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The State of the (Local) Art

I must admit that when I see the words ‘Local content’ in re TV I tend to run for the hills (or valleys). For, you see, I have been burnt by local content. However, this has meant that I have not allowed myself the pleasures of recent note that have graced our screens.

I should have known better; two of my favourite films of all time are New Zealand productions, and many New Zealand television shows, in the past, have captured my attention and made me think ‘Wow; we can compete with the bigger markets.’ Unfortunately, a few modern sitcoms have found me contemplating the state of my navel, or, in extreme cases, inspecting the back of my occipital socket with a rusty screwdriver.

Thus I have seen only one episode of ‘The Strip’ and only heard the good news that is ‘The Insider’s Guide to Happiness.’

Of the former I had had doubts; having been to school with Jodie Rimmer and knowing her family has made it difficult to adjust to her as an actress. All I can keep thinking is that her grandfather is a good Catholic and that the fruit store Bill owned in Belmont was down the road from a butchery I have very fond memories of. Hardly the kind of critical appraisal you want to stick with you when her character goes off chasing some businessman’s third leg. Of the latter show I just didn’t even consider giving it a chance, condemning it ‘Category: Crap’ without a by-your-leave.

Which is all very bad of me, since as a writer I really should be seeing what my country is producing.

Believe it or not, but New Zealand is a good place to be a writer. Oh, it has vices if you are interested in researching particular genres and the arts elite here is far more British than American, but New Zealand, as a location, is well regarded when it comes to produce drama. The Cinema of Unease, our particular speciality, is sufficiently different from the world’s fare that it has a cult status overseas. Not mainline success, true, but try and find a university student from the UK who hasn’t spent several weekends in a row watching ‘Bad Taste’ religiously and you will be in for a hard time. This extends, somewhat naturally and unnaturally, to the editors and producers of the media itself. ‘Postmark New Zealand’ can often mean the difference of ‘Won’t read’ to ‘Might read’, and when you consider just how much more opportunity that gives in the marketplace it suddenly takes on great value.

Still, location is not everything; mundane stories are mundane stories wherever you are from, and even the following line, ‘As far as I can tell, you may be the reason why God and the little baby Jesus cry at night’ remains better than Stilton sauce sex no matter which country you are from.

Back to TV.

‘The Insider’s Guide to Happiness’ was a show I was convinced, having seen or read nothing about it, would be a fluffy romantic drama. It turned out not to be, seeing that it dealt with time travel, resurrection from the dead and reincarnation. Brave stuff for prime time TV, and handled, so I hear (my watching of the show was limited seeing that it had an overarching plot and I came in late), with ease and a careful balance of pathos and bathos.

New Zealand, it seems, has matured (again) in re its TV production. Like all countries we continue to produce large amounts of fluff, but now you have the option, on at least one channel, to see quality Kiwi unease in 4:3 (or, for the more adventurous producers, 14:9 or 16:9).

Pity that it is somewhat harder to get into that writing game than it would be in Blighty…

Also, someone needs to hurry up and start releasing more local content on DVD.