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Pop CultureMay 24, 2017

Free the street: a geoblock plea to Shortland Street bosses from a super-fan abroad


Five years ago, South Pacific Pictures responded to an online campaign from fans outside NZ and unblocked the 20th birthday special for a couple of days. A repeat, please, this time round, beseeches Gemma Gracewood from New York.

Dear South Pacific Pictures,

Five years ago when Shortland Street turned 20, your special 90 minute feature-length episode was due to air on my birthday (which is also Anika Moa’s birthday. And Mr T’s. And Leo Sayer’s. Just FYI.).

Alas, I was overseas, with no way of watching the events of that episode unfold, helicopter crash and all. I was going to have to rely on my Mum’s brilliant over-the-telephone recaps, which always also involve a recap of the beautiful aerial shots of Auckland that you use to transition between scenes. (Please let us know who the cinematographer was? She’s been asking me for years.)

To my excitement, at the 11th hour, a Twitter campaign was begun to #freethestreet. A groundswell of support built and in no time at all you unblocked the episode globally for 48 hours.

What a glorious two days it was! Expats were all aTwitter with reminiscences. “Dr Warner is still there?!” was a common refrain, along with “Far, Shortland Street is so flash now”. The global goodwill was as electric as the chemistry between Damo and Leanne. (Damanne? Lamo? Is that what we’re calling them?)

Hey guess what? You’re airing another feature length episode to celebrate your 25th, on May 25th. (Birthdays: Sir Ian McKellan, Octavia Spencer, Frank Oz, Eve Ensler, and the guy who sang “Yes, we have no bananas”). I’ll be overseas again. I know how it works: you need to speak to your international partners who own the broadcast rights for other territories. Spoilers will abound for their viewers, who may be months behind on plot.


You’ve done it before. You know what it takes to give those international mates a bell and see what they say.

Go on.

Why? Because Shortland Street turning 25 oughtn’t just be celebrated at home. The diaspora deserve a chance to blow out the candles too. We’re a bit homesick for Ferndale. And you’re important.

I mean, really important. Shortland Street’s always had a hand on the social justice button. Your work this past year on trans awareness has been exemplary and now the Countdown supermarket chain has a Transgender Transitioning Policy. That’s not a coincidence, I reckon.

It’s almost old-hat now to say that one of the best ways to keep up with the pointy edge of social change in Aotearoa is to keep half an eye on Shortland Street. Back in 2012, I was mildly criticised for putting energy (and it takes so much energy to write a cute tweet) into freeing Shortland Street’s 20th anniversary episode rather than using social media to change the world blah blah blah snore. In a reply I pointed to just one scene in just one episode that had a smart bit of dialogue about the 90-day employment trial and pay and conditions for hospital workers. It was the kind of pithy summation of a major issue for working people that you don’t get often enough in pop culture, but you get it at 7 o’clock most nights on Shortland Street.

So there’s that.

There’s also, on a personal note, all the jobs you’ve created for so many of our mates in the arts. All the Auckland houses they’ve miraculously been able to take mortgages out on. All the art and theatre and films and web series and 48 Hour films that they’ve re-invested their Shortland Street takings in, because you’ve invested in them.

And all the stars I’m now watching on my American TV who came through the Shortland Street Graduate School of Performing Arts. Marton Csokas! Martin Henderson! Frankie Adams! KJ Apa! For one night, us expats could show our amigos where Archie from Riverdale got his start.

If you #freethestreet for one more night, just give us one more night, I’ll love you as much as Kirsty loved Lionel until she got amnesia and fell in love with her ex-stalker Darryl’s identical twin brother Damian.


Gemma Gracewood

PS Happy birthday

PPS #freethestreet #shortlandstreet25

PPPS It doesn’t even need to be free. We’ll pay to stream it.

PPPPS Your new website is super flash, but where have the text-only episode recaps gone?!

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