Paul Casserly 's Opinion

Paul Casserly watched too much TV as a child.

Paul Casserly: Great shows but bad accents

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Peter Dinklage as Tyrian Lannister - one of the best things on Game of Thrones. Photo / Supplied
Peter Dinklage as Tyrian Lannister - one of the best things on Game of Thrones. Photo / Supplied

Well, season two of Game of Thrones has been a frickin treat hasn't it? Epic battles, beheadings, gratuitous sex scenes and cracking dialogue - what's not to like?

It's hard to believe that something that looked suspiciously like Lord of the Rings crossed with Xena would become one of the great TV shows of our time.

You might even say that each episode has been as enjoyable and anticipated as the weekly delights served up by The Sopranos, Mad Men and Breaking Bad.

There's been some criticism of the pacing of series two but most seem satisfied that the saga is in good hands.

There's only one thing that threatened to get in the way of the magic - and strangely, it has to do with one of the very best things about the show: Bring out the Imp.

Yes, Peter Dinklage is brilliant as Tyrian the dwarf, part of the Lannister family - the clan that makes the Nazi party look like the teddy bear's picnic.

His entrance into a scene is one of the great televisual treats of our times. And how satisfying to watch him take the bloody helm as Joffrey skulked under his mother's skirts, how fitting for him to have his moment of glory as the troops chanted "Half-man, half-man".

Charles Dance may have spoiled the Imp's party but he has been magnificent as Tywin 'Lord of Casterly Rock' Lannister - particularly in those intense encounters with another of the show's many highlights - young Arya Stark (Maisie Williams).

Regardless, this season has been well and truly owned by Dinklage.

In series one it was Ned Stark who held it all together. This time things were more complex, with the Imp being the character who came closest to being the central character. And as anyone who watched would be aware, the Imp ruled.

But there's been one thing that threatens the perfection, one wrinkle in the wallpaper: His accent.

Dinklage is American but as everyone knows the fantasy genre requires British, Irish or Scotish accents. Krauts and Scandinavians get a look in too but Yanks are not so popular

Therefore Dinklage, a rare American in this largely European cast, is required to talk with an accent far from his native New Jersey.

Perhaps this isn't a problem in the US where an English accent only has to be approximate to be convincing. Just think of how Australians sound via The Simpsons, which is somewhere between a South African and an East End barrow-boy.

Closer to home you may recall Hannibal Lector's take on the Southland accent in The World's Fastest Indian. Though to be fair, nailing a good Invercargill, a good "purple curtains", would be a stretch for many an Auckland actor - let alone a Welshman.

The Imp is a Lannister, so therefore he's upper-class, a royal and for some reason, English. It's something that Dinklage almost pulls off. But there's the occasional word that conspires to spoil the party, a slide on a vowel perhaps, and just for a nano-second you're reminded that he's putting it on.

It's only a minor impediment to proceedings, nit picking - no doubt. Only a fool would suggest that he's not perfectly cast. Well, very nearly perfectly.

I'm sure American audiences twinge too when British or Kiwi actors mangle a Californian-slacker or a killer from Kentucky.

Is Ana Paquin 100 per cent convincing to a southerner as Sookie Stackhouse on True Blood? I'd be 99 per cent sure that she is not.

I'm also pretty sure that some Scots have had a laugh while watching Bikie Wars: Brothers in Arms (TV3, 9.30pm Wednesdays).

There's a lot to like about this show; the bung-eyed star Callan Mulvey is certainly one of them. Bikie Wars is from the same factory that churns out the Underbelly range, which means two things - men in wigs and women without tops.

The reason it works so well is that it's all based on a true story. In this case the "true story" concerns the Comanchero bikie gang in Sydney in the 1980s, and ultimately leads to the Milperra massacre.

It's a compelling watch, and captures what must have been a thrilling scene to be part of, if you were that way inclined. The pregnant neighbour who popped over on last week's episode to ask the boys to turn down the music was not so thrilled.

This genre does its best work wallowing in the grey area that allows you to be appalled and enticed by a lifestyle at the same time. But like the recent Underbelly: Razor, these Comanchero chronicles also suffer in the accent department.

In Razor, it was malevolent madam Tilley Devine (Kiwi actor Chelsie Preston Crayford) who was lumbered with a voice that the Sydney Morning Herald rather unkindly suggested as belonging in the "Hilarious Accent Hall of Fame".

In Bikie Wars, the same is true for head bad-guy Jock Ross, a surly Scot, played by Aussie actor and former league player, Matthew Nable. Not that he's bad, not as spot on as Mulvey, but he has just enough gravitas, and is suitably gruff.

It's just that every few words I'm reminded of another fiery Scotsman, a certain red-head who looks after the school grounds in an animated town called Springfield. Mind you, the guy who plays him doesn't even look like a Scotsman.

Watching the rugby test the other night I was reminded of something that my mother has often complained about - namely the pronunciation of the word "Ireland".

She's Irish, and to her ears most Kiwi commentators miss the 'Ire' part and say something that sounds more like 'Island'.

At least I think that's what she said.

Accents worth looking out for this week:

Al Jazera News (Freeview, 6pm, weekdays): Great accents, often a mix of Middle East and Cambridge, and they show the blood and guts that other networks shun.

MasterChef Final (Tuesday, 7.30pm, TV One): Rick Stein will be along with his nasal Oxfordshire tones. Some say that Ana has traces of Waiheke-ian in her voice but she sounds more Westmere-ian to my ear. And is that Christ College we detect in Simon's Gault's voice? A quick Google search reveals the words 'Kings College', so not far off.

The GC (Wednesday, TV3, 8pm): For the best Mozzie Bro you'll ever hear in primetime. This week DJ Tuini returns to her marae for the first time. The Herald On Sunday's Paul Little generated some lively debate after he described the show as 'a subtle, devastating critique of NZ today.'

Police 10/7 (TV2, Thursday, 7.30pm): Tune in to hear some pure baby-boomer Pakeha as Detective Inspector Graham Bell (retired) tears strips of the thieves, ratbags and thugs. Listen out also for pure white trash, cuzzie bro and F.O.B.

Neighbourhood (Sundays, TV1, 11am): An excellent show that celebrates a different NZ neighbourhood every week - which means wall to wall "bloody foreigners". Poms, Pacific Islanders, Greeks and Africans have already featured as has Mt Roskill and Sunnynook.

Hounds (TV, Friday, 10pm): Where you'll hear the sounds of the dog-racing blue-collar kiwi, the spoilt, narcissistic Gen Y bird, (Catherine Waller is superb as Amber) and a note-perfect rendition of the North Island bastard, thanks to Josh Thomson's 'Lance'.

Golden (TV3 Sunday 7pm): More next generation NZ comedy with broad kiwi 'axeuunts'. Staring plus-sized newcomer Lucy Schmidt along with the well toned Joel Tobeck, and stick-like Jesse Griffin. Accent related trivia: Among others, the Tui-like Tobeck does a brilliant Tem Morrison while Griffin's comedic alter-ego is an American country singer by the name of Wilson Dickson.

Paul Casserly

Paul Casserly watched too much TV as a child.

It began with Dr Who, in black and white, when it was actually scary. The addiction took hold with Chips, in colour. He made his mum knit a Starsky and Hutch cardigan. Later, Twin Peaks would blow what was left of his mind. He’s been working in radio and TV since the 1990s and has an award in his pool room for Eating Media Lunch.

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