Colin Hogg on television

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Colin Hogg: Tem's everyday life an open book

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Temuera Morrison's star burned brightly during his Once Were Warriors phase but has fizzled since.
Temuera Morrison's star burned brightly during his Once Were Warriors phase but has fizzled since.

If Temuera Morrison is the answer, then what on earth was the question? And, let's be honest, the big question to be answered regarding the famous New Zealand actor is whether he's a bit thick or just ironic.

The Life and Times of Temuera Morrison, on TV One on Wednesdays, might seem to provide a clear answer to that one, but I'm not so sure.

The truth is more likely to be that Tem is simply playing the role of Tem, the movie hard man who leapt to major attention playing Jake the Muss in Once Were Warriors and never quite recovered.

After that gift of a role, Morrison's CV got busy but a bit less interesting with a flurry of also-starred roles in action and sci-fi movies.

And then all that faded and disappeared to the point where the poor devil has had to reach down in the dirt under the bottom shelf of the ideas cabinet and pull out the last option for a faded star - a television reality show about himself.

"This is a story about me," he announces bluntly - and possibly ironically - at the start of the show. "Six months getting my career back on track." He hopes.

He blames the recession for his career canning, but you might blame his agent, who doesn't even know it's Tem's 53rd birthday when his star rings him on camera, on the speakerphone for us.

Later in last week's first episode, over in Hollywood, Tem turns up at the agent's office, camera in tow, changing everything with its presence. The agent looks cagey, babbling unconvincingly about a possible role, playing a clone in the "noo Star Wars".

On the subject of American accents, elsewhere in The Life and Times, Tem decides it might help his career if he could talk like an American and brings in a voice coach to help.

"Have you ever done any voice training at all?" the coach asks, looking about as comfortable as that agent.

Mostly, thankfully, we spy on Tem's everyday life, meet his much-younger girlfriend Ashlee, who was shocked, she says, when she opened his passport and discovered his real age. "He's in good shape," she laughs. "He needs to be."

They frolic on the beach, the old hunk and the babe. Back at the humble family pad in hometown Rotorua, there's 21-year-old son James, funny and honest and ludicrously good-looking.

"He brought himself up," says Tem.

And his 8-year-old daughter, whose departure back to her mum in Wellington provides the first episode's touching moment, Tem in sad profile gazing at his disappearing girl.

Those were the moments when The Life and Times made some connection - rather than the nonsense about kickstarting Tem's movie career which, let's face it, didn't exactly arc across the star-filled skies in the first place.

It's the peek inside the life and habits of one of those strange birds, the Kiwi celebrity, that is the real attraction here. Morrison certainly seems open to examination - and self-examination - in a way that the stars of a previous experiment with this sort of thing were not.

I refer, of course, to The Ridges, the TV3 series looking inside the lives of celebrity Auckland flibbertigibbets Sally and daughter Jaime Ridge. With them, it was clear we were in the presence of thickness.

With Tem, the investigation continues.

- NZ Herald

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