Love it or hate it, The GC was an undeniable hit when it premiered back in early 2012, even as it was panned by a number of critics who found it morally bankrupt, populated by characters more interested in amassing money, sex and fame than in any kind of normal existence.
Well, okay, maybe not a number of critics - but there was one who felt that way: me.
I wrote a rather scathing review of the show after its first episode, calling it "a giant piece of crap, an embarrassment to New Zealand television that should never have been made".
Plenty of people agreed. It wasn't well-received by everybody, though. I was accused of being racist. One person referred to me as a "middlebrow honky". I received a couple of violent email threats of the "don't ever show your face in town" variety. It wasn't a fun time.
Despite my negative outlook on the premiere, I stuck with the show through its entire first season. And I'll be honest, I actually thought it improved. I mean, it didn't turn into a good show. But after The GC ditched its focus on personal drama and zoomed in on the characters' attempts to succeed, personally and culturally, I thought there was promise.
I was hoping for that to continue in the second season premiere of The GC. And I can happily report that it did.
The first episode devotes most of its time to catching us up on the characters from the first season. Fan favourite Tame plays make-shift narrator, talking us through the shifting dynamics among the group and coming across as a bit smarter, and a bit more self motivated, than he did during the first season.
The rest of the cast are here: Jade, Tuini, Nate, Alby, Zane and Rosie make appearances through the episode.
There are new characters too. Nate has a new girlfriend, Brooke. And Jade - who has broken up with first-season girlfriend Jessie - is seen with a revolving door of potential suitors, though not the mysterious "Tee".
And, sure, there is some of the personal drama that turned me off the first season. The final act of the episode is given over to an argument between Nate and Brooke that, essentially, started because they were drunk. Rosie refers to the new house, shared by a large chunk of the cast, as a "whore house" thanks to Jade's dating endeavours.
I mean, it's down to personal taste (or distaste), and I know that plenty of viewers will enjoy this stuff. I just find it a frustration and a disappointment in a show that has a decent enough premise that it doesn't need to be that shallow.
Fortunately, there was plenty else in the episode to make up for it.
Season two seems to have a much tighter focus on the cultural element, with prologue and "coming soon" portions of the episode presented in Maori language. Really, when was the last time you heard an extensive passage of Te Reo dialogue in prime time, outside of Maori Television?
If our native language features this extensively anywhere else on free-to-air, I've missed it entirely.
The characters show an increased interest in culture as well. Nate, whose title banner reads "thinks he is Tainui", is challenged to increase his knowledge of his heritage, and I think that is a positive way forward for the series.
Elsewhere, the characters are presented as being more aspirational than before. Tame is trying to grow his reputation as a topless waiter/entertainer and improve his own standing in life. Cole's gym is still a major part of the show, too, having overcome a number of struggles and challenges since opening at the end of season one.
It's not surprising that these elements of The GC are the most intriguing. The first season was at its best when it focused on the characters relationship with culture - the best episode featured DJ Tuini returning to her marae - and their pursuit of individual success, so it's only natural that those moments would form highlights in the season two premiere.
Sure, The GC is still a show that is far too distracted by the trivialities and frivolities of life on the Gold Coast, the pangs of shallowness kicking in several times throughout the episode, most notably when Rosie proudly giggles that there are no fat people on the Gold Coast.
But I think this is a much improved version of the show that launched two years ago. The shallowness is a mild distraction, not the overbearing focus, and there is some real promise here. And though I'm not convinced this is necessarily a good show, I think it's at least a half-decent show that has some value on the prime time schedule.
* Did you watch The GC's second season premiere? What did you think?