Unsettled weather lying ahead

ALASTAIR PAULIN
Last updated 12:53 21/02/2013
Denzel Washington Flight
FAMILY TIES: Oliver Driver, Erroll Shand and Tammy Davis in Sunny Skies.

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REVIEW: Sunny Skies, Fridays, 8pm, TV3

The forecast for the latest Kiwi comedy is, as the name suggests, mostly fine - although two episodes in, a patch of dodgy weather may be on the horizon.

Sunny Skies, set at a rickety campground of the same name, is built on sturdy foundations. The sitcom blends a fish-out-of-water setup - two half-brothers who didn't know of each other's existence inherit a campground and are forced to run it together - with the odd-couple twist that the brothers are an uptight Pakeha and a "chill, bro" Maori.

Deano (Tammy Davis, the beloved Munter from Outrageous Fortune) turns up for the will reading first, driving an orange Kingswood. Oscar arrives in a blue Mazda MX-5 convertible, and Oliver Driver immediately reveals his gift for physical comedy as he unfolds his gangly frame from the tiny vehicle.

Later, he boasts that his MX-5 is a "classic".

"For a florist, maybe," retorts Deano.

As you can see, the humour is broad - but, largely because of good casting, it works.

Oscar is, he claims, a human resources management consultant; Deano has had "hundreds of jobs". Neither of them knew their father, but Deano has always yearned for whanau.

"I always wanted a big brother. I just didn't know he'd be so . . .white," he tells a visibly recoiling Oscar. Davis nails that pause, turning a seemingly flat line into a funny moment.

It's a tricky balancing act. Deano could easily tip into lazy, borderline racist caricature but, as he displayed to great effect in Outrageous Fortune, Davis is such a generous actor that he makes Deano empathetic and believable.

He is helped in this by being father to young teen Charlotte. Charlie, as she is known, is just as appalled at the idea of moving to the sticks as Auckland yuppie Oscar is, but her bond with her dad, and Deano's almost palpable longing to build a wider family around him, gives the show heart.

Oscar sees the campground as a "two-and-a-half-acre living hell filled with kids, that smells likes parents who can't afford a real holiday".

The campers give the writers the chance to have some fun with various stock characters, from German cycle tourists to the yuppie family who bring all the comforts of home ("Pull the ciabatta from the breadmaker") to the two long-term residents, gay couple Mark (Ian Mune) and Matthew (Mick Innes).

Mark and Matthew are instant classics: objecting to the term gay, they call themselves "good old-fashioned Kiwi homos" and function as sort of Greek chorus, watching the action from the wings and offering priceless reaction shots.

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The show balances the naturalistic setting, instantly recognisable to anyone who has spent time at the Kaiteriteri, Tahunanui or Tukurua campgrounds (it is filmed at the Sandspit Holiday Park in Warkworth), with broad comedy. Everyone, from the writers to the actors, is trying just a bit too hard, but in a good way. Driver and Davis are almost Laurel and Hardyesque in the way they play off each other, with Morgana O'Reilly's camp manager Nicki as the straight woman (and perhaps a romantic interest for Deano) between them.

The looming cloud is the all-too-sudden reconciliation between the diametrically opposed and feuding brothers that came at the end of last week's episode. Oscar had been scheming to ruin the camp as a ploy to sell it - the land is worth millions - but abruptly gave up and was drawn into an awkward group hug with Deano and Nicki. It made no sense for the character, and would seem to pull the rug out from the foundational dynamic of the show.

But given the level of competence shown so far, I'm almost confident that unsettled weather ahead is just what the writers are aiming for.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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