No apologies for our favourite soap

CHRIS PHILPOTT
Last updated 16:13 07/09/2011
Shortland St

GOOD MEDICINE: Roimata and Jill from Shortland Street.

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OPINION: I'm not a fan of Shortland Street, or soaps in general - the repetitive storylines, the unlikely plot developments, even the sheer frequency with which they show up on our networks.

But I do know that while it's OK to dislike a show, it's not OK to dislike a show for a reason that simply isn't fair or honest. And when it comes to Shortland Street, there are some common criticisms that just don't stack up.

"It's not made at an international level!"

If you've ever visited Fiji or Rarotonga, then you'll know this to be untrue; in both countries, Shortland Street is shown during prime time and consistently rates among the top shows on their local networks.

In addition, Shorty also achieved success in Britain, where it was the top-rated afternoon soap, and has been screened around the world in Canada, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Ireland and Malta, to name just a few - and given that any of these countries could have been showing any number of alternatives from anywhere else on the globe, I think it's safe to say that Shortland Street probably holds its own in a saturated soap opera market.

"The writing is substandard and handled by a team of nobodies!"

Producer Steven Zanoski says the writing on Shortland Street is done by committee, with a number of big names involved throughout its near- 20-year run.

Among them: Gavin Strawhan, Rachel Lang and James Griffin, the brains trust behind Outrageous Fortune, Nothing Trivial and The Almighty Johnsons, as well as Whale Rider director Nicky Caro, comedian Oscar Kightley and playwright David Geary.

"The acting is terrible and the stars won't find work anywhere else!"

The international success of stars like Temuera Morrison, Martin Henderson and Craig Parker, who've played major roles in large-scale Hollywood productions, makes this the easiest claim to dismiss. Simply check out an episode of Nothing Trivial or Underbelly: Land of the Long Green Cloud this week, and say hello to Shortland Street alumni Shane Cortese, Blair Strang, Stelios Yiakmis, John Leigh, Tandi Wright and Joel Tobeck - in addition to well- known current castmates Robbie Magasiva, Teuila Blakely and Matt Chamberlain.

"It's just not as good as my favourite show!"

C'mon, even casual viewers can tell that Shortland Street doesn't aspire to the lofty heights of local shows like Go Girls or The Almighty Johnsons, let alone major international shows like Grey's Anatomy or The Mentalist.

Zanoski explains that this is mostly to do with volume.

"We put out 250 half-hour episodes a year, as opposed to the seven to 20 one-hour episodes that any other New Zealand drama will produce," he says.

"In terms of our fast-turnaround method of production, there is no fair comparison with other shows but, that aside, it might be fair to compare shows in terms of entertainment value alone - Shortland Street is designed as a soap opera, and makes no apologies for it."

"It's a waste of taxpayer money and no-one even likes it!"

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Actually, if you want to get specific on the numbers, Shortland Street is the highest-rating scripted show in this country - and hasn't been funded by New Zealand On Air since 1994, as it earns enough in revenue to pay its own way on television.

So on top of everything else, it isn't actually costing you anything, and the majority of television viewers in this country seem to enjoy it.

The Details

What: Shortland Street

When: Weeknights, 7pm

Where: TV2

- © Fairfax NZ News

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