What Gordon Ramsay is to restaurants and Xzibit is to cars, it seems Brigid Gallagher is to museums. As the host of Choice TV's new local series Heritage Rescue, the former Time Team archaeologist visits small-town museums around New Zealand and - with less swearing and a much smaller budget than either of her counterparts - sees to it that they receive the curatorial makeovers they need.
"These massive panels all along the wall," she said on Sunday night's first episode, pointing to a distinctly 1990s display in Cromwell Museum, "they're kind of ugly aren't they?" Museum director Edith McKay hesitantly agreed. "They are ... " she considered her choice of words carefully, "outdated".
The ugly wall panels got a fresh coat of paint as Gallagher and a team of volunteers set about turning the place upside down, reorganising exhibits and having a good poke around the storage room. In the process they unearthed the story of a town: the 1860s Cromwell which was at the epicentre of the Central Otago gold rush, and the early 1990s Cromwell which was flooded to create the Clyde Dam.
The museum makeover provided a springboard for telling some of the town's stories. Seven years on the popular British show Time Team obviously left Gallagher with a strong sense for what audiences will find interesting, whether that means talking to a local archaeologist about gold rush era bottles or meeting the guy who first discovered Shrek, the sheep who became our national hero.
To give perspective to the flood and illustrate how it changed the town's identity in the '90s, she dived down to the old bridge, now submerged in Lake Dunstan. After it was flooded some local jokers went to great lengths to park an old car in the middle; 25 years later the keys are still in the ignition, and it serves as an eerie reminder of the past.
Getting to know the town a little over the course of the show meant the big reveal of its new, improved museum packed an unexpectedly emotional punch. While a simple, relatively familiar concept, Heritage Rescue executes it exceptionally well.
The same could be said of another local show which premiered on the same channel recently. Fish of the Day is a fishing show at the more cerebral end of the fishing show spectrum, where each episode host Clarke Gayford focuses on a particular species in a different part of the world.
Seven years on the popular British show Time Team obviously left Gallagher with a strong sense for what audiences will find interesting.
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First up, Waiheke Island, where he went fly fishing for the underrated kahawai. "I used to do a little bit of this when I was about 12," he explained while setting up his lure. "Then one day I was practising on the back lawn and caught myself right on the ear." This was his first time picking up a fly rod since, but it didn't take long to rediscover his touch.
Gayford seems to have struck the jackpot with Fish of the Day combining two of his greatest hobbies in travel and fishing. His enthusiasm was apparent throughout, and it made for enjoyable viewing. It was complemented by incredible ocean footage, like the huge shoal of kahawai which rippled the surface of the water just off the bow of the boat.
The show's well-rounded approach to fishing touched on ocean ecology, with Gayford crediting the remarkable regeneration of kahawai in the region to recreational fishing group LegaSea, who campaigned for years to have the species added to the quota management system. After spearing a couple for himself, he made a beeline for the Oyster Inn, where chef Anthony McNamara demonstrated how best to cook it.
Fish of the Day is a smart show with international ambition - like Heritage Rescue, it's well worth a watch. Outliers in a schedule dominated by a reliable stable of international lifestyle shows, they hopefully signal the start of more local content on the often overlooked Choice TV.