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Pop CultureApril 15, 2023

Bouncers is a good show that could be great


A supremely popular budget premise finds itself stuck between raw and polished, writes Madeleine Chapman.

The lowdown

Bouncers, created by comedian Joe Daymond, is a new comedy series based off the hugely popular This Is Auckland mockumentary from 2018. This Is Auckland followed a collection of Aucklanders (many played by Daymond himself) as they sought fame and fortune in Tāmaki Makaurau. Bouncers takes the most popular character, K Road bouncer Iwin, and goes all in on his life and work alongside colleagues Shaq (Natalie Samy) and Doc (Dre Mane).

The good

Joe Daymond is funny. He’s a funny writer and performer and it shows in his work as Iwin. There was a perhaps necessary toning down of his protagonist (the cocky Iwin from This Is Auckland rocked a fake moustache and had a fresh accent) which means the Iwin of Bouncers is sensitive, naive and generally well-meaning. It’s a new approach but Daymond plays him well enough that he’s equally endearing and has plenty of surprising one-liners.

Karen O’Leary does her job as the resident scene-stealer playing Marty, the ever-exasperated supervisor of the bouncers. The premise – a hybrid of Parks and Rec, Wellington Paranormal and, bluntly, brown cultural perspectives has all the tools needed to be a global hit. There’s sweetness in the chemistry between some of the colleagues, and early rapport suggests the characters have a lot of potential for growth over many seasons.

Bouncers is a show that could and should be a prime-time series in New Zealand, with quotable lines and lovable characters. It showcases Daymond’s ability to tell compelling narratives, with a show that feels more polished than you’d expect from a first go at scripted, funded television.

The not-so-good

The show is short – six episodes, eight minutes each – and often feels like a preview to the real show. There are moments of genuine emotion and chemistry that are then ignored. Some of the scenes are clearly funny ideas thrown out around the writers’ table (the opening of the series is a great set-up of a boss interrogating her hapless employees), but inevitably the clever set-ups run two beats too long, as if padding for time.

Where the actors, particularly Daymond and O’Leary, shine is in the small moments that feel improvised, rather than acted. Which makes me think that were this a show with more budget and more production time, those moments would become the default rather than the exception.

This is Auckland was a budget show, made for little and not hiding that fact. Bouncers has the difficult task of taking that ethos and polishing it for a wider audience and national funding body. Sometimes it works (the quiet moments and little asides) and other times in doesn’t (the neutralising of the more spicy joke threads from This is Auckland). The show is doing well on Youtube (as Daymond’s creations tend to do) but fans of This Is Auckland have voiced disappointment in the more obvious scripted elements of the show. The response is akin to seeing your favourite accidental viral star suddenly appear in a TV ad for lawn spray. You’re happy he’s getting paid but you kinda loved the raw, looser version.

Daymond’s challenge will be making that leap from low-budget lo-fi (in every sense) to polished, resourced, prime time comedy without getting caught in the middle.

The verdict

An impressive first foray into narrative TV for Daymond, which leaves me wanting to see what he could do with more resource and time. With the full series running the length of one episode of prestige TV, it’s worth the watch.

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