I really wanted to like Agent Anna (Thursday, 8.30pm, TV One ) but the first episode was as hard to sell as a real estate agent's first house sale.
Sadly this tragicomedy, as actress director, producer and deviser of it Robyn Malcolm describes it, was as dull and beige as Anna Kingston's clothing.
While it is admirable that Malcolm wanted to make television for a 40-plus female demographic, once again the country is given a show set in Auckland.
Well gone are the days when it was fun to laugh at money-obsessed shallow Jafas. We've had so many shows set in Auckland sold to the rest of the country by the makers of them who trot out the hackneyed motive that they want to make television that tells New Zealand stories about ourselves. NB please not just Aucklanders' stories.
And, frankly, making the woman at the centre of the tragicomedy a 40-something recently separated mother of two who hasn't worked for 20 years, won't endear her to women, single or married, with or without children, who have worked all their lives - after all this is 2013, not 1970.
Not only was Anna a kept woman and a submissive house frau, she also seems to be hopelessly naive and feckless, making her character deeply irritating.
There is every expectation that the beige clothes will disappear and there will be a sartorial transformation along with a buddying up with Sandy, the agent-weary harpy played by Theresa Healy in order to form an alliance against the oleaginous commission-stealing Leon.
Also Anna is clumsy. She gets her hand stuck in a letter box and the ghastly Leon comes to her aid by applying vulgar squirts from a huge tube of lubricant he keeps handy in the breast pocket of his suit.
In the process one arm of her blouse is ripped off and the heel of her shoe breaks leaving her limping forlornly down the road.
Uninvited she attends a party held by her former friends, the gathering a collection of wall-to- wall well-heeled b... and bastards, except for one woman who seems to be as thick as Anna.
Empowered by self-help tapes and mantras such as "failure is not an option" which she plays over and over again on a dud CD player in her car, Anna, against her own limited judgment, ventures into territory even she should know to steer well clear of in the vain hope she will secure the sale of her rich friends' mansion.
Her former friends treat her with disdain and pity, the woman of the house chucking her out when she gets lippy and drunk, giving her 20 bucks for the cab fare home plus a couple of frozen chooks and a directive to stick a lemon up their bottoms. Yes, the dialogue sucks as much as the show's premise.
Anna's backstory is that her husband cleared out and cleaned her out and is now starting a new business and a new life in Australia while she's left behind holding the baby - two whiny teenagers - and a huge debt.
In the rough, she's moved home to Mum and Dad's (Janice Finn and Ian Mune's) house and has to suffer her mother's bad advice to make up with her cad husband. Her two daughters, Charlotte and Bella, have been wrenched out of their private school and are being sniffy about having to downsize their foodie diet to chew on mince.
At work Anna struggles to comprehend the nature of the cut throat job and hands Leon her commission on a plate. Anna arrives at her snooty friends' mansion just in time to see Leon signing the commission while she's thrown the crumb of doing the open homes.
We all saw that coming. It's like watching pantomime as you want to yell out "Look out Anna, Leon's after you!" but without the laughs or the empathy.
I really do hope that the second episode snaps out of the nose dive of the first episode. Malcolm is a fine actress and hopefully the awakening of Anna will be hugely entertaining and she will realise her characters' own cheesy mantra "failure is not an option".
Making Anna so dull and so stupid to begin with gives her lots of room to change, if anyone can be bothered caring or tuning in after such a low-watt start.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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