The programmes were the same. But the ads weren’t. Toby Manhire watches them all.
The 1999 reality TV phenomenon Popstars was defrosted from its cryogenic slumber on Monday night. Not only had this epoch-defining show straddled millennia, it now straddled channels, appearing on both TVNZ 1 and TVNZ 2 at the same time. The challenge was clear: review Popstars, episode one, as it appeared on TVNZ 1, and also review Popstars, episode one, on TVNZ 2, and focus on what is different between the two versions.
It soon became clear, however, that Popstars on TVNZ 1 at 7.30pm was exactly the same as Popstars on TVNZ 2 at 7.30pm. This was just like the Queen’s Christmas Message in 1982. It was a carbon copy. And it happened again on TVNZ 1+1 and TVNZ 2+1 an hour later. Fair Go, bumped from TVNZ 1 to make way for a simulcast of a show on its sibling channel, must be furious. We look forward to Pippa and Garth doorstepping TVNZ next week to demand answers on behalf of hardworking Kiwi consumers.
While the shows were the same on 1 and 2, however, there was one thing different. The ads. It turns out that “ads” (or “commercials”, ie very short films promoting products) continue to screen on television, in bunches, blam in the middle of the programmes. So we’ve chosen instead to review those.
TVNZ 1: break one
In keeping with commercial break tradition, first up is a house ad. This one has a lot of dogs in it: happy dogs, sniffing dogs, peeing dashing dogs, attempting-to-bite-pixelated-face-criminal-suspect dogs. Stay tuned for Dog Squad and Dog Squad Puppy School.
It’s prime-time TVNZ 1 so it’s not long before the retirement villages roll in, beginning with Metlife Care. It looks like a good time, everyone and everything is animated, and there are puppies, none of whom are trying to bite people with pixelated faces.
Computer generated meerkats are the stars alongside burly men in an ad for the workplace regulator Worksafe. “You can sense it. You can stop it,” it goes, whatever that means. Then a classic middle NZ family scene for TSB. Next: If you’re looking for a proprietary Teretek solution shortly before 8pm on a Monday, then it’s got to be Mainmark. “Less invasive than traditional underpinning.” A push for the annual appeal for St John Ambulance, which still isn’t properly state funded which is odd, but the ad doesn’t get into that.
There’s a balding accountant who I think is the same as the balding fan from the Mastercard ads with Richie McCaw and someone in a wig reading a crystal ball. The ad’s for Xero. And to prepare us for a return to Popstars, it’s a long and trippy ad with a collection of baffling tableaux that look like they’ve leapt from the Waiouru Army Museum into your fever dream, for something called “Oceania: Believe in Better”. I googled: it’s a retirement home.
TVNZ 2: Break one
Over on TVNZ 2 it’s a totally different world after part one of Popstars. The break begins very fancy with an attractive woman and L’Oreal make-up. Next is Strepsils, advertised by another attractive woman.
Unexpected item in the bagging area: it’s an ad for Countdown!
Next, an ad for NZ Seniors Insurance, featuring an older attractive woman who is clearly thinking, “I’m much more adventurous than the senior citizens on TVNZ 1.” This is supported by her appearance in a helmet by a waterfall and a boat. Seems like a dumb idea, check the inclusions on your policy, is all I’m saying.
E45 cream. Attractive woman. Attractive woman, who loves being kooky and loves pizza from Pizza Hut.
TVNZ 1: Break two
If there’s a nostalgic kick to Popstars, lots of these ads on the Zeus of New Zealand television are in the classic mode, too. First: a Vodafone ad featuring a man taking pictures of a wall. Second: Cereal! Granola! Third: Air New Zealand! Queenstown! Rotorua!
If a retirement village isn’t for you, how about a Heartland Reverse Mortgage? Technically a reverse mortgage is a retirement equity release loan, but looks like it’s also about dancing, baking and taking selfies on an iPad.
Another classic: the one with the giant animated M&Ms throwing stuff at the hapless balding man from a kitchen cupboard. Bonk! Generic car ad: Kia Stonic drives around. Almond So Good: Sanitarium are spending up. Roundup for Lawns. Pinch me, is it 1999? Noel Leeming is having a giant store clearout. Window Treatments! A travesty, frankly, that Window Treatments was overlooked in the New Zealand jingle Oscars.
TVNZ 2: Break two
I’ve stopped chronicling the house ads because this is already overlong but I do want to note there’s a promo for Shortland Street featuring New Zealand acting colossus Michael Galvin, whose first appearance on the soap was in 1992, a full seven years before Popstars 1.0.
Then it’s time for Gaviscon Dual Action, illustrated by frankly terrifyingly warped test tubes and a tiny toy soldier with a raspberry. An ad for New World. An ad for Dettol. And an ad for KFC featuring some mums who hide from their tyrannical children in a cupboard and eat fried chicken.
An incredible journey is next: in the space of 10 seconds or so a woman remembers her entire life through the medium of a shirt she’s just washed with Vanish Oxi Action. Best biopic I’ve ever seen.
