TV review: Coast's 'characters' a colourful bunch

By Michelle Hewitson

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Reality show digs up some Kiwi oddities as it meanders around the country but it's not breaking new ground.

New Zealand's most famous hermit, South Westland's Robert Long, gained more exposure on  This Town .
New Zealand's most famous hermit, South Westland's Robert Long, gained more exposure on This Town .

Is there a town in NZ with the slogan: There's Nothing Wrong With It? Or have I imagined this because I want this to be true. It would be a Really Good Slogan - in a very New Zealand sort of way.

This Town (Saturday, TV1, 7.30pm) takes a similarly laconic approach to its meander through the potted lives of some of "our" characters. There are characters in every town, of course; there's probably one in the street where you live.

This Town kicked off with the country's most famous hermit, Robert Long, who lives in a place that is a long way from any town: Gorge River in South Westland. He said that he didn't end up living in this remote and harsh place to get away from people; just to get away from people telling him how to live his life. This is just as well because, as has been noted before, he's possibly now the most documented hermit in the world - you wonder whether his shack is ever empty of camera crews.

We met Les Lisle (who has since died), the famous bearded publican of the famous (because of those cheese ads) Mahinapua Hotel.

Les, despite looking more like a hermit than Long does, had a genius for business and attracting young backpackers who turned up to party at his pub, nightly, it seemed.

Up the road a bit, in Coast terms, is Pukekura where Pete the Bushman showed similar business nous. He runs a joint, the Bushman's Centre, which manages to persuade people to eat possum pies by calling the pest "chicken of the forest", and to have their wallets skinned for a possum paw key ring. What do possum pies taste like? Some people say they "taste like cat", apparently.

Moving swiftly along then, there was a woman who drives a dump truck at a mine; a horse artist; a couple who have been married for 52 years. The husband to the wife: "You've always been pretty good." To the camera: "If I run her down she mightn't cook me tea!"

On to another famous coaster, Jacquie Grant, who used to be a man, and an Australian. She had her op in Rotorua in the early 70s. "The surgeon's name was Mr Hacket. Go figure. I love telling people that."

She is introduced as The Business Woman and she has made a decent crust selling ... socks. She also manufactures sock-making machines and flogs them in the States, where she is a lively member of The Circular Sock Society of America.

She said of West Coasters: "I don't know if I'd call us oddballs, but the Coast's full of people who are a little bit different."

It's a time-honoured television standard to seek out people who are a little bit different, so that the rest of us can have a look at the place we live in and conclude ... Well, what, exactly? What I concluded was that there's nothing wrong with This Town, but it's not exactly ground-breaking telly either.

- NZ Herald

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