Colin Hogg on television

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Colin Hogg: Brothers' story hits the mark

By Colin Hogg

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Nigel Latta's nature-versus-nurture investigation made for fascinating viewing.

Nigel Latta offers psychological insight in Beyond the Darklands. Photo / Supplied
Nigel Latta offers psychological insight in Beyond the Darklands. Photo / Supplied

You might have thought we had enough crime in real life in New Zealand without plastering it all over our virtual life on primetime television, but you'd be wrong, of course.

On TV these days, if they're not cooking it, they're killing it.

According to the channels, crime's a chart-topper, so murderous viewing is on high rotate.

A lot of the killer shows on offer are imported, but on the documentary series Beyond the Darklands (TV One, 8.30pm, Mondays) we're killing each other, which at least is putting New Zealanders on screen, even if they're often dead.

One of the other notable things about Beyond the Darklands is that it's not entertainment - well, not exactly. In its forensic retelling of famous New Zealand crimes, it suggests it's providing a social service of sorts.

"Unveiling the Predators Among Us," says the series' subtitle, with presenter, clinical psychologist Nigel Latta, further insisting at the top of each show that investigating the inner workings of offenders helps us understand crime "and its prevention".

That's a big maybe, but Beyond the Darklands, now in its fourth series and showing no signs of running out of subject matter, is pretty compelling and often unsettling television.

After suffering through his Politically Incorrect Parenting Show and his Guide To Teenagers, I'd previously felt a little Latta went a long way, but he's on much firmer ground with crims than kids.

Slickly combining archive, interview, re-enactment and dollops of analysis, Darklands attempts to get to the psychological bottom of some of our major crimes, though last night it took a break from murder and mayhem to look at the issue of nature versus nurture through the story of the Mark brothers, Ron and Tui.

Ron Mark is the mayor of Carterton and former hard man of national politics, while his younger brother Tui is a patched gang member.

The brothers shared a troubled upbringing, abandoned by their mother and raised through a series of foster homes.

At 16, Ron turned right into the army while Tui, younger and lacking some of the breaks his big brother landed, turned the wrong way and into crime and, eventually, life with Black Power.

Ron took a central part in the programme, while Tui - unsurprisingly - didn't. All the same, it was fascinating viewing, though no major psychological depths were plumbed and no surprising conclusions drawn. At least it made a change from the usual murder.

On the subject of killings, the death of TV One's long-running Close Up show has been announced to the surprise of hardly anyone at all. The show will end next month and will be replaced with something new and exciting.

Almost anything would be an improvement on poor old Close Up, though possibly not something starring any of the names being bandied about by excited commentators, which say more for sentiment than sense.

A better suggestion might be to not replace Close Up at all, but rather to do the sensible thing and move the hour-long news bulletin to 7 o'clock where the modern world really wants it.

That way there would be no need to consider the indignity of Paul Henry or the predictability of Pippa Wetzell. And at 8, we could be straight into the first crime show of the night. A nice fit after the news of the day.

- NZ Herald

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