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September 15, 2008 | by  | in Film |
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NZ TV: Why do we bother?

While it may seem too great an ambition and too harsh a criticism to compare Mad Men to anything produced in this country — its single series budget would be equal to the entire TVNZ local content budget — it does illustrate the quality difference between the best of us (umm I guess Outrageous Fortune isn’t bad) and the best of the world. As the independent cinema boom of the nineties showed us, all it takes is a vision and the determination to see it through, and our local filmmakers have flourished in this mould. Yet this kind of passion seems entirely absent from our local TV. Why?

Funding is a cruel word in the world of local television, while there’s plenty of money out there for ‘sure things’ like reality TV, anything that defies convention (like say Flight of the Conchords) will find it near impossible to get off the ground. Fuck the charter, they need to make money.

And so New Zealand-made television hasn’t left the 1960s.

Sticking to remaking banal game shows like Who Wants To Be A Millionaire and Are You Smarter Than a Ten Year Old instead of stepping into the post-HBO television landscape of challenging your audience and attempting to give them something different, New Zealand producers, who suck, leave that to imported television. This isn’t good enough. You don’t need to look far in this country to find talented writers, directors or any of the other makings of a good show, but you’ll be hard pressed to find a television executive with the cojones (or commonsense) to make it.

The level of discourse surrounding television is equally inept: outside of the Listener, which has had strong—if a tad generous—TV reporters for quite sometime, no other journalists are keeping up.

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  1. Jesus Toblerone says:

    I dunno. I think we make better stuff now than we have before. Granted it is still mostly khack though. But it is a better sort of khack. I don’t know how to spell khack by the way.

    I also think that one thing we are bad at is we tend to compare our shows with imported shows- we very rarely import really bad shows except for ones we put in filler spots like My Wife and Kids etc. We only got Mad Men, 30 Rock etc because of the huge amount of kudos they were already getting before they reach here.

    I definitely think we have the talent here to make great shows- but you are right that some of our production types aren’t exactly terribly good talent spotters. Even the usually reliable Great Southern seems to be having trouble with WWTBAM and Millen Baird/Thousand Apologies. All three shows obviously have huge promise but seem to be lacking in execution- whereas Pretender looks to be pretty good all round.

    I dunno. We’ll get it right sometime. Don’t give up. And you are right that TV reviewers are average to poor at the moment.

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