Time for bros to grow up
Auckland Daze, Thursdays, 10.05pm, TV One
The best part of Auckland Daze is an apt pun at the end of the title sequence. The camera rises high above Auckland and perched on top of a dormant volcano is a fictitious answer to the Hollywood sign: Auckwood.
That one image conjures the show perfectly, and would make a better title than Auckland Daze, which is a more accurate description of what you'll feel after watching.
The show, which launched as a web-only series before being picked up by TVNZ and given a first series last year, is back with what looks like a bigger budget and a better sense of its niche. It occupies a spot on the TV food chain somewhere between the mockumentary comedy of unease and the swaggering bromance of Entourage, albeit a swagger undercut by a Kiwi underdog sense of the ridiculous.
The bros are four wannabe Auckland entertainers: creator Millen Baird, stuntman Glen Levy, comedian Fasitua Amosa and little person James Fletcher. Surrounding them are a bevy of entertainment figures happy to take the piss out of themselves and of New Zealand's tiny, incestuous screen scene.
And so we get the ubiquitous Shane Cortese as the butt of jokes about his ubiquitousness, Martin Henderson slumming it in an AA meeting for actors, and Natalie Medlock and Kimberley Crossman filling Auckland streets other than Shortland St.
The problem is that a winking commentary on the shallow talent pool is a one-note joke. The pleasure of seeing Shortland Street stars play vile versions of themselves in supposed "real-life" is one of diminishing returns, leading to that dazed feeling after viewing. It may be hilarious if you are part of that scene and appreciate the in-jokes, but after a while it can seem like the pool is not only shallow but tepid.
The one shining exception to the whiny mockumentary tone of the show is Jennifer Ward-Lealand's cougar mum Wanda, a woman sporting more bronze than the entire New Zealand Olympic team.
Ward-Lealand is a national treasure and has been towering over New Zealand comedy ever since she joined forces with Don McGlashan and Harry Sinclair in a late 1980s incarnation of The Front Lawn. She is clearly enjoying chewing the scenery as Millen's overbearing mother but her comic aggressiveness (and I mean the way she attacks a line, not just younger men) makes it appear as if she is on some other, superior comedy from the rest of the team.
Still, there is fun to be had with poking Auckland's celebretainment figures in the eye. Fasi gets a gig on comedy panel show Panel Beaters, which skewers 7 Days and its alcohol sponsorship, and a scene where stuntman Glen wastes a gaggle of ninjas only to have the star step-in for the victory yell at the end was almost poignant. It was also a crowded choreographed scene, a highlight set-piece displaying his skills.
The show would like to think it is a vicious satire but the writing is just not that sharp. Many scenes feel like sketches that didn't really go anywhere, and the characters are one-dimensional.
Perpetual adolescence is familiar ground for bro humour but it is wearing out its welcome.