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Maori TV’s Game of Bros, reality
Maori TV’s Game of Bros, reality

Pop CultureMarch 17, 2016

Will Māori Television’s Game of Bros be the perfect antidote to The Bachelor NZ?

Maori TV’s Game of Bros, reality
Maori TV’s Game of Bros, reality

Starting tonight at 8pm, Māori Television presents Game of Bros, a new reality series about the quest for the perfect man. But what kind of man can we expect to find? The Brown Bachelor or The Nesian Ninja? Dan Taipua investigates.

Think of some ways you could improve The Bachelor: First of all, you’d switch the gender roles. To keep things fresh, make two women the lead talent. Since you spend most of your time mocking the show anyway, you could make those two women comedians. In the place of one eligible hunk: TWELVE HUNKS. Instead of some Lockwood flag bro? Proud and beautiful Island brothers. Instead of cocktails and gossip? Panipopo and guuummon.

This perfect TV show, this tropical fever dream of unproblematics, is brought to life with Thursday’s premiere of Game of Bros. The launch of this show’s debut season hasn’t been smooth sailing: The Bachelor NZ traded glitz and glamour for clamour and writs when its production company Warner Bros issued Māori Television with a cease-and-desist notice, claiming billboards for Game of Bros replicated key elements of The Bachelor brand.

In light of the legal raruraru, Māori Television complied with the request to change their media campaign – but by then the story had reached the mainstream.

Before and after, roses and rings swapped for bandages

The press coverage ended up being a win for MTS, who often struggle to reach a wide audience with new programming, and public interest in the show is high. But what exactly can we expect from the show? Have Māori Television reproduced the compete-for-romance format, or have they completely rebooted the concept? Some early research reveals that Game of Bros has its own programming whakapapa, stretching back to 2014.

They Call Me Mr. Lavalava

Tiki Lounge Productions, the outfit behind Game of Bros, are also responsible for the excellent magazine show FRESH on TVNZ and the multimedia platform Both enterprises work on a modest NZ budget, but manage to produce content of very high standard.

Back in 2014, FRESH launched a segment called ‘Mr. Lavalava’ with a concept that will sound familiar: a group of buffed-up pan-pacific boys compete for the affections of two female comedian hosts ‘Pani & Pani’. The romantic setup was tongue-in-cheek but the competition was real, contestants took part in a series of activities that culminated in an elimination until one man was crowned Mr. Lavalava.

I missed the show on its TV run, but it carried on to a strong afterlife and cult following via YouTube with 100k views across each episode. For a sense of tone, watch this amazing clip where the boys compete in an arts & crafts showdown:

In the absence of a romantic goal, the real competition in Mr. Lavalava was the chance to represent your culture against your pacific cousins, a kind of international Survivor for the Skux.

Gimme Some Mau (Rākau)

Given the success of the earlier format, how much change can we expect in the new Game of Bros?


Promo material suggests a more physical tone, with participants described as “Pan-Pacific Warriors”. The title itself evokes something more like The Dead Lands than The Bachelor, which seems like a strong fit for another of Māori Television’s new series: the action and martial arts drama Kairākau (Wednesday, 8:30pm).

Whether we’ll see crack-ups or chipped teeth remains to be seen, but the premise of poly humour is bound to the series with the return of coco queens Pani & Pani. Either way, there’s the definite guarantee of Island sweets to look forward to from labourers to professional singers, with body types ranging from Jarryd Hayne to Dwayne The Rock Johnson.

Game of Bros airs on Māori Television (Freeview Ch. 5), Thursdays at 8:00pm

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