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Pop CultureOctober 24, 2018

The best local shows coming to TVNZ’s new season


Alex Casey plucks out the most exciting highlights from TVNZ’s new season line-up. 

As we slide dramatically into the end of the year like a starved polar bear off a rapidly melting ice cap, it feels like there isn’t a hell of a lot to look forward to in 2019. Psychic Betsey Lewis – who I trust because her website is almost impossible to read and features a REAL PHOTO of a flaming phoenix – predicts the re-awakening of the Ring of Fire, a mass flu pandemic and, most shocking of all, that First Man will win the Academy Award for Best Picture.

Luckily, the TVNZ 2019 season, announced tonight at a glitzy event on the Viaduct, contains more than enough glimmering gems on the horizon to keep us trudging through the darkness. There’s the return of all your beloved Kiwi favourites – Country Calendar, Shortland Street, Dog Squad – as well as some some stonking great new offerings. Here are some that have got me very excited for what the future holds.


Hear that distant howling at the moon? That’s me. And Dom Bowden. But mostly me. I hate to overstate it, but this is literally the greatest thing that has ever happened to this country. Last airing in 2001, Celebrity Treasure Island drops 16 New Zealand celebrities on a tropical island in the hopes of finding buried treasure for charity. Everyone wears a bandanna and gets grizzly because they are hungry and very far away from Parnell.

To further refresh your memory, here’s Calum Henderson on the premiere that aired 17 (?!) bloody years ago. “By the end of the episode, Danny Morrison had wrung a chicken’s neck and Anthony Ray Parker had uttered the phrase ‘too many chiefs not enough Indians’ several times.” There are no host or contestants confirmed yet, but rest assured The Spinoff will have their predictions up first thing tomorrow morning.


Holy shit, this is going to be good. House of Drag puts nine “fierce and fabulous” drag competitors together under one luxurious mansion roof to compete to win $10,000. There will be drama, there will be feathers, there will be outrageous challenges. The winner each week will determine the bottom two, so prepare to see backstabbing, strategy, and gazebo-level amounts of shade. I simply cannot wait.


At the start of this year I put my all my critical eggs into one casket and called The Casketeers the local comedy series of 2018. And you know what? I am cashing in on those eggs and making a delicious omelette of success and smugness, because it holds up. A docuseries set in the Tipene funeral home, The Casketeers is hilarious, thoughtful, frequently devastating and unlike anything else New Zealand TV has ever produced. Bide your time by enjoying the greatest hits from season one


Heartbreak Island was a delightful mess that ushered in a whole new breed of local reality star (read: people who are much younger and much much hotter than me and therefore must be quashed at all costs) to couple up on an island in the hopes of winning $100,000. The first reality show to truly exploit the influencer age in its casting choices, Heartbreak Island thrived so hard online that it kind of didn’t matter that almost none of it made sense. 

2019 will see some format tweaks in the form of the “stray, stay or play” function. I’m already confused and I love it.


I’ve got four words for you: Waverley. From. Shortland. Street. And then I’ve got eight more: Jonathon. Rhys. Davies. From. Lord. Of. The. Rings. If that’s not comedy gold, I don’t know what is. “A black comedy with a deliciously twisted sense of humour, the six-part drama follows a couple’s quest for ‘the good life’ that goes wickedly awry.” Could 2019 be the year that scripted comedy comes back into fash? All my eggs are getting ready to go into that basket. Not those eggs. Never mind. 


The spinoff show of Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement’s What We Do In The Shadows was a slam dunk success, and I know this because I snorted so hard when O’Leary got stuck on that fence that cheese came out of my nose. The mockumentary series will return with our national heroes Minogue and O’Leary next year, hitting the mean streets of Wellywood to put an end to any supernatural nonsense that might be going on in and around the bucket fountain. I hope that Starburns-looking street magician makes an appearance in season two.


I know that it sounds like a fake show title, but hear me out. A co-production with Denmark, Straight Forward is a Nordic-noir set in both Queenstown and Copenhagen. A story of “revenge, danger and redemption,” as well as a little bit of murder. All I’m saying is, the last time we let gloomy international TV folk loose in Queenstown we got Top of the Lake. That’s all I’m saying.


Look, if you were amping a few paragraphs previous about the return of Gimli, then gird your loins because the hottest hobbit is back, baby. Dean O’Gorman and Matt Minto star in this psychological thriller coming to TVNZ1. Based on the books by award-winning author and, more importantly, Spinoff contributor Charlotte Grimshaw, The Bad Seed follows two brothers drawn into a sinister, scandalous world after their next door neighbour is murdered. Also: has Madeleine Sami in it.

Keep going!