Bitchin' Channels

A blog about television and radio with Paul Casserly

Paul Casserly: George Costanza and Waitangi Day

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Paul Casserly says we should follow George Costanza's lead and approach Waitangi Day differently.
Actor comedian Jason Alexander who played George Costanza on 'Seinfeld'.
Actor comedian Jason Alexander who played George Costanza on 'Seinfeld'.

It was probably one of the best take-homes from TV ever. Better even than tips picked up from Jamie Oliver or even Eion Scarrow. It was the moment when Seinfeld's George Costanza declared that he would do the opposite of what he would normally do and thus things would turn out well, rather that terribly.

He figured, quite rightly, that "every instinct that I have has been wrong". So, he did the opposite. He begins his journey by forsaking tuna salad for chicken salad and within minutes he is chatting up a hot blond.

Waitangi Day reminded me that I have taken George's lead but need to do it more often. I was once among the "it's just a bloody disgrace" knee-jerk chorus that has been so active in recent days following the jostling and scuffling at Waitangi. I too used to find myself annoyed by these strange angry people.

Now I choose to instead celebrate the annual kerfuffle rather than damn it. While talkback hosts called for the Prime Minister to ignore the event, others complained that "it's ruining the day" and I heard a few threatening to "ignore the whole bloody thing".

This line was echoed by Mike Hosking on Seven Sharp when quizzing Heather du Plessis Allen about the vibe up at Waitangi. "Waitangi", somehow the word itself has become covered in accusation and distain. "Waitangi", to many, myself once included, translates as "trouble makers moaning about the past, wasting our Prime Minister's precious time".

After quizzing HDA about the awful situation up north, Hosking wished the young journalist a happy Waitangi Day and suggested she stay away from the Marae and all the protestors and just hang out with "happy people".

Like many of us Hosking continues to take umbrage where he should be celebrating. Is protest really a boil that needs to be lanced or a delicious fruit of democracy? And seriously, if as a white middle class New Zealander you feel put out by a scuffle and some momentary loss of control by the establishment, how is easy is it to imagine the boot on the other foot?

"Why can't we have a nice quiet day like Australia Day?" doesn't really compare to "Why can't we have all our land back?" (BTW, The "Australia Day" myth is dealt to brilliantly by Toby Manhire here).

You can rely on good old dry-balls Radio NZ National to avoid the hysteria about the event. Rather than screaming about Key being "attacked by Maori with fish" an item I heard was actually informative: "On his way in he was challenged about his position about deep sea mining but he said it would provide much needed jobs for Northland."

As a protest about the effects of deep-sea mining on sea life, a bag of fish flung at a Prime Minister is pretty good. Top marks. Not as dramatic as the clod of dirt that hit Don Brash, or the wet T-shirt that was thrown at the Queen, but it's part of the same proud tradition. And it's one we should be proud of.

So if you find the old grump juice startling to bubble up next Waitangi, or you start to itch at the first mention of Titewhai Harawira on the news, I call on you to remember George Costanza.

As he illustrated, there's often an upside to taking a different look at things. Of doing the opposite. Approaching the blond woman who looked his way, he fought the urge to talk himself up, saying, "I'm George, I'm unemployed and I live with my parents."

To George's surprise, the woman was smitten.

THIS WEEK I'M WATCHING:

Monday:
Brooklyn Nine-Nine, award-winning cop show comedy from makers of Parks and Recreation. (TV2, 9pm)
Parks and Recreation, series 4 (Four, 10pm)

Tuesday:
Neighbours at War (TV2, 8pm) Finally back after been pulled earlier in the year.
Step Dave, brand new kiwi dramedy from South Pacific Pictures. (TV2, 8.30pm)

Thursday:
The Human Scale, Danish documentary about big cities in which the narrator says of post quake Christchurch, "It seems like you're at a tipping point between becoming LA or becoming Copenhagen." (Rialto, 8.30pm)

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