Searching for jewels in midst of dross

Last updated 14:58 10/01/2013
HOMELAND: Show of the year, writes Alastair Paulin

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It's Elementary, Watson, but only by a whisker Jailhouse rock turns raw emotions into music Not much procedure amongst this bunch Much-hyped show political junkie's high-end drug Fresh look at rom-com Superhero spinoff lays on the spectacle Charismatic villains mark of the new season Fresh, but stale around the edges Current, but patchy Series studies clean green truths

Nelson Mail TV reviewers Alastair Paulin and Nick Ward look back on the high and low points of the 2012 viewing year.:

Let's not dwell on the low points of television in 2012, though goodness knows, there were enough of them.

As if there was any doubt, our venerable state broadcaster proved once and for all that it's given up on serious news and current affairs by letting TVNZ7 die, canning Close Up (though "serious" didn't exactly apply there), and slashing Sunday back to half an hour.

Instead, all eyeballs (and funding) turned to New Zealand's Got Talent. Clara van Wel was a thoroughly deserving winner, though the rest of the field was patchy at best. And, barring all the times she stood in the wings watching her wrinkly (now ex)-husband belting out Sailing, what the hell does Rachel Hunter know about the performing arts?

But the big question of the year remains unanswered - what was the point of The GC? To show that young Kiwis can be just as booze-sodden and emotionally immature as they are on this side of the Tasman? To give an ageing nightclub singer a career boost? To make us despair at the state of Kiwi manhood, with guys who shave their legs and use more cosmetics than a flat full of hairdressers?

Fortunately, there were still plenty of quality shows, even if they were sometimes tucked away in lousy timeslots. We didn't even need Sky to see some of them (if you're not the kind of person who simply has to see the latest shows right away or you'll die, you can always wait for them to screen on Prime).

Nick Ward's Top 5

Boardwalk Empire

The most lavish costume drama next to Downton Abbey got bigger and better as the characters developed new levels of moral complexity. There was also the welcome demise of Jimmy, who wasn't really up to it as the main villain. As if a pouting halfwit barely out of his teens ever had a chance of outmanoeuvring Steve Buscemi's increasingly ruthless and reptilian Nucky Thompson.

The Walking Dead

After a slow second season, this zombie apocalypse saga has sparked back into life with a massive body count, an intriguing new bad guy, and a renewed sense of desperation as the survivors' baser instincts come to the fore. Required viewing for those with strong stomachs.


If you can overlook the iffy animal welfare issues associated with greyhound racing, this was the best Kiwi comedy in many a Moon. Great writing and a great cast (Susana Tang was a revelation), plus a supporting lineup of one-off weirdos, made this a candidate for the title of "modern classic".

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Jono and Ben at Ten

The relentless self-deprecation meant that when the bad jokes fell flat, they charged on regardless. This marriage of necessity was surprisingly effective. Even so, I'm not being parochial when I say that Guy Williams was responsible for many of the best moments.


As fast-moving and clever as the great detective's feverish brain, this was an exhilarating reinvention. Benedict Cumberbatch was perfect as a Sherlock for the new century, fuelled by nicotine patches, rampant sarcasm and fierce pride.

Alastair's Top 5


The only show that got fired up on the DVR just minutes after it aired because I just couldn't wait to see what would happen next. The plots became increasingly divorced from reality but the performances from Claire Danes and Damien Lewis were so deeply realised that it was still believable. The writers chomped through plotlines with stunning speed, keeping me on the edge of my seat. It was my show of the year.

New Girl

Yes, Zooey Deschanel's Jess is equal parts cloying and annoying, the writers don't know what to do with Winston while Schmidt epitomises almost everything wrong with modern narcissistic manhood. But New Girl made me laugh more than any other sitcom on the box, and that's all that counts.


A gentle but funny take on modern faith and parish life, Rev avoided the English country vicar cliches by being set in the heart of London. Tom Hollander's Rev Adam Smallbone was full of doubt and mostly ineffective, yet his befuddlement felt more authentic than the most confident pastor of any megachurch. Small pleasures such as Dickensian character naming and a realistic portrait of marriage made Rev resonate beyond the knowing chuckles it provoked.

First Crossings

Finally, a show besides Country Calendar that made good use of our greatest natural resources - spectacular South Island locations and laconic blokes. In celebrating the pioneers who traversed the country by re-creating their expeditions, Jamie Fitzgerald and Kevin Biggar created the detoxifying antidote to The GC.

New Zealand's Got Talent

It's all too easy to mock New Zealand's Got Talent for exposing the shallow talent pool of a population of 4.4 million, the use of taxpayers' $1.6 million to make a giant Toyota ad and the scraping of the celebrity barrel to dish up Rachel Hunter and Ali Campbell. But the show proved NZ can do slick and populist as well as anyone, host Tamati Coffey and judge Jason Kerrison brought warmth and heart to the proceedings and it brought our whole family onto the couch to urge on our favourites on a Sunday night.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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