Last year the TVNZ new season launch was one of the most stunning onstage extravaganzas that I have seen in my piddly little life – and I’ve seen The Lion King. There were glowing lanyards a la Coldplay, there was flowing champagne a la rappers, there was Sam Wallace dancing in a pea costume a la my wildest cheese dreams. It was an all-singing all-dancing celebration of things to come in 2015, and one that Duncan Greive covered extensively.
This year, things were dialed down a notch. There were lanyards, sure, but they certainly weren’t strobing green. It was a daytime presentation, and any sign of Sam Wallace in vegetable garb had been replaced with a long table of delicious variants of sandwich and television-themed drinks (I had a Filthy Rich Cuvee and Calum had a Hillary Iced Tea). We sat down to hear from the top dogs of TVNZ, and I immediately realised I was the only person on my row wielding an enormous chicken bap from the food table. Noted for next time.
There was a quiet confidence to proceedings, no fan fare, no dubstep, just plain white couches and an impressive “skite reel” revealing that 18/20 of the top rated shows were on TVNZ channels, and that One News has experienced 16% share growth in the past year. Seven Sharp is doing good, Shortland Street is doing good, Breakfast is doing good. It’s all, seemingly, going pretty good. And there’s more good to come.
“We’re crazy mad in love with the damn thing” General Manager of Commissioning Andrew Shaw said of TVNZ’s content, turning his attention to their ongoing commitment to producing local drama. Filthy Rich is leading the fray in this particular category for 2016 – the multi-night drama is the channel’s biggest commitment in a decade, and the most expensive show ever made in New Zealand.
Created by Rachel Laing and Gavin Strawhan of Nothing Trivial and Go Girls fame, two very big fish in a worryingly small pond of top tier TV writing, Filthy Rich was touted onstage as “big and dirty and different.” The basic premise follows three illegitimate children of a wealthy dead man, all competing to win his inheritance. A quick trailer suggests that Filthy Rich might be like Shortland Street after dark – jam-packed with surprise deaths, women in underpants and raining money. Not typical kiwi fodder by any stretch, but part of me admires the unabashed ambition of the whole thing.
And for $8.25 million from NZ On Air, it better be bloody good.
Another local drama that will be conquering our screens next year, that I’ve already spoiled with the earlier mention of iced tea, is Hillary. The six part series, written by biographer Tom Scott, charts Edmund Hillary’s journey from boy, to beekeeper, to absolute pure 100% Kiwi legend. In other local shows, the BBC format Coast will look at the people and communities on our shores, and The New Zealand Home pairs Goran Paladin with architect Ken Crosson and sends them on an epic roadie to look at houses across the country.
That’s not all we’ll see of Goran, he’ll be back for season two of Our First Home. But there’s a twist: it’s still the parents’ money but the kids are in charge. It’s hardly a Crying Game level of switcheroo, but if ain’t broke… don’t renovate it. I was more intrigued by DNA Detectives, a documentary series that looks to trace the relatives of prominent New Zealanders – including at least two celebrity chefs (Van de Elzen and McVinnie). Now I can find out once and for all whether or not Ray McVinnie is a distant relation to Sam the Eagle from The Muppets.
TV One New Season Titles
Coast New Zealand
The New Zealand Home
Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders
Blood & Oil
The Hard Stuff With Nigel Latta
I Am Innocent
Alan Carr: Chatty Man
Country Calendar 50th anniversary
The DNA Detectives
Our First Home
Sunday Theatre series: Jean; Living In Hope; Bombshell; The Possession Of Janet Moses
A Place To Call Home
As for the big international shows, I’m most excited about The Muppets and Rush Hour – two childhood throwbacks that I was not expecting to ever be watching on the television in 2016. The Muppets looks absolutely hilarious, a more “adult” take that will introduce Kermit’s weird new girlfriend to the world and get puppets in The Office-style talking heads. As for Rush Hour? Could be a train wreck, could be a work of pure genius. There’s also a new franchise called Supergirl which I hope will balance the number of D’s on the superhero dancefloor.
TV2 New Season Titles
The Big Ward
The Cul de Sac
My Kitchen Rules NZ
The Real O’Neals
Best Time Ever With Neil Patrick Harris
My Kitchen Rules Australia
The Big Bang Theory
2 Broke Girls
The Voice Australia
Take Me Out
Police Ten 7
The Walking Dead
The Mysteries Of Laura
The Amazing Race
The Vampire Diaries
Finally, we must mention the return of Mastermind, the throwback game show that Andrew revealed, in a moment of unbridled passion, will be hosted by Peter Williams. This pared-back, traditional game show format strikes me as the antithesis to the global razzle dazzle of MediaWorks’ reality approach. It’s giving the middle finger to Art Green and his giant ring, spitting over Beau Monga’s mouth noise and kneecapping Simon Barnett in his bad knee on the dance floor. Mastermind yields no record deal or everlasting love but is just, as Andrew gleefully said, “the chair your ass is in… and a trip.” The blokes onstage were chuffed with its unashamed simplicity.
The overall vibe for TVNZ next year seemed to sum up this undemanding attitude – aside from Filthy Rich the lineup was incredibly risk averse. It is worth noting that the new shows I’m most excited about are remakes of shows or films first made at least 15 years ago, but that could be more reflective of my poor, nostalgia-laced taste. There have been few shocking changes made to the TVNZ lineup in 2016 – which could be, for better or worse, because nothing really has to. Just like Mastermind, we’ll be getting the chair we are already sitting in… and hopefully will get taken for a little trip on the way.
The Spinoff Weekly compiles the best stories of the week – an essential guide to modern life in New Zealand, emailed out on Monday evenings.