Tara Ward talks to three creative Kiwis who’ve been spurred on by their favourite TV show to some gloriously niche things.
Some people reckon television is a bad influence, but to them I say, turn on The Chase and chill out. I’ll put up with having square eyes and a rotten brain, as long as there are wonderful people in the world who can harness the power of television for good, like Rebecca Reckin, Jessica Hammond and Laura Vincent.
These clever New Zealanders are proof that television can inspire us to do incredible things. They’ve discovered new passions, tackled terrifying challenges and transported us to other worlds, all thanks to a love for their favourite television show. The old gogglebox makes them happy, and in turn, they’ve shared this joy in a variety of niche ways.
What is it about television that makes people want to do cool stuff in the real world? All I know is each of these women inspired me more than the time the Celebrity Chasers beat The Beast with five pushbacks, and I didn’t think anything could top that.
Rebecca Reckin recreated an Outlander set in miniature
Rebecca Reckin’s tribute to Outlander shows that good things come in small packages. Rebecca’s love for the Scottish time-travelling series inspired her to dedicate the past 11 months to creating a tiny replica of Master Raymond’s apothecary, the mystical store Claire visits in season two, and the finished result would leave even Jenny Fraser lost for words.
This is probably the closest we’ll ever get to falling through the stones into Outlander’s world. Rebecca spent hours pouring over images from the show to painstakingly transform a plain miniature kitset into an eighteenth century Parisian building, one little piece at a time, and her attention to detail is astonishing. Whether it’s Master Raymond’s iconic jacket, the intricate wall panels, or the tiny labels on the tiny bottles, Rebecca’s house is a wee work of art.
It has me more agog than the episode where Claire and Jamie reunited after 200 years apart. Rebecca reckons Claire would’ve been just as amazed when she first stepped inside Master Raymond’s apothecary, and it’s this idea of being transported to another time that Rebecca loves most about Outlander. “Claire’s a normal person thrown into an abnormal situation,” she says. “How would I go if I ended up 300 years in the past?”
I reckon the super-talented Rebecca would be just fine if she woke up in 1744. She’s preparing for her first public exhibition, where no doubt Master Raymond will cast his spell on a new audience. “The best part is I enjoy doing it, but now it’s done, I’m pleased other people are appreciating it,” Rebecca says. If Jamie Fraser could see it, I’m sure he’d raise his tiniest tricorn in happiness.
Jessica Hammond tried stand-up comedy thanks to the Marvelous Mrs Maisel
A two-season binge of The Marvelous Mrs Maisel, the witty dramedy about a woman who turns to stand-up comedy when her life falls apart, lit a spark in Jessica Hammond. “Just watching it, I had this moment: real people do this,” Jessica says, and quickly signed herself up to an open-mic comedy night in Wellington.
It’s a bloody scary thing, to stand up in front of strangers and try to make them laugh. “I was terrified,” Jessica admits, but whether it was luck or Midge Maisel’s leather-gloved hand of fate, Jessica only had a short time to prepare her routine. “I had ten days to write it, learn it and be up there, which was good, because I didn’t have time to freak out too much.”
As an actor and political candidate, Jessica is used to talking to groups of people, but stand-up was a fresh challenge. “In theatre, you’re trying to make people feel different things, and with politics, you’re trying to convince people of different things,” she says. “But with comedy, there’s only one goal, to get laughs. You get very immediate feedback.”
Jessica felt the fear and did it anyway. Midge gets arrested during her first set, but Jessica’s debut went far more smoothly. She talked about Marvelous Mrs Maisel, as well as the importance of voting in local government elections, “which is obviously a hilarious subject.” She felt elated afterwards, and is hungry for more. “I like the idea of being able to say something with comedy,” she says.
That’s exactly what Midge does, but whatever happens next, Jessica’s stoked she gave stand-up a go. “I almost never regret having a go at these challenging things,” she says. “It can’t really go wrong, because I will have learned something. You know, what have you got to lose?”
Laura Vincent’s love for Frasier inspired a blog based on the food from the show
If you’ve always wanted to read something that mixes admiration for an award-winning ‘90s American sitcom with delicious food and sharp, insightful commentary, then writer Laura Vincent’s gloriously niche blog La Cigare Volant is all your dreams come true.
The premise is simple: Laura watches an episode of her favourite show Frasier, creates a dish inspired by it, and writes about the two. Her food is a delicious mix of high and low, just like Frasier itself, with dishes like Cookie Dough for One and Beer Bread and Dominic Crean’s Cultured Butter. There’s comfort in the show and comfort in the food, and together, it’s a starving TV lover’s dream.
Laura’s food inspiration comes either from direct mentions in the show, or more laterally, like the i riche e i poveri dish she made after she watched her favourite episode, ‘A Midsummer’s Nights Dream’. This is the first episode to address Miles’ secret love for Daphne, and Laura reckons the Italian dish that essentially translates to ‘richness and broke’ is a perfect representation of their relationship.
Of course, La Cigare Volant is about more than just the food. Laura dives deep into each episode, thoughtfully pulling out nuances and subtleties that make Frasier feel richer than her chocolate truffles from episode 15. It’s a show that brings her joy, and her love for Frasier sings from the page. “I want to do right by the episodes,” she says. “I don’t want to come in and just say this is an amazing episode of TV. I want to work out why it’s so good.”
Laura’s nearly at the end of Frasier‘s first season, but don’t panic, she’s not planning to stop. “I don’t mind if I write it sporadically forever more, until I run out of episodes,” she says. “Even if it’s just me that reads it, it makes me super happy.”
It makes us super happy, too. Thank you, television, may we harness your power for good forever more.