Following the withdrawal of the locally made, $9 million drama series Orange Roughies, New Zealand on Air has had to reconsider what programmes it will be funding, says the organisation’s Head of Cash Disbursements David Bander. Programmes starring Australians are out, and more local talent will be seen on screen.
“Our research has shown that New Zealanders felt that Orange Roughies, with two Australian actors in lead roles, wasn’t reflecting local talent and the audience wanted to see local stars in those parts.
“With that information and after a robust internal debate we have looked at the proposals in front of us and have now favoured those which have high profile local performers or celebrities, or are exceptionally cheap.
“We feel that these programmes will not only meet the requirements of the Charter, but also allow New Zealanders to see more of themselves reflected on their television screens. And some of these programmes are brilliantly innovative and original in that Kiwi way, and others are just exceptionally cheap.
“It is an exciting time for audiences, and for the stars involved.”
Among the programmes being funded by New Zealand on Air over the next six months are the following:
You’re Hired: Reality doco series tracing the first few weeks of new Labour list MPs into Parliament as they replace retiring members. The first programme follows gay Wellington lawyer Charles Chauvel as he tries to persuade the Labour faithful at a series of meetings in South Auckland and Porirua that he is just an ordinary bloke who understands the problems of working class New Zealanders.
“It’s an on-going series obviously,” says Bander “and we think this is the new face of Kiwi comedy. Short of David Benson Pope taking up the offer to star in a spin-off from Seven Periods with Mr Gormsby, we believe this will be the real winner with a public hungry for new local comedy.”
Topp Gunn: A light-hearted entertainment show featuring the Topp Twins and Jason Gunn filmed live on a month-long tour of Northland. Programmers say the show blends the earthy humour of the Topp Twins with the suave skills of Jason Gunn who will sing, dance, tell jokes and also do some magic tricks. Filming starts at the Maungamukumuku Hall next month with a full orchestra, members of the Royal New Zealand ballet, and Sam Hunt as MC.
“It is a chance for the Topps to get back on air after a long break doing advertisements, and a showcase for the incredible and as yet untapped talent of Jason. These artists have imprinted themselves into the Kiwi psyche, for better or worse, and in the absence of a better idea we picked this one up.”
Strange Knights on K Rd: A fly-on-the-wall doco in which celebrity impersonators become Sir Edmund Hillary, Sir Wilson Whineray and Dame Susan Devoy (among others) for a night and pretend to be prostitutes on Auckland’s notorious K Rd. Hidden cameras will capture all the action.
“The pitch was so good we couldn’t turn it down. Think Stars In Their Eyes meets Target -- with a little gay action -- and you are on the right track. The legal fraternity has already expressed great interest in this one.”
X Marks the Spot: A game show which picks up on the success and sophistication of the recent spelling show and Pop Goes the Weasel. In this one celebrities such as Jaquie Brown, Te Radar, Ahmed Zaoui and Jim Hopkins play noughts and crosses before a live studio audience.
“It has all the thrills of Fight For Life but without any of the blood or aftermatch pepper spraying. The show was originally going to be called Noughts and Crosses actually, but the programmers felt this might alienate non-Christian audiences. So out of sensitivity to Hindus, Muslims, Jews, foreigners and all of the other cultural minorities we changed the title to this, which we think will also capture that whole Pirates of the Caribbean audience as well.”
Two Wheels Good, Four Wheels Bad: A dark and futuristic 28-part Orwellian drama set in Auckland in the near future when petrol has risen to $10 a litre and the population is reduced to riding bicycles after public transport options fail. Starring Mark Sainsbury in his first dramatic role as the reluctant cyclist who eventually leads the two-wheel revolution and the ride on Wellington to insist on more funding for cycle lanes.
“The idea apparently came from a Green Party conference in Takaka and one of the local companies picked it up and ran with it. There was some talk of having Peter Jackson come on board to give it a possible international market, but that seems to have come to nothing. Instead it will be made at a warehouse in Te Papa and the cast will be bringing their own bikes for authenticity.”
April Bruce: My Struggle. This moving docu-drama stars Suzy Cato as April and charts her private and public battles with fame, alopecia, childbirth, weight issues and the current lack of public interest of the former television personality.
Music by Don McGlashan and the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra. Piano solos by Michael Houston and Carl Doy.
“This will be the first in a proposed series focusing on the trials of minor New Zealand celebrities such as April, Don Brash and that woman who streaked in a bikini. We expect it to be like Taonga, but without the mana or interesting bits.”
Eat, Drink and Be Mary: Mary Lambie takes New Zealand’s top chefs -- which includes Peta Matthias and Alyson Gofton -- on the road in a light-hearted and enormously expensive culinary tour of Italy, France and Spain so the audience can watch them eat at luxury restaurants, indulge in fine dining under the Tuscan sun, and stay in expensive hotels. Recipes each week in the Listener.
“Research shows that Kiwi audiences love cooking and travel shows, and this combines the best of both, without Charlotte Dawson. Unfortunately television like this is not cheap to make so this one will be heavily sponsored. However if the audience can look past the fact that the stars will be wearing clothes covered in sponsors' logos, and a script which demands the sponsors all be mentioned at least twice in the commercial half-hour, then we think they’ll see a good fun show which will also give them ideas for their own expensive holidays in Europe.”
Pimp My Bride: Each week an unsuspecting Kiwi bride is handed over to one of the “icons” in the New Zealand fashion industry and a dress is designed specifically for her Big Day. The first the bride sees of her ensemble is on the morning of her wedding.
“Needless to say the results are hilarious. We think the public will love it. It is also a showcase for the fashion industry and when the audience sees what Trelise Cooper has designed for Jo-Dee Ngatai on the first programme -- a lovely dress made from clear plastic and painted shells with a rabbit fur scarf -- I think they’ll take to this like Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, or Air Crash Investigations.”
MEANWHILE BACK IN THE REAL WORLD:
There is more fascinating Music From Elsewhere here And tell me that fado singer ain't a star! By the way the "subscription" is free so sign on up for the weekly newsletter.
And this Sunday at the Auckland City Art Gallery at 3pm I will be speaking about travel writing, and writing about art while you travel. Or something like that.
I'll be talking about some mad (and erotic) artists, and how I broke my nose in Madrid all because of that bastard Monet.
For those who came to the recent Auckland City Library talk (or missed it), this is a different topic again and there will be no crossover of stories, anecdotes or jokes.
Hope to see you there.