Greg Dixon 's Opinion

Greg Dixon is deputy editor of Canvas.

TV Eye: Wish list - less Murray, more laughs


Rhys Darby was in three shows last Friday. I saw only two of them but, frankly, I say enough. Enough, enough, enough.

There I have said it again three times more, one for each show, though perhaps I should not have.

Inevitably I will be accused of "tall poppy syndrome" for saying enough, enough, enough. But to crib and tailor a gag from one of the shows Mr Darby appeared in, it is not tall poppy syndrome so much as annoyingly-ubiquitous-ginger-haired-person-with-a-reedy-voice syndrome.

I, along with many other people, appreciate and applaud Mr Darby for carving out a successful career on the back of his turn as Murray the manager in Flight of the Conchords, a role which has led him to make a bit of splish-splash in the movies.

But to say that he is being oversold at home is a tall poppy of an understatement.

Is it just me, or is he playing Murray the manager in everything? Perhaps it is just me.

In any case, I will apologise to Mr Darby for saying enough, enough, enough. He is simply making a living.

I applaud him for making a living, and Lord knows New Zealand needs to export - I just wish he would stay exported.

The first of the shows which Mr Darby appeared in on Friday night was Rock The Nation: NZ's Top 10 Pop Culture Moments (TV3, 8.30pm, and a repeat from C4). I did not see this. In light of what followed I was, more or less, grateful.

The first of his three shows I did see was called Radiradirah (TV3, 9.30pm).

Some things just have their time, don't they? Crucifixion? Ancient history. Paul Holmes? Ancient history. TV sketch comedies? Actually I would be inclined to say prehistoric for that one.

The phrase is redolent of the Jurassic, when dinosaurs were all working class British blokes who smoked, went to the pub for pints of brown ale, called female dinosaurs "birds" and the laugh track was always canned. The sketch shows of the 1960s and 70s, in other words.

Still the New Zealand sketch comedy has had its successes, starting with A Week Of It, and progressing nicely, more or less, through Billy T to Skitz and, more recently, to Moon TV.

Radiradirah represents ... well not much progress at all and even fewer - I might even say, no - laughs.

I have to say my heart sank when I read about this programme. Its makers were responsible for bro'Town, a comedy - and here I recognise I am in the vast minority - I just did not like. Its humour reminded me of being a fifth former: spotty, puerile and rather likely to become a second year, and possibly a third year, fifth.

However bro'Town might be sophisticated by comparison to its successor.

Opening with a sketch in which Mr Darby was a Kiwi Robin Hood doing an impersonation of Murray the manager, it moved, in quick succession, through, variously, live action sketches (one involving macho road workers kissing), Python-esque talking pictures, talking, animated wildlife and a dreadfully lame pastiche of Star Trek.

There was a strange rambling alien who might have been played by Taika Waititi. There was a joke about gang rape.

I appreciate that all of the sketches in a sketch show cannot work, but it's quite a remarkable feat for none of them to work - particularly given all the talent involved, including his comic majesty John Clarke. Radiradirah indeed.

Lord knows I needed a laugh after it. 7 Days (TV3, 10pm) gave me a few. It is that rare thing, a local comedy success. It deserves to be. It is funny, though some weeks it is funnier than others.

Sadly last week it was not at its best. For this I do not blame Mr Darby, who proved himself more than capable of a witty one-liner. Indeed I might have forgiven him entirely if he had not appeared to be doing yet another impersonation of Murray the manager.

7 Days is an excellent example of how comedy works, or doesn't work. It is all about chemistry and timing. Some weeks, the guests do not gel. Other weeks the set-up material does not gel. However there are weeks where everything comes together just so, and it is very funny indeed.

I will keep watching it. Radiradirah I will leave to the fifth formers.

- NZ Herald

Greg Dixon

Greg Dixon is deputy editor of Canvas.

It has been said the only qualities essential for real success in journalism are a rat-like cunning, a plausible manner and a little literary ability. Despite having none of these things, Canvas deputy editor Greg Dixon has spent more than 20 years working as a journalist for the New Zealand Herald and North & South and Metro magazines. Although it has been rumoured that he embarked on his journalism career as the result of a lost bet, the truth is that although he was obsessed by the boy reporter Tintin as a child, he originally intended to be an accountant. Instead, after a long but at times spectacularly bad stint at university involving two different institutions, a year as a studio radio programme director and a still uncompleted degree, he fell into journalism, a decision his mother has only recently come to terms with. A graduate of the Auckland Institute of Technology (now AUT) journalism school, he was hired by the Herald on graduation in 1992 and spent the next eight years demonstrating little talent for daily news, some for television reviewing and a passable aptitude for long-form feature writing. Before returning to the Herald in 2008 to take up his present role, he spent three years as a freelance, three as a senior feature writer at Metro and one as a staff writer at North & South. As deputy editor of Canvas, his main responsibility is applauding the decisions of the editor, Michele Crawshaw. However he prefers to spend his time interviewing interesting people -- a career highlight was a confusing 15-minute phone interview with a stoned Anna Nicole Smith -- and pretending to understand what they're going on about. He has won awards for his writing and editing, but would have preferred a pay rise.

Read more by Greg Dixon

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