Alex Casey binges the entire catalogue of WatchMe, NZME’s brand new on demand local video platform.
Following in Family First’s footsteps, today NZME launched their own video on demand service, with a focus on 100% locally-made shows. Starting first with the comedy genre, the platform promises zero cost, zero pesky apps (are apps actually pesky?). I sat down hungry, ready to snack upon our finest, funniest new local produce.
Late Night Big Breakfast
Last year we said that Late Night Big Breakfast was our favourite local show of 2014, a sentiment which was not echoed by the majority of TV One viewers, or indeed the network itself. They were not asked back to the fancy wine and cheese crowd. It’s pretty clear that this new “Kiwi Living Edition” of LNBB is actively tearing apart the Friday night lifestyle show that captured the hearts and minds of the audience which didn’t give them the time of day.
“Don’t we love living, us Kiwis,” asks Jason Hoyte from the patio of a St Heliers-type glasshouse mansion. “It’s Kiwi living like Kiwis do in a Kiwi way,” Hart agrees. It’s definitely nonsense, but it’s hardly far from the actual Kiwi Living banter, all chia seeds, feature walls and emptiness.
“Indoor-outdoor flow is what being a Kiwi is all about,” Hoyte explains, as the two luxuriate in front of an inexplicable bowl of tomatoes. With no segue, we cut straight to volcanologist George Henderson, a brave, baffled soul in the face of very active, very calculated buffoonery:
“ – that’s all we have time for” Leigh Hart butts in, halfway through George’s first sentence. This gag is a LNBB classic for a reason. Not only is it funny as hell – albeit a little bit sad – to see their innocent guests looking stumped, it skewers the impossibility of snackability, the ineffectiveness of magazine-style soundbites to ever say anything about anything. George was about to tell us that Rangitoto is due to erupt – but we’ve got to push straight on through to a fake infomercial for anus brushes.
Jason Hoyte literally looks like a sea monkey in that flesh coloured skivvy, and I dig it. The hint of nip makes it all the more uncomfortable as the shows hawks an industrial cleaning brush, fit for the shelving. Leigh is outside with his new Kiwi Living-style take on a hangi. He’s just bunged an oven in the ground. “Umu, hangi, tradition” he says, throwing out vaguely-related words around in a way that only the best lifestyle hosts can.
The standout part of the episode is another studio interview with actress Jodie Rimmer. Hoyte and Hart tiptoe around the issue of ageing with her – and when I say ‘tiptoe’ I mean stomp all over it like Ryan Gosling vs that guy’s head in Drive. Hoyte reveals that, as a male actor, his roles have gone from “racy lover, drug-taking fiend romantic casanova” to even more distinguished roles playing clever and wise stately gentlemen. Conversely, women get what Hart calls the “elderly, witchy roles.” Hart even mentions that the breasts start to go southward, always pushing the boat ever further out.
“Guys, I’m feeling really uncomfortable with this interview”, Rimmer says stonily. They probe deeper, talking about the perils of the HD camera and the twilight years. It’s absurd, excruciating but deeply affecting. This isn’t even parody, these types of questions happen in real interviews all the time. Hoyte and Hart may be more explicit in their handling, but the saddest thing is that they are not saying anything that hasn’t been asked to a thousand women on a thousand red carpets.
Rimmer storms out, on a final note that Jeremy Wells is “fucking hot”. It’s a fiery and smart end to what continues to be one of New Zealand’s greatest television shows, even though it’s no longer on television.
The Yeti Show
This is the show I was the most excited about, especially after being shown a baffling trailer yesterday and wondering if I was actually living inside a cheese dream. Natalie Medlock is a damn screaming riot as the Yeti, a recent immigrant to New Zealand from the Himalayas. Despite women being greatly outnumbered by men on the platform, Medlock provides easily the boldest and freshest new character. All the sweet Yeti wants is to fit in to New Zealand culture, but we quickly discover is that that isn’t as easy as people think.
“What is Kiwi?” Yeti asks people on K’ Rd, eschewing a microphone for a dildo, ice-cream cone or flamingo. “It’s rugby,” an enthusiastic woman says. “Number eight wire,” says another. Turns out our country is bleak as hell when an outsider turns the camera on us. The most Kiwi thing I identified with was Yeti asking if she could put chicken salt on a kiwi, before devouring the whole thing in front of a horrified DOC ranger. What transpires next is the stuff that even The Mighty Boosh team would have nightmares about. A floating Queen’s head with flaming glasses. A killer pavlova. Lots of fart noises.
Other highlights include a raw Yeti butt, comic sans and something called #pauapower. Honestly, I watched it three times and I’m still not 100% on any of it – all I know for sure is that old TV wouldn’t touch this hallucinatory, confronting, absolutely bananas show with a pink flamingo. And that’s why it’s so good.
