Duncan Greive is the editor and founder of New Zealand pop culture-obsessed website The Spinoff and columnist for the NZ Herald.

Duncan Greive: Timing makes a good show grate

Series on Boomers and their lovely homes feels wrong amid crisis they helped cause.
Architect Ken Crosson and broadcaster Goran Palladin deliver the wisdom and the conspicuous Y chromosomes in  The New Zealand Home .
Architect Ken Crosson and broadcaster Goran Palladin deliver the wisdom and the conspicuous Y chromosomes in The New Zealand Home .

"Two men, from wildly different worlds, join forces to explore the New Zealand home on a road trip - in a 1960s Jag!"

So intones the voiceover, which announces The New Zealand Home, a seven-part documentary series about housing, which is equal parts good historical survey and opportunity for Boomers to skite about their amazing homes. The latter part would be bleak at any time - but is particularly grating for coming during a moment when The New Zealand Home, for increasing numbers of families, is also The New Zealand Car.

That's far from the only problem. It's worth breaking down that elevator pitch.

"Two men": as my colleague Alex Casey noted recently, the idea of anything in New Zealand being hosted by two women is essentially science fiction, even in 2016. NZ on Air platinum-funded shows on our state broadcaster could at least try and move that needle.

"From wildly different worlds": Goran Palladin is a successful, white, male, Auckland-based broadcaster. Ken Crosson is a successful, white, male, Auckland-based architect. The show's main method of showing how wildly different their worlds are is in their choice of footwear.

" - in a 1960s Jag": you couldn't scream "target demo" louder than the choice of transport. In fact, the Jag is actually one of the younger featured guests on the show: Palladin aside, most look well north of 50, and it takes more than half an hour before we meet a non-Pakeha New Zealander.

By that point we'd traversed the country wandering into spectacular homes - to beachfront marvels in Christchurch and Art and Craft piles in Auckland. The latter was owned by art collector Sir James Wallace, who grinned serenely from an enormous surrealist couch.

Asked "What attracted you to this house?", he replied, "It was big."

The hallway is about the size of a two-bedroom apartment. And it is fascinating to wander around his home and all the others, both in a pervy Palladin-likes-overstuffed-couches kind of way, and because there are genuine historical revelations contained within.

Crosson is a font of knowledge, weaving social and political context into a potted history of our own architecture and its relationship with the world. Palladin is there as an archetypal Kiwi joker, which feels both authentic to his character and weirdly patronising to the viewer. It works as a device in the end, drawing out of Crosson and the show's subjects the narrative of an uptight colony developing its own character.

And, to their credit, the makers run a parallel line of Maori housing, helping raise the point that the path to modernity and urbanisation was not without cultural challenges. There's also admiration for past governments which, when facing rampant overcrowding and inadequate housing stock, undertook ambitious building programmes. It almost implies our current Government could, if they chose, help alleviate the current crisis with such a building programme. But if they could they would have by now, so clearly it's impossible.

So there really is plenty of good in The New Zealand Home. And the makers couldn't have foreseen what a cesspit of despair housing would become 18 months on from commissioning. But the optics of the thing remain vicious in this climate: a show full of history born into a housing crisis, featuring those who collectively made it happen gloating obliviously from their beautiful and unobtainable homes.

* The New Zealand Home screens on Fridays on TV One. Watch episodes here.

- NZ Herald

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Duncan Greive is the editor and founder of New Zealand pop culture-obsessed website The Spinoff and columnist for the NZ Herald.

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