The first season of Olympic-themed comedy Golden finished last night on TV3. I've resisted writing about it till now in the hope that it would improve. It didn't. In fact, I thought sitting through all six episodes of Golden was more challenging than trying to win a gold medal for rowing. Let me tell you why.
(Warning: spoile- ... does anyone even care about spoilers for this one?!)
In case you're one of the lucky people who didn't see a single minute, Golden follows obese, reclusive, gold medal-winning rower Shelley Bowman (played by Lucy Schmidt, one of the writers of the show) as she tries to get back in shape for the Games with the help of her bumbling physiotherapist cousin Eliot (Jesse Griffin), former trainer/former lover Paul (Joel Tobeck) and overbearing mother Bev (Jennifer Ludlam)
Some of the problems with Golden were apparent from the first episode. It seemed overly reliant on unnecessary, second-rate fat jokes and got fixated on the size of ex-boyfriend Paul's penis. It made a pretty distasteful joke* about drug addiction ("I'm not on drugs!" says Shelley. "More is the pity! Janine's daughter is on the P and she's lost 10 kgs! Then again, she also lost 10 teeth," snaps Bev). It didn't make me laugh, like actually laugh out loud, even once.
At the time, I tried to brush it off as a weak start - the television production process in this country is totally different from the USA's, but I had hoped that it would improve from the first to the second episode in the same way some American shows can improve after an underwhelming pilot episode.
It didn't. As recently as last night's finale, Paul was exasperatedly screaming "IT'S AVERAGE!!!" after yet another reference to his minuscule manhood and Bev was making lame, predictable fat jokes ("It'll be like finding a needle in a haystack," says Paul, after Shelley goes missing. "Pretty big needle, though," says Bev).
Over the course of six half-hour episodes, the writers managed to go for every easy joke you can imagine: one episode featured uncontrolled pooping as a plot point, the boat sinks the first time we see an obese Shelley get into it, Eliot bumps his head on the roof-mounted boat as he walks to the car, and on and on.
Even a potentially uplifting underdog story couldn't help proceedings. For a show with such a clearly defined goal for the protagonist, Golden went nowhere.
The show managed to squander emotional moments with poor writing ("Do you know what it's like to lose a world record?" says Shelley, in a moment of weakness. "It's like being the best in the world at something, then not being the best in the world at that thing anymore."). Shelley spent so much time making excuses for her physique and picking on her team that I truly didn't believe she even wanted to reclaim her former glory. And if she doesn't care, why should I?
Honestly, I'm actually getting annoyed right now, as I write this review. There is nothing in the world more frustrating for a TV viewer than a show with a series of glaringly obvious flaws with fixes that you just know would dramatically improve it.
In the case of Golden, trying to get me to support Team Bowman would have been a good start - plus, spending time developing Shelley as a relatable character would have meant less time for predictable fat jokes. Still, it's too late now. Golden will go down as a misstep in New Zealand's comedy history.
More is the pity, since a bit of creativity and higher aspirations would have avoided it turning out this way.
What did you think of Golden?
(*) I mean "distasteful" in that this joke aired around 7.03pm. I'm all for black comedy, but not during family time.
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