Coast New Zealand
Home, land and sea
With his flowing locks and permanent neckerchief making him look like a 19th century sailor, Neil Oliver sure does look the part when it comes to the first episode of Coast New Zealand.
And, as he tells stories of Captain Cook's arrival in Fiordland's Dusky Sound, or of the first European settlement of sealers there, the Scottish television presenter-historian sure has some wind in his sails. Though, his seasoned sea legs are tested by the Tasman swells off New Zealand's remote south-west.
"On a scale of one to 10, how rough is this?" he asks a local crayfisherman in the cabin of his madly bobbing boat. "About a two," comes the reply.
Keen watchers of past local natural and social history television may feel a slight sense of deja vu with Coast New Zealand. After all, we've had plenty of shows that have been down this way before.
And it is the opening of an imported franchise being Aotearoa's answer to Oliver's BBC nine-season wander around the UK's highwater mark and two seasons of Oliver's Coast Australia. The latter was made for Australia's Foxtel by New Zealand's Great Southern Television, which is behind this local incarnation.
Coast NZ certainly outdoes any other local productions for bells and whistles.
The first episode has plenty of aerial shots set to Sweeping Music for Breathtaking Scenery Volumes I-VI; underwater photography of bottle-nose dolphins and rare Fiordland coral; digital inserts of whaling ships off the beach of Cuttle Cove.
But the show's best special effect is Oliver's enthusiastic, mellifluous, lyrical commentary about this "wild, improbable corner of the world".
His local cohorts, mostly television newbies, aren't bad either. Among them are Te Papa geologist-palaeontologist Dr Hamish Campbell, doing his best to make rocks and fossils interesting, marine biologist and action woman Jacky Geurts doing the jobs requiring a wetsuit, and actor-presenter Riria Hotere bringing a Maori perspective.
The Fiordland episode will be followed by five more instalments - The East Cape, Top of the South, Auckland, The Deep South and The Far North. And there's plenty that will be familiar to many viewers.
But, judging by a preview of the first episode, watching Oliver - and his show's swooping cameras - take in all that coastal geography is likely to be one of the greater, great outdoors series about this place we're likely to see in quite a while.
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