Back of the Y‘s Randy Campbell returns from the early 2000s, in an all new genre-bending extravaganza that blends two things that Kiwis love: sick stunts and the news. He sets himself on fire while talking about gas prices, and is dowsed in noodles while talking about immigration and Asians stealing our homes. “Is that racist?” he asks while wiping noodles from his front. “Yes” interjects a young Asian man. Very glad they acknowledged it, but would it have been better to choose a less lazy, less racist option? To solve another current social issue, they drop a shed on a homeless person to solve the housing crisis. “Until next time, harden up,” says Stapp. Bit aggro for me, this one.
Satirist Ben Uffindell of The Civilian heads out with a camera and a microphone on his first mission: reporting back from the TPPA protests in Auckland. Delivered like a sincere news segment, he explains that it’s time to get to the bottom of the protester ethos of yelling at “people, buildings, police and no-one in particular”. A quick, newsy intro graphic promises current affairs and cooking tips. “Later, I’ll also be filling a piñata with bees and taking it to a birthday party.”
Hitting the streets, Uffindell reminds me of Guy Williams without the aggressive labrador-like energy. More of a bemused sausage dog approach. A sprawling argument with a women about her “this is not a pipe” sign starts off funny, but spiralled into a pure semantics wormhole that went on a touch too long. He approaches a woman to critique the punctuation and spelling of her sign, and asked another man if his John Key as Darth Vader poster was actually real. I guess Uffindell’s longform trolling is not unlike the arbitrary vox-pop collecting of any other news organisation, but I did start to feel for the poor folk just trying to have a wee protest. Also, we never did get that bee-filled piñata.
Just like the Radio Hauraki segment – but with pictures – Jeremy Wells slips under Mike Hosking’s desk, and almost imperceptibly into the Hosko drawl voice. Using a suitably craggy-looking ventriloquist puppet, complete with sad, given-up eyebrows, the short monologue this week targets students.
It’s the silly season, so it’s harder for mini-Mike to find issues to take “moral centre high ground on.” Luckily, students will always be there, and their liberal, low-income ways will always be pissing mini-Mike off. “Let me attempt to get you to hate them in the next 40 seconds” he croaked, before launching into students for being disease-ridden, cheap and sometimes even gay. His solution? Stop tertiary education all together, or the feeding ground of the left will continue to strengthen.
As far as I can tell, these are no different to the Hauraki Breakfast rants, but with the added majesty of a frowning little puppet and some fantastically bad stock-imagery. It certainly helps to delineate between the things that the real Hosking and the puppet Hosking have said – but only just.
I am by no means the target for this rugby commentary show set inside a testicle, originally made during the Rugby World Cup. But you know what? I laughed. Sue me. Arrest me and throw me in a scrotum-shaped jail cell. All of the usual suspects (Matt Heath, Jeremy Wells, Jason Hoyte, Mike Lane) sit inside, and Leigh Hart reports on stats from outside the scrotum. He’s a numbers man, with every word undermined by the scrolling slideshow of scantily-clothed women, men and even miniature horses playing behind him.
Elsewhere there’s a drunk man up a ladder waiting to fall and predict the winner, and Matt Lane’s trying to track down someone on Queen Street wearing their lucky Jockeys. Closing out the show, we are told to follow them on all the usual social media platforms, as well as Grindr and Hornet. Ah, that’s right – because being gay is still a hilarious, hilarious joke.
The Adventures of Suzy Boon
I don’t know if a web series can even be conventional yet, but The Adventures of Suzy Boon immediately struck me with its standard sitcom-inspired form. Possibly because it came out early last year, which is maybe 500 years in internet time. It definitely has a more relaxed pace by comparison to the other frenetic offerings on WatchMe. The first episode, written by Tom Sainsbury and Louis Mendiola, follows bumbling customs officer Suzy Boon, who works at Auckland International Airport.
Played by Kura Forrester, Boon struggles with her boss, her colleagues and her elderly Chinese father. Shot in psuedo-documentary style, the best joke of the episode was when she revealed that she’s half Maori and half Chinese, “like Bic and Boh.” Damn it’s good to get those local nods. Meandering through her everyday existence, Forrester brings a loveability to what could otherwise be quite a frustrating character type. I hope to see some curveballs soon, or the Office-style mundanity might struggle to keep up with the spitting yetis and anus brushes elsewhere.
The Pig and the Critic
Think a more povo version of The Trip, taking two New Zealand funny men (just want to point out that there are A LOT of funny leading men on this site, and only two leading women) and throwing them into the world of fine dining. Vaughan Smith is aspiring to be a fancy food critic – you can tell from his bowler hat and the way he swills his wine. John Thomson is just 100% down for a yum dinner – you can tell from his t-shirt featuring a hamburger falling into a black hole.
Together they tear their way through a three course meal at five star restaurant Gusto, Thomson chopping through rum and cokes while talking about the quality of the toilets. Over the table, the two reveal more about each other, from washing line chicken to sluice-based coffee habits. A great video snack, as effective and delicious as salted cod.
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