Aussie fed up with too much Kiwi TV

PETER MUNRO
Last updated 16:55 10/01/2013
Almighty Johnsons

NZ IMPORT: The Almighty Johnsons now screens on Australia's Channel Ten.

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OPINION: Sydney Morning Herald's Peter Munro complains about too much Kiwi television, on all networks, all week.

Australia has long had a slightly icky inbred relationship with New Zealand, our choice cuz from across the sea. They gave us Russell Crowe, Split Enz, Phar Lap and pavlova. And in return we gave their long-term unemployed access to our generous welfare system.

In the spirit of such friendship, we say ''kia ora'' to all the hobbits, elves, dwarves and Greenpeace protesters in the land of the long white cloud. While we have greater global significance and better cricketers, we are proud to be your brother/sister/estranged-cousin-twice-removed.

Saying that, though, the whole cultural-exchange thing has gone too far. Watching Australian television during the non-ratings period is like waking up in Whakatane, Waipu, Waikikamukau or any other patently made-up place in New Zealand.

Channel Seven is screening Wild Vets each night in what used to be known as prime time, so that we might watch New Zealand veterinarians counsel Priscilla the lioness through an identity crisis near Tahunanui Beach.

Staying on Seven, New Zealand ''fusheries'' officers are holding back ''the relentless tide of reckless or carefree shell-food gatherers'' in Coastwatch, while religious nutters trudge about lush forests in the drama The Cult.

Over on Channel Ten, the super-strong New Zealander Axl, who also has the power to turn himself into a woman, has been flexing his gender-confused muscles in the fantasy series The Almighty Johnsons. Channel Nine has no less than Mrs Rafter herself, Rebecca Gibney, seeing dead people with the aid of New Zealand psychics in Sensing Murder.

Such programs help commercial TV networks meet their quota of 55 per cent Australian content between 6am and midnight. Under the trade agreement between Australia and New Zealand, Kiwi programs count as Australian content. But Australian Communications and Media Authority chairman Chris Chapman noted in June that the networks were increasingly relying on the Kiwis to bolster their quota, perhaps at the cost of ''quality Australian stories''.

Indeed, more than 25 per cent of first-release Australian drama aired by Ten in 2011 was actually from New Zealand, while Seven relied heavily on Kiwi documentaries such as Border Patrol, Coastwatch and Wild Vets.

The networks save up such programs for the non-ratings period, when they don't seem to care that some locals are still watching TV. So we might be on the beach in Bondi but in TV land we're wearing jandals and packing Steinlagers in our chilly bins.

I'm all for importing content. The more we see of Estonia's Next Top Model the better, in my book. But it's a hard slog during the non-ratings period, when there are more bad Kiwi programs on the box than you could poke a sheep at (obligatory ovine joke).

With the exception of well-received shows such as Outrageous Fortune, most are poor cousins of genuine Australian programming.

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There is also something farcical in fudging our maritime boundaries, particularly when it's not the Australian government trying to keep out asylum seekers. Seven was thought to have once flirted with the idea of claiming The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King as local content - though a forest-load of elvish Cate Blanchetts wouldn't have floated that boat.

This summer, I say it's time to excise New Zealand from our shores, in a metaphorical sense at least. If it comes down to a choice between Shortland Street and The Shire, I'll choose the genuine Aussie show every time.

It's bad television, but at least it's our bad television.

-Sydney Morning Herald

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