Kiwi viewing habits are embarrassing

The fifth season of Go Girls ended on TV2 last night. But I don't really want to talk about the fifth (maybe even final, given how poorly it rated compared to last year) season of Go Girls today. Instead, I'd like to discuss something else, something that has consumed my thinking for the past week or so.

We need to talk about the viewing choices of many New Zealanders. They're embarrassing.

Ratings for New Zealand-made scripted comedy and drama are down across the board. We live in a country where repeats of comedy shows consistently outrate local content, where brainless international content is a more valuable commodity than quality original shows made right here at home. For a fan of local content, like me, this is upsetting.

Last week's penultimate episode of Go Girls drew only 166,740 viewers, shedding about two-thirds of the lead-in provided by Mitre 10 Dream Home. Go Girls may have turned off viewers with a pre-season cast overhaul, but I reckon it's been as entertaining as ever.

The Almighty Johnsons, meanwhile, is on the brink of being pulled from the schedule entirely. The show is at a creative peak and is a hit internationally - being picked up by networks in Australia, Britain and Canada, and is in the midst of negotiating a deal to air in the USA.

There is a real fear now that there aren't enough local viewers to keep it on the air here. The first two episodes managed 137,770 and 114,830 viewers, respectively. Meanwhile, repeats of Mrs Brown's Boys - REPEATS, as in episodes that have aired in this country before - managed 508,690 and 535,740 viewers.

Earlier this year, The Blue Rose made its debut to lowish numbers and dropped from there, eventually seeing out its first (and probably only) season at 9.30pm, despite the fact that the show was entertaining, boasted a great cast and a fantastic soundtrack, and was visually stunning. What beat The Blue Rose in the ratings? The absolutely horrible cooking show My Kitchen Rules and repeats of The Big Bang Theory. REPEATS, as in episodes that have aired in this country before.*

You can go on down through the list: last year's creative success Hounds, beachfront comedy Sunny Skies, gritty drama Harry, the last season of Nothing Trivial ... everywhere you look, local shows that are, in most cases, better than most of the international crud we're spoon-fed by the big channels are being undone by low-quality alternatives and apathy from viewers. And that is entirely on the viewers, not the programmers.

There is a temptation to blame the channels themselves for the poor performance of local shows, and the slow takeover of primetime by cheap reality programming, but I don't think they are to blame. Viewers like to blame the networks for not playing enough good shows, but networks are only responding to viewer trends.

Not every viewer is doing a bad job - many viewers are taking advantage of quality programming, both locally made and brought in from abroad. And I suspect that if you could poll everyone who watched The Almighty Johnsons and Mrs Brown's Boys last week, the number of viewers who were actually paying attention to the Johnsons would probably be higher than the number of people actually paying attention to Mrs Brown's Boys. The ratings don't take that into account.

What I'm trying to say is, I just don't think a repeat of anything should ever outrate an original local show. Locally made television is as good, right now, as it has ever been. Yet viewers seem more intent on watching an Irish guy dressed in drag do things they've already seen him do before, multiple times. I'm disappointed. And I'm angry.

What do you think about how poorly local programming is rating this year? Are you as angry about it as I am?

 (*) Coming sometime to this blog: Chris complains for a thousand words about why we're subjected to so many repeats of terrible comedy shows when there is new content sitting out there, never getting played on TV in this country.

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