Out of the comfort zone
TVNZ’S returning dramas hook their audiences in very different ways – but both revolve around character, writes Steve Kilgallon.
It seemed to have perfected the slump on the sofa, disengage the brain model of television. The TVNZ drama 800 Words spent its first season and a half working off the premise that absolutely nothing ever happened.
It’s the tale of heartbroken widower George (primetime favourite Erik Thomson), who leaves Sydney with his two teenage kids to return to the beachside Kiwi town of his childhood holidays and somehow earns a living from banging out a pious, deadly-dull newspaper column each week.
It found its groove quickly. George mooned around, making eyes at the unaccountably large population of attractive single women, slowly fitted into the quirky local society, and life progressed, canvassing such vital events as an annual grudge cricket match with the neighbouring town and George being appointed editor of the local newspaper.
But midway through season two, there was a sudden change of heart. George began to put it about a bit, and his old mate Jan found herself pregnant with twins and with three possible fathers (George being one, local lothario Zac another, and Sydney blow-in Steve the third). George had a bitter, town-dividing stink with his long lost brother, and season two ended with Zac, his son Ike and Steve lost at sea in a storm.
The new season, which starts on Wednesday, picks up immediately. The good people of Weld gather to search for the missing trio. It’s a good episode, even if it becomes so enamoured of the deep tension at play that it succumbs to one particularly laughable slowmotion tight-focus shot of a kid riding a pushbike through a small puddle.
What’s probably key is that while 800 Words has changed approach, it still does character well. They’ve amassed a decent cast, and cleverly recruited comedians Jonny Brugh, Jesse Griffin and Jackie van der Beek in straight roles. That makes the viewer invest, and care whether Zak, Ike and Steve make it back to shore. George’s columns are still crap though.
TVNZ’S other returning drama, Doctor Foster (starting Monday night) also does character, if a little differently. Suranne Jones’ doctor, who in season one exposed her husband as a cheating, thieving scumbag (and who in the denouement, assaulted her and fled with his younger girlfriend), is a flawed character – she’s paranoid, a little odd, quite self-centred. But again, you’re cheering for her all the way. Season one had an addictive quality, enhanced by TVNZ’S decision to play the whole thing across a single week.
This time it will play across a more traditional weekly schedule, and it opens with husband Simon (Bertie Carvel) declaring his return home with younger girlfriend, baby and intentions to finagle himself back into society.
In between seasons, Carvel played a smug PR weasel in the brilliant Babylon; he’s got shorter hair and a beard here, but Simon remains a smug property developing weasel. How long will he keep his cool this time?
Unlike 800 Words, Doctor Foster makes for uncomfortable, quite painful viewing. Jones’ pain remains right at the surface, and she doesn’t shy from awkward conversations: it’s a push-pull for the viewer – keeping us watching from between our fingers is the challenge for the remainder of the run. Writer Mike Bartlett copped some criticism for not producing a cataclysmic finale to season one, but that seems unavoidable this time around.
Hotelss. otels. I stay in a lot of them, for both work and pleasure, and th that isn’t a boast. Mosst Most of the time I get to arrive, drop a bag, iron a shirt (if I’ve remeem remembered to bring one), shower and head out to work; then ge get back late that night, fall asleep and hope I’ve managed too to set the alarm clock correctly.
Holidays a aren’t much different. The hotel room itself, if it’s a decent hool holiday, isn’t much more than a place to sleep and store the farfar-too-much stuff you packed while you explore the outside worrld world. But regardless of how often, or for what reason you use hotte hotels, I have a couple of pet peeves I’d like to get off my chesst. chest.
Let’s startt start w with the rooms themselves. Great, they have a minibar, Skyy Sky TV, and a heated towel rail. I’ll probably use them.
What I will definitely use is toilet paper. So maybe have a spare roll soom somewhere I can find it, not hidden at the back of a drawer in th the wardrobe.
Speaking o of wardrobes, do you really need those coathangerrs coathangers that are ring-bound onto the rail? Are people stealing thaat that many of them? If so, I’m sorry to hear it, and I blame themm them for the fact that I crush my shirts more by trying to hang them u up than I would if I just left them in my suitcase.
While we’re on the subject of over-complicating things, if you insist on installing a heating system that requires a degree in computer programming to operate, maybe an instruction booklet wouldn’t be too much to ask? Or, and this might sound crazy, how about windows that actually open, allowing me to regulate the air temperature without having to navigate a remote control that might as well launch missiles for all the sense it makes to me.
Next: I hate to break it to you, hoteliers, but it’s 2017 and we know how much unlimited broadband internet costs. The same goes for the minibar. I shouldn’t have to check my credit score to find out if I can send an email AND eat a mini-tube of Pringles.
And finally, my absolute No.1 point of contention with the hotel industry; check-out time. What is so damned special about 10am that you need me out by then? Is there some ritualistic sacrifice you have to make to the Gods of Hospitality so they continue to bless you with customers?
I am aware that these are very First World problems. After all, I get to stay in hotels, not live in them.
But I would really like to stay until 11am, if that’s not too much trouble. in a drawer.) The bathroom light switch! (Either inside or outside the bathroom, wherever you search last.) Hairdryer! (Another drawer, possibly bathroom, maybe wardrobe, beside the bed or under the TV.) Soap is easy to find but – they think of everything – hard to open. Use a corkscrew. (Another drawer!) The lesson is patience. Remain calm and you will locate everything you need by vibration.
I play Room Service Roulette, and the house always wins. Order and leap in the shower, or order and wait till it is dangerously close to whenhen you need to leave for the gig and then leap inn the shower? Either way, your order will arrive just as you put the shampoo in your hair. How do theyey know? It is either a superpower, or an in-roomm camera. Both ideas scare me.
It’s not just them, it’s me. I pack a suitcase close to 50 times a year and every time I forget something. Mascara is no big deal. Socks and d knickers are manageable – that’s what the tinyy bottles of shampoo and the hairdryer are for. Shoes are a problem if it’s evening dress and you’ve travelled in sneakers. Forgetting your whole makeup bag is a disaster. I recommendd explaining to people that you look like this because you are worn out from playing “Hotel” el” and losing. Fellow travellers will understand.