Tara Ward reviews Goodnight Kiwi, a new series that features well-known New Zealanders reading bedtime stories to kids.
It’s strange to think that New Zealand television wasn’t always the 24-hour, infomercial-tastic extravangza that it is today. Back in the ‘70s and ‘80s, our televisions used to go dark every night at about eleven o’clock, a moment in time heralded by the arrival of a giant animated kiwi wearing a blue waistcoast. While the soothing sounds of Hine e Hine played, Goodnight Kiwi and his BFF Cat would turn the national television system off, put the milk bottle out for the morning, and climb into their satellite dish for a solid eight hours sleep.
The fun was over, New Zealand. It was time to go to bed.
Don’t think too hard about why a supposedly nocturnal bird slept at night, or why that cat never ate him. Just watch and enjoy and think how quaint it was that an entire nation used to be sent off to nigh-nighs by this furry little fella.
Thankfully, like Chocoade biscuits and Celebrity Treasure Island, Goodnight Kiwi has risen again. He’s back on our screens and this time he’s doing it for the kids, teaming up with New Zealand celebrities to share the joy of reading. TVNZ OnDemand’s new series sees several well-known identities take a seat on the Goodnight Kiwi couch to send a new generation of little New Zealanders off to bed with a story, while also helping to spark a life-long love of reading.
It’s TV with a conscience, it’s culture with a cause. Goodnight Kiwi is probably the shortest show you’ll see on New Zealand television, but it might also be the best.
I can’t recall another New Zealand show dedicated solely to children’s books, or one that features popular New Zealanders celebrating some of our best authors and illustrators. The Topp Twins, comedian Urzila Carlson and actor Dean O’Gorman all pop up in Goodnight Kiwi just to read some books on the telly, and although each episode is only a few minutes long, they’re having a bloody great time doing it.
But the kids won’t care who the celebrities are, they’ll just love hearing grown ups talk about poo and bums. Hilary Barry reads Margaret Mahy’s The Moon and Farmer McPhee with a toy pig tucked under her arm, and displays an enviable range of animal noises. Jackie van Beek and Madeleine Sami read Baa Baa Smart Sheep, a poo-heavy story about a quirky turkey, and Jeremy Wells tackles Dawn McMillan’s classic I Need A New Bum, a story overflowing with farts and arses and hilarious buttcracks. “Brace yourself,” Wells warns, “we’ll get through the rude bits together”.
Bums are funny no matter how old you are, and Goodnight Kiwi is a celebration of New Zealand’s best bottoms, A&P shows, knitting Nanas, poolside manu, celebrations and imaginations. Two of the Goodnight Kiwi stories are read in te reo Māori and English by Stacey Morrison and What Now’s Evander Brown, and there’s a Christmas special featuring stories read aloud by Oscar Kightley and Jayden Daniels.
It might seem a bit weird to watch someone reading a book through the television, but Goodnight Kiwi makes the stories burst into life. Colourful animations make the illustrations move and dance, and the celebrities breathe energy and rhythm into each story. Like any good book, Goodnight Kiwi transports you to another world for a few precious minutes, a sweet reprieve from the real world to appeal to frazzled adults and tired children alike.
Goodnight Kiwi is a charming, feel-good piece of television that delivers all the warm and fuzzies. It will fill your cup, your bucket, your tank, basically any emotionally deficient receptacle you have that needs filling. May Goodnight Kiwi never have to retire to the great satellite dish in the sky again, and like Jeremy Wells says at the end of the bum story: nigh-night, thanks for having me.
Goodnight Kiwi is available on TVNZ OnDemand, with two new episodes every Monday.
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