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An old TV showing static in a yellow room with paisley curtains and a gas heater on the wall
Linear TV showing nothing (Image: Archi Banal)

Pop CultureMay 29, 2023

A hopeless quest to find something half-decent to watch on linear TV

An old TV showing static in a yellow room with paisley curtains and a gas heater on the wall
Linear TV showing nothing (Image: Archi Banal)

Watching whatever was on TV used to be fun. Why is it so bad now?

According to the great Aotearoa oracles, Flight of the Conchords, Wednesday night is the night to make love. By their own teachings: Wednesday night is the night that we make love. Cos everything is just right, conditions are perfect. There’s nothing good on TV. Conditions are perfect.

Life has changed since they handed this wisdom down to us. 

There is now never anything good on linear TV.

Every night is now the night to make love, because there’s nothing good on TV. Ever. Conditions are perfect.

I start every week with this sense that maybe this is the week when finally the holidays are over and programming will return to normal. No more filler programmes – undoubtedly on repeat for the sixth summer holidays in a row – because the programmers don’t want to waste any good viewing possibilities while some people are away. And then by 8.07pm on Monday I realise that, actually, it’s now May. Summer holidays were over months ago. The 7pm TV slots long ago returned to the usual programming.

Waiting for the decent programming to come back is pointless. This is the programming. There is nothing better coming.

I’m partly the ideal for a TV programmer – I have severe depression and anxiety, so rarely leave the house. I’m always home. (I’m also poor as fuck, so I’m not the advertisers’ ideal audience.) I have hours to fill with mindless shit to distract me from how much I hate my actual life. But they can’t even do that. Instead they programme things that make me turn off the television and have to sit with how shit my life is. I have to lie in bed and cry for hours, because they can’t be bothered programming in a decent scripted show. It feels like a personal attack.

If I follow the wisdom of Flight of the Conchords – that Wednesday’s conditions are perfect for making love because there’s nothing good on TV – I now have to make the most of how dire linear TV is and masturbate practically every night.

Cast members from Outrageous Fortune (a good TV show) perform at Christmas in the Park. Image: Getty/Sandra Mu


There’s the news on One, there’s The Project on Three. I watch Fair Go while I wait for my dinner. As Fair Go comes to an end, I’ll once again find myself wondering what I’ll watch next, or later. I look at the TV guide. Nothing. I log into my former beauty therapist’s Netflix account but nothing grabs me.

I want to catch the final couple of episodes of Grand Crew. Season one is on Neon, but season two isn’t, and I can’t afford Neon.

On TVNZ+ I decide to check out You & Me. I’d assumed it would be a show about romantic mishaps, breaking up and mistimings. I’m sobbing at the end of the first episode. What the fuck?

If I’d stayed with linear TV, it would’ve been nothing but reality show offerings. And 9-1-1. Are there no script writers anymore??


The news on One. The Project on Three. There’s a good chance that whatever show you watched – or didn’t watch – on Monday is back on again tonight. 

I watch the second episode of You & Me. Has this screened on linear TV and I missed it? Or is it only available to stream? I cry some more, although I’m now more prepared for the fact that everyone here is living with tragedy (but undoubtedly will manage to live happily ever after).

I find a movie to watch, which I can’t remember by Wednesday because it was forgettable. At least it wasn’t a reality TV show though. 

I watch something semi-random on the porn channel that says it’s made by women for women. I manage to stumble into one of the terrible bits of porn on there. 

If there’d been something decent programmed on TV, this would’ve been an all round better night.


MY NIGHT, MOTHERFUCKERS. I know, FOTC said Wednesday is for making love because there’s nothing on TV, but actually, there’s Taskmaster. And it’s on Wednesday night. And sure, it’s not scripted, it’s a panel show of a sort, but it’s engaging and entertaining and so funny that at times I can’t breathe for laughing. And none of the reality show alternatives offer me that.

Pre-Taskmaster: News on One. The Project on Three.

I’ve managed to get someone I know on twitter into watching Taskmaster from the very first series. I started watching Taskmaster when it first came on, and have been in on every series ever since. It’s joyful, having this friend message me as she laughs her way through old series. 

Greg Davies on the left there (Photo: TVNZ)


In 2000, I spent most of a month in hospital, having two lots of surgery (after nearly dying twice) and then slow recoveries. I can’t remember what night of the week Buffy The Vampire Slayer screened on, but whatever night it was, that night, at 8.26pm, those people who watched Buffy would start to position themselves to watch the portable TV on my overbed tray table, and those who didn’t would shake their heads and say goodnight and wander off.

