Step Dave a step below where it should have been
The dust has settled on season one of Step Dave and, although it started on a high, it’s fair to say it failed, in my opinion, to hit those heights again during the season.
Step Dave even being on television should be considered a victory given the reticence of local television stations to actually put good quality Kiwi dramedy on their channels.
Hot off the back of the cancellation of The Almighty Johnsons, Go Girls and Nothing Trivial, the pressure on Step Dave to perform was huge.
It’s unfair to expect one show, especially a new one, to be able to bolster the hopes of local actors, developers, writers etc but that’s effectively what Step Dave was charged with.
Now I don’t want to be too negative. A good Kiwi show is worth much more, in my opinion, than the wealth of cheap imports that haunt our television listings.
And, unsurprisingly, the episode written by the brilliant James Griffin and directed by the equally amazing Michael Hurst was the highlight - it was amongst the best single episodes of a show I’ve seen in a long time.
Other aspects weren’t quite as positive.
The inevitable break-up of Cara (Sia Trokenheim) and Dave (Jono Kenyon) in the penultimate episode was almost cringe-inducing. The whole ‘if you love them, set them free’ trope has been done so many times that I had hoped we might avoid it.
And the finale, although it ended on a heart-warming note, just felt too rushed and a little out of character for my liking.
We went from heartbroken Dave and Cara to Dave rooting everything that moves and Cara waking up and seemingly remembering it was her 40th birthday in a couple of days.
It made what followed seem … well, almost scriptwriting by the numbers. Just because virtually every love story ever has a get together/break up/get back together storyline doesn’t mean our own shows have to follow suit.
I may be being a touch too hard on those responsible for Step Dave there, to be honest - there was still a lot of humour and Kiwiness (for the want of a better word) that had to be put in, but hopefully you know what I mean.
But my biggest issues were with the characters.
Dave and Cara were pretty well fleshed out (except for Dave’s seemingly automatic desire to root despite having broken up with the love of his life) and I really enjoyed Tania Nolan’s (Cara’s sister Julia) and Will Wallace’s (Julia’s husband Phillip) performances and characters.
Aidee Walker did a great job as Cara’s business partner and friend although I found Jen’s seemingly amazing ability to quickly get over a gay character she’d been in love with for so long a little jarring.
The last episode virtually ignored it. People don’t tend to get over rejection like that as easily as it appears on Step Dave.
The characters whom I didn’t like just weren’t very nuanced despite some great performances by the actors.
Marion (Lisa Harrow) was almost the stereotypical mother-in-law and I really just wanted Cara to tell her to leave.
And the ‘we hate each other/love each other’ routine of permanently unhappy Azza (Rawiri Jobe) and Betty (JJ Fong) was boring, contrived and made those characters one dimensional.
Why would Dave, who is generally effervescent and nice, live with a guy who is a bit of a dick, like Azza? Yet we’re supposed to believe they are somehow best friends who are going to travel around the world together.
Likewise Dave’s mum - who’s sole purpose was a deus ex machina to get Cara and Dave to split up and pay for the round the world trip for two guys who can’t hold down a job - who seemed like a second thought.
Still, as the season itself did, I want to finish on a high.
Millen Baird’s arc as Cara’s ex-husband Stewie was brilliant and gave us some much needed humour, levity and… well, a bad guy to dislike.
I’d much prefer for Stewie to be around next year than Azza and Betty - think of the possibilities.
Step Dave can still be great. It needs to be tightened up a little but there’s no reason it can’t go on to many more seasons.
However, that’s going to require the writers to think out of the box and plot a new path for Dave and Cara which isn’t one of the story lines we’ve seen a million times before.
I have faith. Let’s hope TVNZ and New Zealand On Air also do.