Aussies muttering about our TV series

NOT TO TASTE: The Almighty Johnsons failed to measure up for one Aussie critic.
NOT TO TASTE: The Almighty Johnsons failed to measure up for one Aussie critic.


The headline in The Age read "Aussie networks hit NZ to go fushing".

The article, written by TV reviewer Peter Munro, tantrumed that watching Aussie TV during the non-ratings period was "like waking up in Whakatane, Waipu, Waikikamukau or any other patently made-up place in New Zealand".

Apparently the holiday period across the ditch has produced a rash of bad (in his words) Kiwi television shows including Wild Vets, The Cult, The Almighty Johnsons, Sensing Murder and having to listen to "fusheries officers" do their thung in Coastwatch.

According to Munro, the "whole cultural exchange thing" has gone too far because under a trade agreement, Kiwi programmes count as Aussie content (commercial networks have to provide 55 per cent local content between 6am and midnight).

Apparently Channel Seven is heavily freighted with Kiwi documentary series such as Coastwatch, Border Patrol and Wild Vets, while in 2011 Channel Ten screened more than 25 per cent of first released "Australian" drama that came from New Zealand.

Munro accused the networks of storing up Kiwi shows specifically to flog off during the non-rating lull, "when they don't seem to care that some locals are watching TV, so we might be on the beach in Bondi but in TV land we're wearing jandals and packing Steinlagers in our chilly bins".

Outrageous Fortune passed muster with Munro, but the holiday period had "more bad Kiwi programmes on the box than you can poke a sheep at". To back up his disdain for Kiwi fare he quotes Australian Communications and Media Authority chairman Chris Chapman who is said to have been a bit sniffy, back in June, about the reliance on Kiwi material to boost the Australian networks' quota, saying perhaps it came at the cost of quality Australian stories.

Well, it cuts both ways. Not only do we have to reciprocate with having to put up with bad Australian TV, we have to digest it at primetime – RPA, Border Security, Recruit Paramedics, The Block Australia, Top Gear Australia, The Suspects, Deal or No Deal, Millionaire Hot Seat – to mention but a few of the less than choice morsels appearing with monotonous regularity on our menu.

We have also had to be the enduring victims of a violent assault of Underbellies – such shows as Underbelly: A Tale of Two Cities, The Golden Mile, Razor, Badness and on and on it goes, demonstrating an ability to mine a rich vein and milk a theme to death.

As for the drama we are on the receiving end of, if you think ours isn't much chop, Packed to the Rafters, which was heart-warming family entertainment in the first two series, was pretty ordinary last time round, and Winners and Losers, their girl-fest ripoff of the Kiwi Go Girls, is straight-out dreadful. I can find no fault with the consistently brilliant Offspring and am panting for the next season. The relationship drama Tangle was emotionally dense, but where's their next best shot?

The Almighty Johnsons and The Cult might have been too far-fetched and overly ambitious but at least the networks that funded those shows backed originality and took a risk, a big risk.

Speaking of risk, the line-up of presenters to front TV One's new 7pm current affairs show Seven Sharp – Greg Boyed, Alison Mau and Jesse Mulligan – seems a little crowded, two being company and three being downright kinky.

Viewers have been warned the Close Up replacement will be even "liter" than the previous show but Seven Sharp isn't starting for a few weeks, giving those who stay loyal to TV One a real incentive to defect permanently to Campbell Live. It's all very well having a pointy head of difference but missing the start line with your competitor gives them a massive advantage.

The Dominion Post