The Feijoa Club is a new Kiwi children’s comedy that launched on Hei Hei this week. Tara Ward checked it out, and reckons it’s one of the best home-grown shows to hit our screens in a long time.
Gather ye feijoas while ye may, but make sure all your eyes are on Hei Hei’s The Feijoa Club this winter. This new Kiwi show is a smart and confident six-part children’s comedy about five young mystery-solving friends living in small town New Zealand, and it’s a delight from start to finish. It’s even better than a warm feijoa muffin, and that’s a big call.
The Feijoa Club centres around Perry, a teenager who’s just moved from Auckland to a small Taranaki town. It’s the type of rural community where everyone knows everyone, and Perry’s quickly welcomed into ‘The Feijoa Club’, a group of friends who solve the little mysteries of their town. Along with Perry – who pretends to be Jacinda Ardern when she’s nervous – there’s slow-runner Boyden and his awesome sister Rima, nerdy Amir and super savvy Gemma-Jane.
Luckily, Perry has landed in a town full of puzzles waiting to be cracked, like a missing brooch or why Boyden can’t run faster. Each episode runs for about ten minutes, so nobody’s cracking the Enigma, but I loved how some of The Feijoa Club’s mysteries were so easily explained. Perry lost her tablet on the first day of school because (spoiler alert) kleptomaniac Rima pinched it. Aroha mai, mystery solved.
Rima’s my fave, but every one of the show’s characters is a joy. The friends are quirky and funny, continually getting themselves into awkward situations like auditioning for the school play or being banned from the town museum. Together, they’re a force to be reckoned with, like the episode where they stage a peaceful protest inspired by Te Whiti-o-Rongomai. If these kids are our future, Aotearoa is in safe hands.
The young actors are supported by a charming cast of adults, including Shortland Street’s Nicole Whippy (who also directs) as Ms Haughton, the lively Principal of Shining Peak High, and Scotty Cotter and Andy Wong as Perry’s dads Hughey and Steven. I also loved Mrs Gooseberry the drama teacher, who’s school play audition reactions were a treat.
There’s a lot to love about The Feijoa Club, and especially the celebration of whānau. Perry lives with her two Dads in a home filled with aroha. “Your life is a tv show: ‘My Two Awesome Dads’,” artist Hughey tells Perry in episode one. Problems are solved around the kitchen table, and Perry’s globe-trotting ‘Auntie Mum’ Rosie occasionally swoops in to help solve a mystery or two. It’s a family dynamic we don’t see often enough on television, but The Feijoa Club gets it right.
Also, Perry’s Dad cooks incredible kai. I got so hungry watching this show.
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Best of all, this a truly multi-cultural production, featuring a cast of Māori, Pacific, Pan-Asian and Pākehā actors. It’s produced and written by Kiel McNaughton and Kerry Warkia from Brown Sugar Apple Grunt Productions (of Waru and Find Me A Māori Bride fame), and it’s refreshing to watch television that includes such variety of voices and perspectives. The scripts include everyday te reo, themes of identity and belonging, whānau and whakapapa, are woven through each episode.
But The Feijoa Club is, above everything else, a genuinely funny show. I laughed out loud at the yoga fart joke and the flashback references that break the fourth wall and the lines about not liking feijoas. This is a show that knows exactly what is expected of it as a children’s comedy but refuses to dumb itself down. It confidently delivers on all the necessary kids-show life lessons, but in a delightfully self-aware way, and without ever being sanctimonious.
I watched every episode of The Feijoa Club with a smile on my face. It’s a perfectly pocket-sized piece of children’s television and left me wanting more. More Perry, more Rima, and definitely more of Steven’s cooking. The Feijoa Club is a brilliantly multi-cultural and fun New Zealand show that deserves to be adored by adults and kids alike.
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