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The Insiders Guide to Happiness

I recently watched all of the 2004 New Zealand ‘drama’ ‘The Insiders Guide to Happiness,’ which was something I should have watched at the time and never got around to. When I was told it featured time-travelling, the dead coming back to life and reincarnating monks I was sure it was going to be worth my while.

And it was, for the most part.

‘The Insiders Guide to Happiness’ is a thirteen-part mini-series which starts off with one of the main characters dying but not, importantly, passing over. The first half of the series explore his limited interaction with the world and how he is able to see what people knew and thought about him, and how his death shapes subsequent events. Then, in an interesting twist, he manages to go back to the moment of the accident and change everything so that he didn’t die. The last half of the season then explores the character relationships that result from this.

The first half of the show; brilliant. The second; not so much.

I recently watched all of the 2004 New Zealand ‘drama’ ‘The Insiders Guide to Happiness,’ which was something I should have watched at the time and never got around to. When I was told it featured time-travelling, the dead coming back to life and reincarnating monks I was sure it was going to be worth my while.

And it was, for the most part.

‘The Insiders Guide to Happiness’ seems to suffer from having a really good idea that wasn’t quite big enough to encompass all the episodes. It also suffers from a few too many characters; whilst everyone interacts at some point whole chunks of the story end up being unrelarted. Paul and Lindsey’s reunion and separation is interesting but doesn’t really have much effect on the adventures of Tina, Matthew and James. Some of the plot points that get set up never eventuate either, and so the show starts off with a lot more promise than it has when it reaches its conclusion.

And the conclusion is a little weird in its almost deus ex machina ending.

The show is slick, though, when it comes to presentation. For a long time New Zealand TV shows always looked as if they were shot on video with a lighting crew that was on a smoko break. ‘The Insiders Guide to Happiness’ looks really, really good. It’s also funny, wry, witty and cleverly scripted; it just doesn’t quite gel. Every so often characters do things for the sake of a line; Tina, who you never see smoke before or after, starts to light up in one scene simply to justify a post-coital joke. Small nitpicks, but these are things that detract from what is otherwise a damn fine show.

The team behind ‘The Insiders Guide to Happiness’ wrote a prequel series, ‘The Insiders Guide to Love’ which is five episodes shorter and has a smaller core cast, came out just as I was leaving the country in 2005. It’s up next for the viewing slot and I have high hopes for it.

In other news, the FHG has started me on a course of New Zealand literature. Thus far I am enjoying reading ‘our’ stories, even though it does make me appreciate just how much damage the coming of the Europeans caused.