TV Re­view Diana Wich­tel

The holy grail of a suc­cess­ful lo­cal sit­com is within view­ers’ grasp.

New Zealand Listener - - CONTENTS - DIANA WICH­TEL

The sit­com: it’s one of those things, like pub­lic trans­port and so­phis­ti­cated me­dia dis­course, we’re in­ex­pli­ca­bly crap at. There have been no­ble ex­cep­tions – Glid­ing On, Bro’Town,

The Jaquie Brown Di­aries, Welling­ton Para­nor­mal… There were also Melody Rules and, God help us, Porters. Flight of the Con­chords wasn’t funny enough for us.

With this track record, we should at least have been able to make a good sit­com about a bunch of peo­ple mak­ing a bad sit­com. Now Me­di­aWorks, with NZ On Air, has grasped the net­tle with both blood­ied hands. Com­edy Pilot Week of­fered five pi­lots screened over four nights on Three and on de­mand. View­ers can have a say on so­cial me­dia on which pilot be­comes a series. It’s not a ter­ri­ble idea. Aus­tralia’s ABC and Chan­nel 10 have tried it. Trans­par­ent be­gan as part of an Ama­zon pilot sea­son. We should be so lucky. Still, I can re­port that I made it through the week with­out re­tir­ing be­hind the sofa cush­ions to whim­per in de­s­pair.

Here’s my rank­ing of the five pi­lots, from best to yeah, nah. 1. Mean Mums. Moth­ers pa­trol the grounds of a pri­mary school polic­ing each other’s par­ent­ing cre­den­tials. Who hasn’t been there? Mor­gana O’Reilly is the star of the week as har­ried sin­gle par­ent Jess, who leaves her small son on his first day at Kate Shep­pard Pri­mary with an en­cour­ag­ing, “The in­ter­net as­sures me that you are go­ing to be fine!” Anna Juli­enne, match fit af­ter fight­ing off a gang of un­fea­si­bly at­trac­tive com­peti­tors for the af­fec­tions of Erik Thom­son on 800 Words, is equal to the role of mean­est mum, Heather. Her daugh­ter, Cin­na­mon, is on a hy­brid pa­leo-keto diet, poor lamb. Heather homes in on Jess’ in­ad­e­qua­cies like a heat-seek­ing mis­sile. The prin­ci­pal’s name is Mr Cox­head (shades of The Jaquie Brown Di­aries, in which the John Camp­bell-like broad­caster was called the rude-sound­ing McHuntly). So, noth­ing sub­tle here, but it’s a slick half hour with hu­mour and, more im­por­tantly, heart. Would watch again. 2. Golden Boy. Lo­cal Craw­don boy as­cends to heaven in a golden char­iot. Well, he be­comes an All Black (James Rolle­ston, lit­er­ally phon­ing it in as Tama). His sis­ter, Mitch (Hay­ley Sproull), is home from the Big Smoke to rep­re­sent the de­cline of print jour­nal­ism by work­ing for the Craw­don Chron­i­cle. The lo­cals are as­sorted weirdos and con­spir­acy the­o­rists. It al­most counts as so­cial re­al­ism.

3. The Lonely Hearts Mo­tel. No one would ever call their hostelry The Lonely Hearts Mo­tel. Never mind. Millen Baird, as Roy, and the won­der­ful Ginette McDon­ald, thor­oughly en­joy­ing her­self as his mother, are busy run­ning the fam­ily mo­tel into the ground. Michael – “the other brother” – to the res­cue. There’s a long-term Winz res­i­dent with bung eyes who wan­ders through the ac­tion like an es­capee from Wait­ing for Godot. Best Pilot Week cameo?

The dead rat. “Sad to be leav­ing,” notes Roy, “but thor­oughly en­joyed his stay.” This falls some­where be­tween Psy­cho and Wel­come to Par­adise, Ge­off Mur­phy’s bonkers 2009 sit­com about a back­pack­ers’ hos­tel. It’s set in Palmer­ston North. For some rea­son, I quite liked it.

4. Side­lines. There’s a South African Chris­tian foot­ball mum who ad­vises her tot to “wipe the floor and an­ni­hi­late the other chil­dren”. In fur­ther poor-role-model news, there’s lot of dispir­it­ing sex among the largely un­like­able par­ents, plus rat­ing of sex like an Uber ride: “Three stars. Left me short of my des­ti­na­tion.” Nick Rado, as hope­less dad and worse coach Steve, is funny but, over­all, Side­lines left me short of my des­ti­na­tion.

5. Man­gere Vice. This po­lice com­edy runs on the as­sump­tion that you can never have too many fart jokes and kicks to the nuts. You can. A pity be­cause Co­hen Holloway, Ia­heto Ah Hi, the al­ways-mag­nif­i­cent Rachel House and Ana Scot­ney are ter­rific.


Mor­gana O’Reilly stars in Mean Mums.

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