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A blog about television and radio with Paul Casserly

Paul Casserly: The wedding from hell

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A scene from the controversial 'red wedding' episode of Game of Thrones. Photo / Supplied
A scene from the controversial 'red wedding' episode of Game of Thrones. Photo / Supplied

Warning: Spoilers ahead. Do not keep reading if you have not seen the most recent Game of Thrones episode The Rains of Castamere or read the book A Storm of Swords.

I joined some friends the other night to watch Game of Thrones, one of whom, an inveterate traveller, is a callous spoiler. He usually comes back to ruin a major plot twist in a show that had shown overseas but was still months off here.

But just back from LA, he was hanging out for the new episode just as much as we poor Kiwi peasants were. Interestingly I asked what other shows he had seen over there, and most have already been here. Times have changed.

"Any mentions of New Zealand on the TV there", I asked? "That Green MP who stopped mid-interview to ask his spin doctor what he should say - that made the news - they thought that was hilarious."

As was apparently the news that Maurice Williamson was New Zealand's first openly gay Prime Minister.

John Key on Letterman, Gareth Hughes on the LA news, what a shame Maurice didn't take up the offer to appear on Ellen, although the sight of him dancing over that coffee table, god, even thinking about it makes my mouth dry, and yes, there it is, a half vomit.

Still, it makes me proud that they're laughing at us. That means we exist doesn't it?

Anyway, Game of Thrones. Jeepers-flipping-creepers, what an episode. If you weren't there you've probably been bored by others who have already, so I'll keep the re-cap short and savoury. Everybody died!

Well, not everyone, but two of the major players, Robb and Cat Stark came to a bloody end right in front of us and it was as brutal as the shocking finale to season one, in which Ned Stark was executed while his daughter Arya watched on. She didn't see her mother get the chop this time but she witnessed some harrowing wolf euthanasia to add spice to her future counselling sessions. We watched via MySky and about half an hour after the show started I got a text that said, "Well, that was upbeat".

Having not the read the books I didn't know exactly what was going to happen on the show, but I had been alerted that something was up by Twitter. People, book readers no doubt, had been posting things like "Something big on GOT tonight."

And big it was, up there with some of the best moments of shock and awe ever seen on the box. Like when Omar got wacked by that kid on The Wire, or when the crew-member of NZL50 yelled those immortal words as the mast cracked in half - "This f***ing boat!"

Naturally this has sparked the usual "Most shocking moments in TV history" posts. The NY Daily News has a good top 10 and have chosen, rather brilliantly I think, the episode of 70's sitcom Maude where she decides to have an abortion as their No. 1.

Most of the blogs and commentary around the Red Wedding episode was positive or raving. Local satirical site The Civilian - which has been in top form of late - had great fun with it, as they have with Rachel Smalley and Gerry Brownlee.

Best of all the fallout was author George RR Martin's appearance on Conan, where he watches hilarious reactions from fans to the bloody scenes that unfolded last week.

On a related thought, I reckon Thrones characters The Hound and Arya are proving to be one the best partnerships on TV at the moment.

They had me thinking of other great partnerships I've enjoyed recently: Guptill and McCullum we're outstanding the other night as they finished off their awesome innings.

Also, Key and Peele are proving to be stupidly funny on their current outing on Comedy Central. Closer to home, the forced marriage/partnership of Jono and Ben at 10 is back (TV3 Friday nights, 10pm) with a show that's looking even slicker than last season.

Last week's episode featured the sort of wonderfully cringey comedy which Leigh Hart used to excel at on Sports Café. This time it was Guy Williams's turn to ambush an All Black's press conference with absurdity. He was in the company of his 'man-child' - a kid with glasses who asks odd questions like; "Do you like cats?" Cue Steve Hanson looking confused and unimpressed, which I guess is his usual setting.

The truly OMFG moment came when the kid stopped All Black Andrew Hore in the hallway to ask, "Why don't you like seals?" An obvious reference to a moment in the hooker's past that he'd rather forget. It's a brave man who asks a question like that, which is where a kid comes in handy. Sensing he was on a hiding to less than nothing, Hore didn't hang around to answer. But the question hung in air like an old man's nappy.

The on-going ratings tussle between Seven Sharp and Campbell Live is a sort of partnership I guess. It's been watched most closely by throng.co.nz, who have been doing a great job of keeping track of the ups and downs. But it's a fickle business. One day it's "Winning the new normal for Campbell Live." the next it's "Record high for Seven Sharp."

Still, it's heartening to see Campbell trending so well, given that Seven Sharp follows One News with it's 700,000 odd viewers while 3 News only gifts Campbell about 400,000.

It's a quaint but lovely thought that taking the moral high ground can actually lead to ratings. Perhaps the consultants who decided that we'd rather be amused to death than informed to sleep might have got it wrong after all?

On a positive note, at least viewers now have two different brands to choose from, which wasn't the case when Close Up and Campbell Live basically mowed the same lawn. On any given night there can be great stories to be found on either show but, as a friend of mine pointed out, Seven Sharp buries these later in theirs, which is a shame, as it can be hard to make it through the uncomfortable opening ménage.

Campbell's missionary approach is no doubt seen as vanilla in comparison, but the problem with group sex is that it's all well and good until somebody farts.

And speaking of farts, one of my favourite older farts returned to our screens last week. Dougal Stevenson was the news back in the 60s and 70s and was a great choice to anchor the first week of specials on Heartland entitled I Was There.

The show makes great use of that national treasure, the TVNZ archive, with the help of talking heads who were 'there.' One of those was Peter Williams QC who told the story behind the footage of the infamous Ronald Jorgensen, one of the men convicted of the crime known as THE BASSET ROAD MACHINE GUN MURDERS.

I still can't drive past Basset Rd, in Remuera, without the words popping into my head. Williams talked of the man who was his client, then friend. He talked of his artistic nature and of the rumours surrounding his death. His car was found at the bottom of a cliff but his body never was.

It's one of those stories that has remained compelling after all these years with people recently coming forward to claim that they saw 'Jorgy' alive and well in Perth. Williams calls BS on that theory by the way. The series continues over the next three weeks and will no doubt be re-run.

This week it's the 1970s with Jenny Goodwin, then the 80s with Tom Bradley and the 90s with the mother of the nation, Judy Bailey. And as THE BASSET ROAD MACHINE GUN MURDERS, attest, sometimes fact is just as shocking as fiction, even more so if Dougal says it is.

* I Was There, Heartland, 7pm weeknights.

- NZ Herald

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