This year's gems set to be rolled out
Alastair Paulin searches for signs of intelligent life in the 2014 crop of television.
You may think the rain means summer has barely started but in TV world, the first signs of autumn are already here.
It is not so much that summer has moved but that the traditional summer hiatus - where the networks run repeats, movies, cricket, and stories about UFOs instead of fresh programming - is being eroded.
Buffeted from all sides by digital downloads, time-shifted viewing, video gaming and internet content, the networks can no longer afford to risk alienating a large chunk of its audience by starving it of fresh shows.
Exhibit A is Trophy Wife, a critically-acclaimed new sitcom that debuts on TV2 on Monday night at 8.30pm. I had this noted on my list of shows to look out for that I made last year, expecting that it would launch in February at the earliest.
Instead I find myself happily firing up the season pass starting January 13 for a show that promises to overcome its tacky title.
Malin Akerman stars as Kate, a lively young woman who falls into the lap and in love with an older man, who she marries. Despite the show's title and Akerman's blond bubbliness, this is not as shallow as it sounds.
For one thing, Pete, the older man, is played by The West Wing's Bradley Whitford and he is not some sad middle-aged man searching for a young trophy. But he does have two-ex-wives and three children. In another casting coup, imperious ex-wife Diane is played by Marcia Gay Harden.
The show focuses on Kate's sudden swing from the life of a young single woman to having to negotiate Pete's complex family life. It has been described as if Kate has dropped out of a single woman sitcom (think New Girl) into a Modern Family type set-up. If you love either of those shows as much as I do, you can see why I'm optimistic.
But wait, there's more! Monday night on TV2 at 8pm also features the launch of the Rebel Wilson comedy Super Fun Night. Wilson is an Australian comic actor turned Hollywood star (Bridesmaids, Bachelorette, Pitch Perfect) and as well as starring, she created the show. I have yet to see it but based on her career so far, I have hopes for laughs.
The back-to-back-sitcoms are followed on TV2 by new episodes of Scandal, my show of the year for 2013, about which I have already written too much.
Any show preview that features the words "from the makers of The Block NZ" would normally strike fear into my heart but The Great Food Race on TV3 sounds like a competition I want to be a part of, not just watch.
Eight couples race around the world competing in a cooking show format. If the blend of travel and cooking show can learn from the best examples of those genres, perhaps an Amazing Race meets Top Chef mash-up, then it could be promising. On the other hand, if it is to take its cues from The Block, perhaps we should expect an overcooked dash from Briscoes on the North Shore to Briscoes in Papakura.
TV3 will also have the Emmy Award-winning drama House of Cards, starring Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright. This US adaptation of the BBC miniseries is a far darker take on power and corruption than Scandal's gleefully batty approach, as you would expect from a show produced by rock-star film director David Fincher, who won an Emmy for directing the first episode.
TV One has a couple of promising looking local shows. Offbeat reporter David Farrier and comedian Rhys Darby team up for Short Poppies, a spoof interview show that lovingly mocks New Zealand, in supposedly the same way that Fred Dagg did in the 1970s. In a possibly worrying sign, the show was supposed to launch last year but was held back.
Cover Band, a local comedy about a band that never quite made it with its own material, should strike a chord with musicians or anyone trapped in the pub without earplugs on a Saturday night, and Aussie comedy Upper Middle Bogan has a great title and stars Robyn Malcolm.
Brit drama Broadchurch starring David Tennant has drawn rave reviews and Mom, a sitcom coming to TV2, stars deliriously watchable Allison Janney. Fire up the DVR.
COMING SOON Meet the Frockers (8pm, Wednesday, TV1), a behind the scenes look at local wedding dress makers, is the front-runner for show title of the year.
- © Fairfax NZ News