Sunday tv preview: Radar signals from the Pacific

By Nick Grant

Documentary and docudrama for a wintry Sunday. By Nick Grant.

Radar Across The Pacific .
Radar Across The Pacific .

The last season of Radar Across the Pacific, in which the eponymous host set himself the task of fixing his lamentable lack of knowledge about our Pacific neighbours an island at a time, was inexplicably assigned to Tuesday nights.

Although there are many known unknowns in TV programming, one certainty is that audiences will not watch a show of this genre on a week night, whatever its merits. So it was entirely predictable the show failed to make much of a ratings splash.

Less predictably, TVNZ has commissioned another season. Even better, it has been put in the 8pm Sunday slot, where even a middling series of this sort draws plenty of eyeballs.
It is a better than merely average show, though, with nice work from all the behind-the-scenes team. But ultimately its appeal rests on the frizzy haired, bespectacled head of Te Radar, a weight he carries with avuncular aplomb.

Given the series' stated aim, it's obviously essential you're left feeling you've learned something and it reliably does.

The delivery is key, however, and Te Radar's unfeigned, enthusiastic interest in his interview subjects and the history and customs of their homes, as well as his willingness to play the good-natured buffoon abroad, is Across the Pacific's not remotely secret weapon.

He's fun to hang out with and doing so in the picturesque Pacific makes it a pleasure.
In tonight's opening episode Radar visits Rapa Nui, aka Easter Island, and investigating the island's iconic ancient statues is top of the agenda.

It's no spoiler to reveal he doesn't solve the mystery surrounding them but we do garner interesting insights, along with the nice observation from Mark, a Westie who married a local lass, that the statues were originally created to look after the island's people, a function they've fulfilled admirably by attracting hordes of tourists who wouldn't otherwise dream of coming to a place in the middle of nowhere.

Its nearest neighbour, notes Radar, "is the less than salubrious Pitcairns", 2075km away.
The ep also covers a traditional version of a triathlon ­- as well as feats of strength and endurance, its 22 events include paper making and dancing - and a brief history of the colonial oppression visited upon the island courtesy of Chile, touched on lightly but effectively.

Immediately after Across the Pacific is one-off Kiwi docudrama Nancy Wake: The White Mouse, about an New Zealand-born, Aussie-raised World War II hero who was considered one of the most effective leaders of the French Resistance.

Hers is an amazing story but I wasn't as taken with it as I might have been because I recently watched an ep about her in the series Kiwis at War, made by the same production company some years ago.

The feature-length docudrama inevitably traverses the same ground as the earlier piece and both feature extensive interview segments with Wake's biographer, Peter FitzSimons.
The main point of difference is the dramatised bits, with Rachael Blampied as Wake and various Kiwi actors sporting French accents.

Mercifully, no one goes the full 'Allo 'Allo and Blampied is just fine. But the earlier half-hour featured an interview with Wake herself and it's impossible to compete with the memory of the steely humour of the real deal.

Radar Across the Pacific starts tonight, 8pm, on One; Nancy Wake: The White Mouse, 8.30pm, TV One.

- Herald on Sunday

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