Russell Blackstock is a senior reporter at the Weekend Herald and Herald on Sunday.

Kids' show Terry Teo too dark for younger children

Kahn West plays hero Terry Teo. Photo / Supplied
Kahn West plays hero Terry Teo. Photo / Supplied

A refusal to tone down a dark reboot of children's favourite Terry Teo has forced TVNZ to reschedule the show for a more mature audience.

Bosses at TVNZ expected the six-part drama, which gained $1.3 million in taxpayer funds, to be geared towards a kid-friendly G-rating.

Instead, the grittier remake of the much-loved 1985 live-action series has been rated PG. It will now play on TVNZ on Demand in July before moving to a TV2 slot aimed at older kids and adults.

TVNZ's general manager of commissioning, production and acquisitions, Andrew Shaw, said the new show had been expected to appeal to a similar audience as the original.

"We finally received the finished version at the end of last month, two years after it was due," Shaw said. "The language was more gangsta than we were expecting and there is guns and violence in it.

"Our appraiser advised it would not get a G rating and could not be shown in a 6pm slot, so we asked the producers to make some cuts and changes.

"We had some very robust exchange of views with the producers but they felt altering the show wouldn't work and we had to agree."

Despite the wrangle, Shaw was confident the finished product would appeal to viewers. "We are actually pleased with the series but we will now simply have to gear it towards an older audience," he said.

Terry Teo started as a comic in 1982 before being transformed into a popular children's TV series.

Adrian Bell starred as 12-year-old Terry Teo in the original, which also featured guest performances from former Prime Minister Robert Muldoon and comedian Billy T. James. The revamped Terry Teo has teen actor Kahn West in the lead role.

In the new version, Terry is now 17. He is a South Auckland kid from the wrong side of the tracks whose policeman father has been killed, possibly by the gang that tried to recruit him.

Producer Luke Sharpe, from Auckland-based Semi-Professional Pictures, defended the darker remake.

"Yes, some head-butting went on with TVNZ when we delivered the show but you have to fight for something you believe is great," he said.

"As far as we were concerned it was always going to be for a PG audience and it is not a show for 5-year-olds.

"It is a super-fun action romp and you can't cut the action from an action series. In the end, TVNZ could see it for what it is and we hope New Zealand is really going to dig it."

NZ on Air awarded the series $1.3m in 2013 but said any disagreements about the final content was between the broadcaster and the programme makers.

- Herald on Sunday

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