this year (after a significant hiatus), Hilary has been tuning in to the new-look Breakfast. The show now boasts a shiny new set and graphics, and a shiny new presenter in the shape of former Green Party candidate and The Crowd Goes Wild host Hayley Holt.
Hilary knows Hayley from their days at Mediaworks radio and has long been impressed by her wry sense of humour.
"She's really talented and will bring her own style to the show. Plus she'll keep Jack in line, which is part of the job," she laughs.

"I really think they've got a great combination. Give them a few weeks to get to know each other a little better and truly, it will be up and away," she adds, before issuing a stern warning.
"For all those keyboard warriors that think they could do a better job – you can't. Just let Hayley settle in."
Despite her excitement about Seven Sharp, Hilary admits it felt strange to clear out her desk in the Breakfast area and set up elsewhere. "I really did feel bad saying goodbye to my little Breakfast family," she tells."When you have three hours of being on air together every single morning, you do become really, really tight. The show is one of the toughest gigs on telly. But the good thing is, I'm still in the building, so I go and hassle them and demand they have cups of tea with me."
Despite spending 23 years working at Mediaworks, Hilary says she now feels completely at home at TVNZ.
"Probably too much at home. I flit around the newsroom chatting to everybody. I probably am quite distracting in the workplace!
"But anyway, the afternoon team will get used to me. We're very close to the 1 News at Six area now. I suspect they may tell me to keep the noise down, so I might need to apologise in advance."

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