Prime in 2014: what to look forward to

21:13, Nov 20 2013

The final new season launch of the season of new season launches (seriously, I need to figure out a better name for this) took place a couple of nights ago, with Prime revealing their plans for next year. I always enjoy finding out what Prime has in store because they don't have the same kind of expansive content deals that TVNZ and Mediaworks have (or had, as is the case); with the exception of a deal with CBS, that brought shows like Elementary and Under The Dome to Prime this year, it tends to mean their line-up skews a little more quirky than its competitors.

Here are a few thoughts on their announcement this week ...

A stronger line-up of scripted content than ever before

Prime look set to host a few quality shows next year: The Paradise, a period drama that looks to one-up Mr Selfridge by setting itself in a department store in 1875, enjoyed strong ratings and reviews when it aired, and The White Queen, a 10-part drama set at the time of the War Of The Roses, sounds like it could be pretty great too.

The CBS deal pays off with Reign, which starts tonight at 9.35pm and follows the early days of Mary Queen Of Scots; The Millers starts on December 1 and stars Will Arnett (Arrested Development) as a divorcee whose mother moves in after his father leaves her; and Star Crossed tells the love story between a girl and an alien after visitors to our planet start attending school. I have varied responses - Reign is easily the pick of the bunch, while Star Crossed sounds something like a Roswell reboot - but I'll be checking out all three.

The new shows join returning favourites like Downton Abbey, Elementary, True Blood (for its final season), New Tricks, Under The Dome (ugh) and Doctor Who.


A decent line-up of sports coverage, too

Prime continue their practice of delayed coverage of rugby, league and netball, while expanding into tennis and horse racing (?!) and adding the Commonwealth Games and Winter Olympics as well. Have you ever watched curling at the highest level? I was at a party during the last Winter Olympics, and spent an evening drinking and watching curling, and it was absolutely riveting. At least, I think it was. That might be the Canadian Club talking.

The thing is, will it actually look any good?

The biggest criticism of Prime isn't actually to do with their content (even though Under The Dome is pretty awful). No, the biggest problem Prime has is that it isn't broadcasting in high-definition (HD). It might be televisual snobbery, but it's getting harder and harder to watch anything that isn't broadcast in HD. Blurry images and pixellation mean that shows look more like something I could've downloaded off the internet in a few minutes, and less colour depth and clarity mean that everything just looks drab compared to its high-def brethren.

Prime, you need to switch to HD within the next 12 months. You're broadcasting a number of shows - True Blood, Game Of Thrones, Reign, Doctor Who, Downton Abbey, to name five - that were made to be seen in high-definition. We know you can do it; remember the Olympics last year? The HD switch needs to happen now. And if you don't believe me, just have a flick through the comments, below.

There is some really nice local content coming

Once again, Prime has put together a range of local programming - mostly in the realm of documentary - that should prove some of the most interesting local television of the year. The more-interesting-than-it-should-be Shearing Gang will be back, along with Back Benches, a political show which I consider one of the best in the world. Beneath New Zealand, Keeping It Pure and Making New Zealand will provide angles on our landscape and history, following on from the rather brilliant NZ From Above. And The Naughty Bits will trace our history of censorship, looking at some of what has been banned over the years in film, radio, television, video games and literature.

Some of the local programming is about World War I, and I like that

2014 is notable as being a hundred years since World War I began, back in 1914, and Prime have highlighted two series to mark the event: War News will frame five events from World War I, that involved New Zealand, as if they were being reported during modern times (live crosses, satellite links, and so on), while Prime's first foray into scripted drama - Anzac Girls - will tell the story of ANZAC nurses during World War I, with a cast led by Antonia Prebble.

The centenary of World War I's beginnings is an important event that is worth commemorating, and a great opportunity to work a little history into the line-up. Prime are off to a good start here; I'm sure there will be more on the way, too.

But will it actually look any good?

Seriously: Prime. HD. Now, please.

What do you think of Prime's line-up for 2014? Anything catch your eye?

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