TVNZ rethinks 'burial' of feted series

By Louisa Cleave

By LOUISA CLEAVE television editor

TVNZ has pulled a locally made natural history series scheduled to start screening on Monday following concerns by its creators that the state broadcaster had "buried" the programme.

Twisted Tales, an award-winning series from Natural History New Zealand in Dunedin, was set to screen at 2.25 pm weekdays.

But TVNZ has now made an about-turn, rescheduling the 13-part series in the late afternoon over summer.

The decision was made by TV One general manager Shaun Brown, who said he was unaware of the earlier time-slot until Natural History NZ discovered the series had been scheduled and approached TVNZ two days ago.

The series is a co-production with Animal Planet, an American cable channel. When Twisted Tales screened in the United States, in primetime, 42 per cent of its audience were aged between 18 and 49 and 37 per cent were aged over 50.

Natural History NZ managing director Michael Stedman said he had expressed "enormous disappointment" at the original time-slot.

The series had been "buried in death time."

"The audience it's intended for won't see it."

Twisted Tales has some NZ content, but is an international documentary series that focuses on one animal each episode.

Bats, rats, snakes and bears feature using a mixture of fact, fiction and fantasy.

An episode on lizards, for example, profiles "supermodel" lizard Lorna, whose owner takes photographs of her playing the guitar or relaxing on a tiny couch.

TVNZ bought the series under a deal signed when it sold its share in the natural history arm to US giant Twentieth Century Fox.

Mr Stedman has publicly criticised TVNZ in the past for holding on to the series and ignoring other local documentaries.

Writer and producer Ian McGee last year won an Emmy award in the category Outstanding Achievement in a Craft in News and Documentary Programming - Writers, for the episode on bats.

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