'A turn I was not expecting': Paddy Gower reveals personal drinking fears

Gower drinks on camera during the documentary - with sobering results. Photo: Warner Brothers...
Gower drinks on camera during the documentary - with sobering results. Photo: Warner Brothers Discovery
Patrick Gower: On Booze was never meant to get personal.

But the TV journalist says making his new documentary on alcohol was a reality check, forcing him to confront his own drinking habits head-on.

"We started off making a documentary that was going to be like the others," Gower tells the Herald.

But the Newshub journalist quickly realised his own habits were turning him into the protagonist and not the author.

His previous documentaries On P and On Weed focused on illegal substances and the harm they do to Kiwi communities, as well as the harsh reality of addiction. Making those films made him realise he had "judged a lot of people in my life with addictions", he admits.

It just made sense to look at alcohol next - which, Gower says, "100 per cent" does more damage than other drugs - and so came into play his own relationship with booze.

"Obviously because I was a big drinker we were going to look at my drinking. But then it just took a real turn that I was not expecting. It just was not meant to happen," he says.

Suddenly, New Zealand's favourite drunk uncle - a description he admits is "pretty accurate" - had to confront his own drinking.

Patrick Gower never meant to become the subject in his new doco On Booze. Photo: Warner Brothers...
Patrick Gower never meant to become the subject in his new doco On Booze. Photo: Warner Brothers Discovery

"That's really, really, really hard to do. People will see how hard it is to really break down your own thoughts on drinking and the reasons why you're drinking.

"It's really easy to box an alcoholic off as someone who's lying on the side of the road with a bottle of meths or whatever. It's much harder to admit that actually, it might be you."

Gower says the documentary is targeted toward every person in New Zealand who drinks - not just those who think they might have a problem.

"And all the people that don't drink, who are worried about someone they love who does drink. I actually think that's pretty much every person in New Zealand. Alcohol is just such a big part of our life here that everybody, even if they don't drink, is touched by it in some way."

In the doco, Gower crosses the line from journalist to subject and struggles with the discomfort of crossing that line.

He goes for a full-body scan to see the impact his drinking is having on his body and chats with a psychologist on camera about why he started drinking from such a young age.

He visits an AA meeting and turns up at an iconically Kiwi Crate Day party. But having a few too many drinks on camera makes for sobering viewing - literally.

"It's really, really hard to watch," he admits. "There's a couple of moments there that are sort of like, oh geez. It is bloody hard to watch and it is heavy.

"I'm interested in pushing the limits and this documentary pushes my own limits to the max. It's a step into a whole new world, going right out there into the unknown. It is really different and I know that people are not expecting what they're going to see."

To the students at the flat party, he's a mate they can get drunk with. But Gower says that perception of him is going to change when people see the whole documentary.

His popularity with young Kiwis can be traced from his iconic "This is the f***ing news" TV moment to his antics on TikTok and even smoking weed on camera for a doco. It's a persona he could have "continued to play into", he says.

"I could have left that out there and not addressed that. But people will see that actually, this thing crashes head-on into that. What I like about the documentary is that it's going to challenge people's perceptions of me as well.

"There's the weed-smoking Paddy and the 'this is the f***ing news' Paddy, and then there's going to be this Paddy, which is going to be really different for people, but it's just real. That's what it is."

For Gower, this documentary isn't about "fostering a brand".

"It's going to actually tear a lot of things down and confuse some people, but ultimately in a good way."

He's "kind of scared" for people to see this side of him. "But I can't wait for it to be out, as much as it's going to be like ripping off a plaster."

"I want to make these documentaries to make people think and I want this one to make them think about booze, and the way that we use it, and what it does to us. If I can make one person think about it, it's going to be a really, really satisfying thing for me."

When it comes to our attitude towards alcohol, Gower reckons "there is a shift out there."

"There's definitely something going on in the New Zealand psyche at the moment where people do want to change.

"It really seems that New Zealand is ready for a shift in the way that we drink and this documentary is going to really tap into that."

* Patrick Gower: On Booze screens 8.30pm, Tuesday, June 14 on TV3. Part 2, Wednesday 8.30pm.

Our journalists are your neighbours

We are the South's eyes and ears in crucial council meetings, at court hearings, on the sidelines of sporting events and on the frontline of breaking news.

As our region faces uncharted waters in the wake of a global pandemic, Otago Daily Times continues to bring you local stories that matter.

We employ local journalists and photographers to tell your stories, as other outlets cut local coverage in favour of stories told out of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

You can help us continue to bring you local news you can trust by becoming a supporter.

Become a Supporter