Colin Hogg on television

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Colin Hogg: Unsettling look at our shaky isles

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Anniversary special on the science of the Christchurch quakes a lucid and compelling reminder of our fragility.

The second quake to hit Christchurch took 185 lives and brought the destruction of 8000 buildings. Photo / Supplied
The second quake to hit Christchurch took 185 lives and brought the destruction of 8000 buildings. Photo / Supplied

I felt like I'd gone back to the future on Sunday night when I turned to Prime and came upon one of those most rare and ancient beasts, a serious-minded television documentary, though it took a disaster to make it.

It was called Aftermath: Where the Faults Lie, a good-looking and clever hour-long piece by director/producer Virginia Wright about the Christchurch earthquakes, screened to mark the second anniversary of the second quake which took 185 lives and, after the dust finally settles, 8000 buildings.

But rather than look at the human cost or the politics of the earthquakes and their aftermath, this documentary told the scientific story.

The stars here were seismologists and building technologists, but gosh they were lucid and charismatic ones.

Poetry, oddly, was never far away as we looked to the restless earth that lies beneath our feet.

"It's what makes New Zealand beautiful," one scientist said of the frightening fault lines that made our mountains and that run under and around our fragile land and through some of our cities, of course.

I have a new feeling for our fragility after watching Aftermath. I now know, for instance, that subterranean rock stores energy from previous movements and releases it should the opportunity occur - as it did with the deadly second quake in Christchurch.

It was upsetting seeing some of the news and amateur footage from that day and not a lot less upsetting listening to New Zealand's seismic outlook. But compelling.

The documentary moved on to look at the wider tectonic picture and at what we're doing - and not doing - with our building codes and our building science to survive the apparently inevitable next one - or more.

And, using computer graphics and even old-fashioned working scale models, Aftermath managed to explain the mysteries of liquefaction and flexible (as opposed to floating) buildings.

Though there was nothing terribly poetic about the scientist who said the next earthquake was "only a matter of time".

On a considerably lighter note, I checked back in with Sunny Skies, TV3's camp new 8pm Friday night comedy series. And when I say camp, I mean camping ground.

This show is another sort of back-to-the-future experience - in this case, back to the world of the good old Kiwi camping ground, though this time featuring two inappropriate brothers and a cast of over-coloured characters.

I wasn't that impressed by episode one and its over-heated and unlikely set-up, but a couple of episodes in and the series is settling down a little, though it remains a broad and unsubtle sort of comedy. Old-fashioned too.

But funnier than it started out, even if its humour often tends to be of the corny old English variety - Are You Being Served? with camper vans. Though Oliver Driver, as the nasty brother, gets to indulge his flair for mad verbal riffing.

But it was stoner handyman Gunna who had the goofiest line of last Friday's show, expressing his qualms about entering the camp's abandoned Cabin 13.

"I've got a thing about the number 13," he mumbled. "When I was at school, everyone turned 13 in the same year. Spooky."

Maybe not a laugh so much as a groan. And it is growing on me.

- NZ Herald

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