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Simon Bridges and Jami-Lee Ross (Photos by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)
Simon Bridges and Jami-Lee Ross (Photos by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

PoliticsMarch 12, 2019

Great news! NZ’s best political drama of 2018 has been renewed

Simon Bridges and Jami-Lee Ross (Photos by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)
Simon Bridges and Jami-Lee Ross (Photos by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

Last year, everyone loved getting home, flicking on the telly and seeing beloved household names like Jami-Lee Ross and Simon Bridges night after night. Fans of this cult classic political drama rejoice: it’s been picked up for another season.

Here we are, 2019, and it’s all go on the sequel to the smash political hit of last year. The whole spinning mess of every storyline involving Jami-Lee Ross, Simon Bridges, the National Party, donations, the election list, endless press conferences, secret tapes, and all night drives has been narrowed down to one key plot. This season’s arc looks like it’s going to focus on what the Serious Fraud Office find during their investigation into alleged donations.

Now at this stage, it hasn’t been confirmed that this is, actually, all about that particular story. What is known for sure is that there’s an investigation into a complaint regarding an alleged donation, which has now been referred up to the Serious Fraud Office by police. Having said that, everyone’s carrying on like this is where it’s going, and the events referred to happened in October 2018, so it would be an astonishing plot twist if it were something else.

Jami-Lee Ross looks set to resume a starring role, though he may not be quite so much of a protagonist this time around. The basis for the complaint is a recording he took to police which for dramatic effect was teased and then released to the public. On that tape, he and Simon Bridges discuss a $100,000 donation, which had allegedly come in. And Simon Bridges was definitely part of that conversation, but it wasn’t at all clear how he had hung himself with his words. Jami-Lee Ross is still making allegations too, saying he never handled the donations, and it was in fact offered to Simon Bridges.

Jami-Lee Ross also clearly thinks his character will hold enough surprises to keep the audience guessing. But in the space of a season, he slipped as many shocks in as M Night Shyamalan has managed in a career, with similarly diminishing returns. He told reporters that “every time I’ve been told I’m wrong or baseless, I come up with something.” But while they made for excellent cliffhangers to keep you on the edge of your seat, they almost always seemed to have fizzled out by the first ad break of the next episode.

There’s also the not remotely insignificant detail that Jami-Lee Ross has had well-publicised mental health issues, both before and throughout all of this. And just like with other popular shows like Married At First Sight, this one involves real people. Jami-Lee Ross also allegedly hurt a lot of people as well. He denies this, but four women have said that he’s harassed them, or been manipulative and cruel in some way. For those women, any aspect of this all coming back won’t necessarily be welcome.

Simon Bridges, for his part, completely denies any wrongdoing, and says he hopes the investigation takes place swiftly. He’s consistently maintained that he’s done nothing wrong, and has accused Jami-Lee Ross of lying and defaming him. They’re very serious charges, but he hasn’t pursued them in court. That’s likely because of the ongoing saga a court case would be, with very little positive resolution at the end. It’s in Bridges’ interests to have things taken care of quickly too – fans and reviewers are often liable to start hoping some other character steps into the lead role.

It’s also understood that the show-runners thought that adding in a complex side-plot like a court case would be obtrusive in what was already an over-complicated narrative. It could become a very challenging watch if alongside the SFO investigation – which threatens to make everything rather procedural – there are a whole lot of courtroom scenes. Then again, dense and technical works for some people, like Borgen fans.

Of course, the mark of a cult show like this is the committed following it holds. But there were grumblings last year among the most committed fans about the lack of impact each bombshell really had. And lovers of this genre are fickle. When Czechmate: The Karel Sroubek Show got picked up again this year, it just didn’t rate very well. This one will need to grab attention early – especially as it’s taken prime time slots of other favourites, like CGT Blues and Spending Surprises with Shane Jones.

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