We’d huddle close – well, they huddled, I just lay there, protecting my various IV lines and my puku – and watch in silence, and then talk during the ads, and then immediately go silent when it returned. The nurses let everyone stay, even though visiting hours finished at 9pm, and we’d keep the tiny TV on as low a volume as possible.

Buffy had been the regular get together night for years before that month, and it was the regular get together night for years after that month.

News on One. The Project on Three. Then 7 Days. I read somewhere that 7 Days is a very Gen X show, and so yeah, hello to any fellow Gen Xers watching it. I miss the 7 Days that was on later Friday night, but it makes me laugh enough. Followed by the Comedy Gala, which is funny!


For years I worked until nearly 9pm most days. Fridays I’d finish by 7.30pm, which was a treat. It meant that for years I rarely saw the news, so it almost feels like a luxury, to be sitting around with nothing else to do and so I can watch it.

News on One. The Project on Three.

It always used to feel that Friday was the slightly bland, quiet night in TV content, since anyone with a life was out having dinner / drinks / partying. But now it’s the same slightly bland, quiet night in content every night.

Sometimes I’ll watch the movie on Three, which is usually a mindless action thing. I don’t tonight though. There is nothing else on apart from reality shows. 

I mean, I’ve definitely watched my share of reality shows over the years. Far too many seasons of Survivor. The first season or two of MAFS (I’m still unsure how that happened, just that it did). Home building / renovating / selling / buying shows. Reality shows are totally fine! They’re great as an appetiser, as a palate cleanser. But this wall-to-wall reality show programming, it’s the same flavour over and over, for every meal, every day. My taste buds are bored. I’ve lost my appetite. I want one programmer to be bold and step up and create a schedule that has some zing. Step up and reclaim my appetite, linear television!

The cast of season three of Grey’s Anatomy. One of the great linear TV shows


I would say that I watched the news on One, but I had a truly ratshit sleep last night so actually I watch the first few stories on the news and then fall asleep for 40 minutes.

I’m one of those Gen Xers who grew up with TV as a constant. I still remember when our old black and white TV died – I think I was five or six, so it would’ve been late 1970s – and my father managed to get a colour TV via one of his mates, and watching The Muppet Show in colour (without having to head to the neighbours’) was glorious. When I was 14, my parents gave me a 14” TV as a christmas present, which made me the only kid in my form with a TV in their bedroom, and therefore by proxy I was considered rich (rather than, again, my father managing to get something at cost through his mates).

I’m an only child who came home from school to an empty house from age eight. TV was my friend and my parent and kept me company through homework and loneliness.

I feel like it’s deserted me.

I watch some short films – I’ve got a free pass for a film festival that’s screening online – and then I try to sleep.


News on One. I do some writing edits while I wait for Sunday to start. I sound so horribly grown up with these viewing choices. Why can’t linear TV give me some silly-but-good scripted comedies to make me sound much more frivolous? Didn’t it used to be that on weeknights the first hour or two post-news were scripted comedies, and then the channels would have a mix of comedies and dramas, and there’d be some reality shows mixed in among that? Now the scripted options seem to be Shortland Street, Coronation Street and a mix of detective shows that all have acronyms for titles. The only interesting scripted shows on linear TV seem to be on Whakaata Māori.

There are actually a bunch of great scripted shows on TVNZ+ (Colin From Accounts! Spreadsheet! Catastrophe! Trigonometry! Please please please do yourself a favour and watch Trigonometry, one of the most beautiful shows I’ve watched in a long time) so I have no idea why no one is willing to put them on the linear TV schedule. It’s such a slog trying to work through streaming service offerings and find something.

TV programmers seem to have decided that everyone else is showing reality shows (and yes, they’re cheaper than scripted) and no one is demanding scripted shows which they aren’t showing that much anymore anyway, and fewer people are looking at the TV schedule because there’s less and less on, so fewer people are watching any of their shows, so surely that’s a sign that people don’t want to watch scripted shows, so we just won’t bother because everyone else is showing reality shows, and people are watching on streaming services so no point scheduling anything scripted because people aren’t watching us, hey! Why aren’t people watching us?

You’d think the lack of anything to watch on linear TV would mean that at least I’m getting lots of writing done. I’m not. Instead I’m trawling through the width of the internet, trying to find something to watch. I’d write more if I could simply flick to another channel, watch something that wasn’t another fucking reality show and then move on.

I watch Consent on TVNZ+ (sorry ThreeNow, but you really offer sweet feck all beyond mountains of reality shows). It’s surprisingly good. On my former beauty therapist’s Netflix account, I watch an episode of Standing Up (the genuinely terrible English name for a really great French comedy). I roll over and get my favourite toy out of the drawer. There’s nothing on TV. It’s business time.

Keep going!