Reality bites after Olympics fanfare

TV SHOW: Coastwatch
TV SHOW: Coastwatch

The Olympics are over, which is just as well because we were in danger of being over them.

But then, the wonderful performances by those men and women in black made it worthwhile.

Then just when you thought it was safe to go back to the telly to watch non-Olympic stuff, along came the sensational news that Belarusian shot putter Nadzeya Ostapchuk was a drug cheat who had been stripped of her gold medal.

Mercifully, that was all she was stripped of, but it did mean that Valerie Adams was promoted to gold. That dominated the news for a couple of days and deservedly so. After all, our six golds were just one shy of the total of the West Islanders.

But then, we always knew we were good, but in a quiet way. The Aussies cover their self-doubt with brassy behaviour that borders on being boorish.

Simple maths tells us that if they have five times our population, they should have won five times as many golds. But they didn't and with Val's gold, our media enjoyed a second round of rubbing it in all over again. It felt good and, best of all, that will continue for another four years, at least.

While we wait for TVNZ, Prime and TV3 to launch a host of new series now the Olympics is over, I have to report that I am increasingly enjoying some of the reality TV series.

I've never been a fan, but they do grow on you; not the over-the-top American ones, but the home-grown variety.

This week on TV One on Tuesday were two of the better ones, Coastwatch at 7.30pm, followed by Highway Cops. They are really fly-on-the-wall documentaries, and give an insight into life in New Zealand - to some extent.

In Coastwatch any overseas viewer would think we are a bunch of lying cheats and thieves who rape and pillage our precious fish stocks.

It included those who tried to ignore the allowable catches for fish then made up a lot of fibs until the truth finally came out. What a bunch of naughty people we came across as.

At that point the ever-reliable Mrs Brown corrected me. "You mean naughty men, there were no women trying to steal fish and then lie about it."

She had a point. Not that I thought it was one that needed to be made, but as I've often said, she's a hard woman.

Anyway, back to Coastwatch. Right from the start the narrator makes it clear that this is a matter of some gravitas and we must all watch, or else risk being unpatriotic.

"480 million hectares of ocean, 15,000 kilometres of coastline, $4 billion of fish stocks at stake, poaching, overfishing and marine disasters. On the front line are officers from the Ministry for Primary Industries, police, air force, navy and coastguard."

You can't help but be a bit stirred by this stentorian start to the programme, especially so soon after the Olympics.

There are several items in the 30-minute programme.

There's a crippled yacht in big seas off the coast of Northland; naughty fishermen at sea trying to get away with more than their fair (and legal) share; naughty fishermen on the beaches trying to do the same thing, and Southland men who can't count when it comes to taking Bluff oysters. They are my favourite naughty men; they tell fibs when they get busted and reckon that 50 oysters per person, which is the allowable limit, isn't enough for a decent feed.

The narrator helps things to move along at a good pace and adds his own bit of humour. "Officers suspect these oystermen are bluffing."

It's obvious, but it keeps it light.

Before the end of the programme, all the loose ends are tied up. Some of the naughty ones get the benefit of the doubt, the others are fined, and the men and the yacht are towed to safety.

Then it's time for Highway Cops, which starts off in similar vein.

"New Zealand's highways, 11,000 kilometres of some of the most spectacular and unforgiving roads on the planet. Less (they mean fewer) than 250 men and women are tasked with keeping our highways and byways safe."

What a lucky country we are.

In the first segment we are told that there are only 40 officers on the highways of the lower North Island. Mrs B is surprised by that figure. "That means there are still some who haven't given you tickets for speeding then," she acidly observes.

"Yes dear," I mutter, wondering if there should be an Olympic event in sarcasm. If there was, there wouldn't be a Belarusian, drugged or otherwise, who'd get near to my wife.