I am an unabashed fan of New Zealand comedy, in its sitcom and stand-up forms - and you would think that would be enough reason for me to love A Night at The Classic, the local comedy series that finished its second season last night on One.
Somewhat surprisingly, I think I enjoyed the show less as a comedy and more as a character study.
A Night at The Classic was riotously funny, of course. By framing each episode with a different event at the legendary comedy venue (Fresh Comedy Night, Guest Night, and so on), the show was able to rotate in a different collection of local comedians each week. Some worked. Some didn't. Either way, it was a great idea to keep the show fresh within a familiar setting, and with a handful of familiar characters like Grant and Cori hanging around too.
But the main reason I loved A Night at The Classic was Brendhan Lovegrove.
The major change to the show in its second season was the introduction of a season-long story arc for Lovegrove, here playing a fictionalised version of himself, which found the narcissistic MC pining for the kind of respect he believes he deserves, chasing an opportunity to be "roasted" on a new comedy channel, and having that chance torn away.
And while part of me was unsympathetic - Lovegrove was enough of an a-hole during the season, constantly reminding us of his Comedian of the Year awards and stints on Rove and Pulp Comedy, that he'd put anyone off - another, much larger part of me was actually sorry that all this had happened. I got surprisingly invested in Lovegrove's plight.
Intentionally or not, you could see Lovegrove playing up his vulnerable side and trying his hardest to please people; this wasn't a man who necessarily felt entitled to more respect or entitled to that comedy roast. This was a man who just wanted the approval of his peers (and comedy fans), who wanted to be part of the in-crowd, who wanted the love of (as he referred to his fellow comedians last night) his family. And who could blame him?
The resolution of that arc, of Brendhan getting that roast he so desperately wanted (but perhaps not in the way he might've expected), was a good way to end the series; the insults flying around the room at a blistering pace gave the half-hour an incredibly cathartic vibe, as it redeemed our leading man. Lovegrove pursued what he thought he wanted, and his failure brought him full circle to the realisation that already he had what he really wanted all along.
You can't ask for a better resolution than that.
A great season, the end of which makes me desperately hope we see a third*, and a brilliantly subtle performance from Lovegrove. A Night at The Classic is yet another success for local comedy. Bravo.
What did you think of A Night at The Classic's second season?
(*) Two Heads, the production company behind A Night at The Classic, said (via Twitter) that "you never know" - and after last night's finale, a third season could theoretically focus on a different comedian. I'm hopeful.
- - - - -
Here's a look at what is coming up next week ...
As with last week, there is little to get excited about. Singing fans can take in the second episode of American Idol's new season (Prime, 7.30pm). Personally, I'd recommend the encore screening of The Sitting that starts this weekend (TVNZ Heartland, 10pm); the first episode, if I recall, features artist Stephen Martyn Welch talking to Dick and Otis Frizzell.
The new season of Pretty Little Liars (TV2, 5.30pm) starts, but I suspect most of you will probably be more interested in the Downton Abbey Christmas Special (Prime, 8.30pm), in which the Crawleys head to Scotland, leaving the servants at home. Hey, when the cat's away ...
Breakfast is back with new hosts Toni Street and Rawdon Christie (One, 6am), Campbell Live returns (TV3, 7pm), and we get new episodes of Piha Rescue and Rapid Response (One, 7.30pm/8pm). You can go behind the scenes of some of the best shows around with Showrunners (SoHo, 8pm). Criminal Minds is back for its eighth season (One, 8.30pm), and Prime launches a pair of panel shows with Never Mind the Buzzcocks and Qi (Prime, 8.30pm/9.05pm). There's also My Cat from Hell: Season 2 (Animal Planet, 9.30pm), but I don't really care about that.
Surveillance Oz makes its debut and SCU: Serious Crash Unit is back with new episodes (One, 7.30pm/8pm), before documentary series Africa takes us into the heart of, er, Africa (One, 8.30pm). By the way, Comedy Central has new third-season episodes of wacky workplace comedy Workaholics (10.25pm).
Aussie drama Winners & Losers is back for a second season (One, 8.30pm), forcing Alcatraz to late Thursday night. Trickery is the order of the day on Undercover Boss USA (One, 9.30pm). Meanwhile, new archaeology show Pub Dig (Prime, 8.30pm) takes a look at Britain from below, and new episodes of Life Unexpected are back (Four, 10.30pm)
Excellent cop drama Luther is starting again from the beginning (UKTV, 9.30pm), and the final episode of Threesome (and an A Night at The Classic repeat) promises change (specifically, new episodes of Miranda next week) (One, 9.30pm/10pm). Later, as mentioned, Alcatraz finds a new home for its final six episodes (One, 11.35pm).
About the only thing I can say about Friday night is that the final episode of Dallas - and the final episode aired before the death of star Larry Hagman - is on One at 8.30pm. Alternatively, if you're after a good book, I'd thoroughly recommend The Revolution Was Televised by Alan Sepinwall, which traces the recent history of serial drama, focusing on a collection of shows including Oz, The Sopranos, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, 24 and more. Check it out!