Westside - outrageous, funny... and brilliant

Expectations are a weird thing. They can transform a mediocre show into an acceptable one if they're low enough. Conversely, they can turn a fantastic show into an okay one by being too high.

I've watched no new show in the last decade with higher expectations than the ones I sat down with to watch the debut of Outrageous Fortune prequel Westside at the weekend - and I'm delighted to say nearly every one was met.

Let's start with the negative from my point of view - some of the language used. It wouldn't be authentic for a show set in the 1970s to have the same sensibilities as we do in 2015 but every time I hear a slur or phrase used that isn't acceptable today it really brings me out of the experience.

This isn't just an issue with Westside, of course. And it may say more about me than it does about the show or the audience - but I find it a distraction and presume at least a few others have similar issues.

Going by a NZ Herald interview with creators Rachel Lang and James Griffin, episode three is shaping up as the one that I may struggle to watch. It features "cheerfully racist and sexist dialogue", according to Lang.

I think the issue is that a lot of people are able to see the slurs for what they are - a harking back to the dark days where racism, sexism and homophobia etc weren't just acceptable but condoned. Unfortunately there are many who won't - they will mentally high-five themselves because the characters are articulating something they still believe.

There's not much that can be done about that, though, besides acknowledging it. And thankfully the language is just a minor problem in what is a much greater success story.

Some may disagree, but I think it's a brave decision to revisit the universe of Outrageous Fortune. The original is so loved and holds a unique spot in New Zealand television history - and so the price of failure for Lang and Griffin could go beyond a stain on their reputations.

But the worry really was for nothing. The faith that I've long had in the duo to - together or separately - provide some of the best, thought-provoking, original and enjoyable television on our screens has been rewarded by a show that has all the hallmarks of a classic.

And they've been true to the original show as well - using the backstory already part of canon like that of The Secret Parts of Fortune (episode 17 of series three) - to ensure it works together but can also be viewed as its own beast.

Of course the acting is superb. Antonia Prebble (who played Loretta in the original) is sublime as Rita, while David de Lautour as Ted proves he's got more in his book than a fantastic impression of Stephen Donald.

The supporting cast proved equally adept and I look forward to seeing more from them as this six-parter progresses. It's fair to say, however, I squealed with delight when Will Hall (Nothing Trivial) appeared. I wish I could hire him to come around my house and make wise cracks and laugh every day - there's just something incredibly infectuous about him.

The only questionable acting was that of neighbour Vern, who had a thing with Rita while Ted was serving his time in Mt Eden Prison.

The accent? It sounded at various points like English, South Africa, Dutch and a host of others too. It distracted from his performance and the story, which actually got pretty dark at one point - although Rita's rat poison-laced Lamingtons didn't prove to be successful in getting rid of his unwanted attentions.

In addition to the drama there was plenty of humour to the story - most of which came from a vague nostalgia for the 1970s I just about remember. "Go and warm up the tv" may have been the favourite line - I had completely forgotten about those days. But the upturned cocktail stick hedgehog was the highlight. Oh for those days of cheese cubes and pickled onions!

The actual plot of episode one has been covered elsewhere (warning: spoilers!) so I won't spend any time on that, suffice to say that seeing the famous West house toward the end of the episode was a beautiful moment.

That Ted then stood on the balcony, peeing, may be some kind of deep metaphor for those who talk down New Zealand's  quality drama and comedy. Or it may just be indicative that nobody delivers a mix of humour and drama better than Lang and Griffin.

Regardless, I'm just glad to see another quality Kiwi show on the box - and one which is surely destined to go longer than the six episodes already filmed.