TV Review: Shortland Street

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WEDDING DAY JITTERS: In the absence of a groom, Roimata Ngatai (Shavaughn Ruakere) turns to the bottle.
WEDDING DAY JITTERS: In the absence of a groom, Roimata Ngatai (Shavaughn Ruakere) turns to the bottle.

Oh come on. Who really has a stag do the night before their wedding? Someone who shows no fear. TK Samuels.

It's funny how some shameless-yet-necessary soap-opera tricks annoy you and others you'll defend at dinner parties. Example of the former: is the door open? Someone will appear at that door and see something they weren't meant to. Why can't characters leave the front door open with no apparent consequence from time to time, just to throw us off the scent?

The best example of the latter is Jackie, professional waitress at the IV. I'm pretty sure she's been working there longer than the rest of the staff put together, but the poor girl never seems to get a promotion. More lines, stat!

Actually with Dr Callum McKay's (Peter Mochrie) current interest in a younger woman, coupled with the amount of time he's spending at the IV, it's surprising he hasn't started shagging her. Bet she'd have more to say than "here's your takeaway" then.

But he only has eyes for core-cast. Which is where things began in Shortland Street's second ever feature-length episode. Dr Mid-life-crisis put on his jacket and straightened his shirt, confirming that he had indeed bedded his son's flame, Jill Kingsbury (Natalie Medlock).

If either of them felt guilty they weren't showing it. Crazy kids.

If last year's feature-length episode (Kieran, blowtorch, etc) was more of an action-type offering, this time around we got the more traditional soap-opera fare. A wedding. A car crash. A birth in a ditch.

And of course there was TK Samuels (Ben Mitchell) wearing very little as he was rescued from his stag night prank gone (purposefully) wrong. His pants around his ankles. Callum: "TK, is that you?"

Lee Donoghue continues to nail acting under the influence of booze and drugs as Hunter McKay, the likeable prescription-drug addict who's about to get so mad he will actually kick a tyre.

"TK - super Maori! Yeahhhh", he freestyles as he's lifted out of the doorway by Dirty Daddy and Super Maori, half-eaten pie still in hand.

Hunter goes on to enter another two candidates for 'line of the episode' before the scene is over. "So you scored a random," and "night stud" (you kinda need the visual finger point for that one).

TK is on the hunt to have his stag night handcuffs removed, and eventually tracks down the culprit, Dr Owen Sutherland (Benedict Wall). Finally someone's going to smash that Owen in. Experts will tell you that if you get really riled up by a character, then that actor is doing a good job. Whatevs.

Someone who is doing a good job, is the other party in this three-way (four way?) storyline; bride to be, Roimata Ngatai (Shavaughn Ruakere).

I didn't know what to expect when I heard the ex-children's TV host and party-pages regular was about to hit The Street. But while plenty of current favourites have had shaky starts, Ruakere seemed to nail it from the first scene. Completely natural and not a trace of that self-awareness newbies often show.

With that in mind, it's a double-treat to have a furious Roimata verbally finish off what TK started with the bash. "If you think my man's got a good left-hook he ain't got nothin' on bridezilla."

But the real fireworks will of course take place in and around The Wedding. Jill - still a bit sex-thick - forgets to put change-of-venue signs up, which is the cue for plenty of fast driving.

We know a crash is coming so the only question is who's involved. TK shoots off, but not before delivering a line designed to keep us guessing.

"Brother! It's my big day - don't intend to miss it."

Meanwhile, evil-eyes newcomer Lana Jacobs (Brooke Williams) continues to not smile. It's hard to see where this new storyline - hating on Jonathon McKenna (Kieren Hutchison) - is going. It's bound to be good though, anything involving Gabrielle Jacobs (Virginie Le Brun) tends to be.

Williams has given good water-cooler performances in Outrageous Fortune and The Almighty Johnsons, but in the first few days of her Shortland Street tenure it all seems to be pouts and about-turns.

Mind you Amelia Reid (as Bella Cooper) wasn't firing at 100 percent in her first week either, but now she's one of The Street's best new characters - and an unlikely super-sleuth. Forever alternating between dropping clangers and joining the dots. It's like Gina (remember her?) got taller and dyed her hair. And started joining dots.

Back at the wedding the first firecrackers have been lit as Callum corners Jill in a back alley of the venue. Callum must still be a bit sex-thick too if he thinks they're not going to get found out.

"You. Are. Playing with fire, Mr." Jill rightly warns. But the Dirty Daddy Doctor doesn't deflect from double-dipping, and it's that second stolen pash that Hunter (his son!) sees from afar. He doesn't make a scene there and then, saving all his fury for a car tyre. Three times.

There seems to be more candidates for the car crash by the minute. Hunter's sent to pick up Brooke (Beth Allen), Sarah (Amanda Billing) decides the wedding isn't for her and heads home, and then of course there's the groom - whose whanau-ferrying mission is taking even longer thanks to a flash flood.

"Talk about a tiki-tour!"

There have been quite a number of car crashes over the years on Shortland Street, so they've had the practice. It was still surprising to see the cause of Hunter and Brooke's crash was the humble road cone. Bloody drunk students.

Things are getting heavy. Ben Mitchell does a good job portraying the inner (and outer - oh those eyes!) turmoil of a man who really can't win, and likewise for Ruakere when Roimata gets the bad news from dad Henare (George Henare - confusing yes).

As if things could get any worse for Sarah. In labour, lost, phone no longer covered by warranty. Then Owen turns up.

"Under normal circumstances you'd at least have to buy me dinner before you got my undies off." Cripes.

But while Owen looks frightened at the task ahead ("Now hold me tight, NOT THAT TIGHT!"), Super Maori has sprung into life trying to save a genuinely petrified-looking Hunter.

"Eat your heart out MacGyver."

Oh man, now they're jumping quickly between the crash scene and the birth scene. The contrast of life coming and going at the same time? Is Sarah giving birth to Hunter? Never fear, Hunter - for now - is safe. In what is probably the cheesiest moment of the episode, TK emerges from the flames carrying Hunter. Super Maori strikes again.

Actually the cheesiest moment was still to come. The scenes with Sarah talking to her newborn, Hunter rejecting his dad from the resus table, and Roimata combing the ward for TK were dramatic enough. The reflective music at the end wasn't one of those shameless-yet-necessary soap-opera tricks worth defending at dinner parties.

Aside from that, what's not to like? Well Regan (George Mason) has gone, so there's no point whining on about him. The crazy research assistant must surely be heading off soon. The scenes between Winston (Min Kim) and Nadia Hammett (Jessi Williams) have to be entered for a comedy gong at this year's TV awards.

But can we have Isaac (Matt Minto) back please? Brooke needs a cohort who is at least as good as she is. It's a good sign when the biggest bone of contention is the loss of a great character.

With a strong cast, (mostly) addictive storylines, and a few months until the show's 20-year anniversary (feature length in 3D?), what a good position to be in.

- NZ Herald

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