The nation’s favourite soap returned for 2023 last night with plenty of familiar old faces. Tara Ward recaps the best bits.
Last year’s Shortland Street cliffhanger left our favourite fictional hospital in a flaming hot state of peril. A terrible fire swept through Ferndale that burnt Shortland Street hospital to a crisp, and lives were in danger, marriages were falling apart, and Chris Warner’s hair had never looked so dishevelled. It seemed like this might be the end of Shortland Street as we knew it, so the first episode for 2023 had plenty of questions to answer. Here’s ten of the most dramatic moments from the show’s return.
1. Five weeks later…
Not even Rachel McKenna getting struck by lightning made Shortland Street have a time jump like this. Last night’s episode opened five weeks after the events of the cliffhanger, and while there’s a lot we don’t yet know, it seems everyone is missing the hospital. Chris Warner spent a lot of time looking at Shortland Street’s burnt-out shell and sighing. This can’t be good for his hairline.
2. Televangelist TV ratings are through the roof
After a stink summer, Ferndale has become obsessed with watching religious television presented by Brightshine leader Rebecca (a fabulously creepy Antonia Prebble). Rebecca has an impeccably ironed wardrobe and the ability to hypnotise people with eerie messages of religious redemption. Ferndale will rise again, she says. Pray for love, she says. Pray for a Chris Warner shower scene, and we will all be rewarded.
3. After 30 years, we finally got a Chris Warner shower scene
Five weeks later: he got out of the shower.
4. We finally see inside Central and St Catherine’s
Last night we went where no Shortland Street episode has gone before: into Central and St Catherine’s hospitals. Shortland Street staff have been transferred to both hospitals, and while Central is a stressful cesspit of misery and disease, the private St Cath’s is run by none other than…Brooke Freeman? Please, nobody mention Scott Spear.
5. Barry the Dog is missing
Happy for my taxpayer funds to pay for this ambulance to cruise the street in search of Dawn’s boofhead pet. Viva la Barry, viva la doodle.
6. Almost everyone who ever starred in Shortland Street made a guest appearance
Absolute scenes as Shortland Street rolled out cameo after cameo after cameo, like some sort of fancy parade of New Zealand actors dressed in hospital scrubs. First there was the welcome return of Warner triplet Sass, whose sarky friendship with Monique was like sunshine on a cloudy day:
Then there was old mate Kate Hannah, who once spent the night with Dr Love and then chucked him out of her bedroom window, only for him to puncture his butt cheek on a tree in her garden:
Also, Max from Neighbours showed up:
And Brooke Freeman is in charge at St Cath’s, where she doesn’t have time to listen to the family troubles of her staff members because she has a hospital to run that coincidentally the public believes “reeks of pākehā privilege”.
Finally, we can’t forget Guy Warner hooning into our lives again, even if he did refuse to let Chris spend the Warner trust fund millions on reopening Shortland Street. Carmen would be spewing.
7. Marc lost his memory in the fire and doesn’t remember Madonna leaving him for dead
Marc, rhymes with narc, future is dark, belongs in a park.
8. Chris is back as CEO of Shortland Street, only for it to close forever
With TK suspended and his daughter Tilly now a ram-raider, Dr Love had to step up to secure funding for Shortland Street’s survival. He printed off heaps of spreadsheets, but it made no difference to the DHB who decided Shortland Street would close forever. Rebecca likes spreadsheets as much as she likes evangelism, and suggested she and Chris could make Shortland Street rise again. “You just have to trust me,” she told him, in a voice that plainly said “I killed a man with a fire extinguisher and framed an innocent woman for the crime”. Nice to meet you, future Mrs Warner.
9. Maeve is in prison
Not a great start to the year for her, then.
10. Shortland Street has risen again and it looks GOOD
Shortland Street has jazzed itself up over the summer and now looks sharper than Leanne wearing a poncho. Last night’s episode shows how the once wonderfully awkward soap has transformed over time into a glossy series that’s slick, well-written and genuinely dramatic. Like last year’s 30th birthday documentary special and Damo’s near-death dream sequence, Shortland Street refuses to stand still. It’s determined to stay relevant and fresh without taking itself too seriously, evolving while remaining loyal to its past. Like a Dr Love shower scene, it simply gets better with time.
Shortland Street screens on TVNZ2 on Monday-Friday at 7pm and streams on TVNZ+.