Uncle Toby’s! Sadly there’s no “that’s no’ how you make porridge”, but there is porridge, and a man who’s driven a massive red combine harvester into the square so he can throw bowls of porridge at townsfolk.
As if porridge weren’t enough to fix you, viewer, Nuromol will make you better and you’ll go for a lovely walk. Garnier Organics Anti-Age Cream will make you younger.
TVNZ 1: Break three
Another little Vodafone ad. That Waka Kotahi ad with the two guys and one of the guys in a roundabout way tells the other guy that his show-off fast driving is not actually impressing everyone. You’re dead inside if you’re not singing along to Honey Puffs (No 20 in the NZ jingle Oscars). Who cares if Sanitarium doesn’t pay tax like a normal company, they’re keeping national television alive, spoonful by spoonful.
In a scene so rare it probably had to be dramatised, a young couple just bought a house for the first time. They’re happy, the mortgage man at ANZ is happy, Grant Robertson is happy.
Different Worksafe ad, same meerkats. Unclear whether these are the very meerkats that starred in the Telecom ads 15 years ago, but it’s great meerkats are getting work, feeding their families and supporting their important work in theatre cooperatives.
Subway sub of the day. Bergamot lime deodorant, made from real limes I think? And then a real film noir: A man called Dave brushes his teeth. Dave looks at his wardrobe. Dace contemplates his life. Dave gets some Cigna insurance. Dave puts on a different shirt to the one he normally wears. Dave freaks out his wife by trying to kiss her. Go Dave!
And then it’s only Dan the stone-cold legend Weatherman popping up to tell everyone the way the wind blows. Not an ad, more a public service. Feel bad for all the people who watched Popstars on TVNZ 2 on Monday and got soaked outside today.
TVNZ 2: Break three
KFC ad in which an art tutor wrongly thinks a Zinger burger wrapper is a work of art. Another burst of Nuromol and another lovely walk. Puma One Cat Food. Go the cats.
I’ve been watching a lot of ads now but I haven’t had any alcohol or Nuromol or cat food but I feel pretty drunk watching this one. There’s a man in a green velvet tracksuit who has leapt into the back seat of a pregnant woman’s car and is freaking her out. I’m freaked out, too. I’m scared. Maybe I need some One Choice Insurance?
L’Oreal Revitalift Serum. L’Oreal is challenging Sanitarium for the Popstars Big Spend trophy. The heiress to the L’Oreal empire is reportedly worth $80 billion. If she divided it among the New Zealand population we’d get $16,000 each. And an ad for Pizza Hut with banter.
TVNZ 1: Break four
Functional ad for BNZ Visa account. Harvey Norman! God bless you Harvey, god bless you Norman, between you keeping the newspapers of New Zealand alive, warm in your wraparound embrace.
L’OR Espresso capsules are flying through the cosmos like asteroid clouds, naturally. A lot of people are liking gas, looking at gas, loving gas, especially the First Gas Group. Val Adams is advertising AIA Vitality. There’s an ad for Panasonic Heatpumps which is fine but it makes me sad because I miss the Stephen Fleming heatpump ads which sometimes had other cricketers, please bring those back. No cricketers but there are rugbyers on the next ad, for Weetbix, it’s Jordie Barrett and also two other All Blacks.
Nearly there. Smith and Smith repair, another travesty at the jingle Oscars, where they rated only an apology in a Novus silver prize. And a guy in a Subaru Outback is driving up some hills.
TVNZ 2: Break four
An ad for Milo but not the drink: Milo cereal. I thought this was incredible news and I made the mistake of thinking it aloud. One of my esteemed colleagues told me she used to eat Milo cereal as a child.
Another incredible journey: there’s a man with a sore shoulder, so he sticks a massive Nurofen Duralast plaster on his shoulder. First there’s Milo in cereal form and now it’s Nurofen in plaster form??? I have no mind left to blow. But back to the sore shoulder man. He puts the drug-laced plaster on his shoulder and, holy shit, look what he’s doing with that shoulder now. He’s high fiving. He’s pushing the button on a lift. He’s hailing a cab. He’s holding an umbrella. He’s brushing his teeth. He’s pointing a hairdryer at his face. He’s teasing a dog with a chop. He’s turning off his lamp beside his beautiful wife. He’s cuddling his beautiful wife. Leave her alone, man, she’s asleep!
Oh no it’s the green velvet tracksuit man and he’s harassing another woman now; he’s going through her stuff in a removal van. It’s another ad for One Choice Insurance but it really should be on Police Ten 7, this man should be in prison.
The 1 viewers might know the weather but the 2 viewers are getting the Powerball numbers. Then it’s old favourite Jenny Craig, whose programme delivers Rapid Results.
And we’re done. What did we learn? TVNZ 1 viewers are making retirement decisions and like dogs a lot. TVNZ 2 viewers are also making retirement decisions but not as many, and probably feel bad about the way they look.
In the latest episode of The Real Pod, Alex, Duncan and Jane struggle to find the words to describe the reboot of Popstars, and are left reeling by a week of truly revealing final dates on MAFS AU. Subscribe and listen on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or your favourite podcast provider.