Frances Grant: Farewell to TV's coming of age

By Frances Grant

Maori TV has led the way in doing the full honours on Anzac Day and seemingly inspiring big boys TV One and TV3 to acknowledge New Zealanders' growing interest in their wartime history and go in for more extensive coverage.

Among the Little Channel That Could's coverage this year was a short documentary about last year's Crown apology to Vietnam vets for its shabby treatment of them, influenced by public opinion about an unpopular war.

While the event was covered by TV One last year, this was a poignant summing up that should disabuse anyone of the notion that such apologies are mere lip service made in political self-interest by those who weren't responsible for a past injustice.

The looks on the faces of the vets and their families, particularly during the official apology from the Defence Forces, were far more intense and moving than anything you'll ever see in telly dramas. As was the journey of Hohepa Matene and family to the occasion in Wellington, one which really put meaning into that overused phrase "moving on".

To vets of a completely different kind: this week saw the final of Boston Legal, a drama which has, in its last few episodes, loudly lamented its status as a now extinct species: telly about oldies.

At its worst, the David E Kelley show was so quirky it could make your toes curl and sugary enough to raise ulcers but it did, indeed, have some finer points:

Out with the young and in with the old: Once it ditched those insipid foxy ladies and brought in Candice Bergen, there was no holding back its enthusiasm for characters with grey power.

Senior moments: This drama did for baby-boomers' early Alzheimers what Kelley predecessor Ally McBeal did for 30-something woman's ticking biological clock. Always on the button, in generational terms.

Manly love: The passionate and obsessive friendship between Alan Shaw and Denny Crane said it was okay for men to chastely love their male pals, even to the point of unconsummated marriage, especially if there's the bonus of a tax dodge.

Political incorrectitude: What you can get away with in your dotage. With cancellation looming, the show took its pleasure in calling a spade and spade, and extrapolating social absurdities to their logical conclusions to new levels. There were those surprising tirades about China's shortcomings last week. Not that it ignored the log in its own eye, with Alan Shaw's last stand on America's human rights abuses, immoral wars and torture and its idolatry of big business. What a shame cancellation means it won't be able to have a go at bursting the bubble of the supposedly kinder, gentler US under Obama the Good.

For more comments on the excesses of our culture, look no further than Friday night on TV One where, after demisting the specs from the steamy, yet oddly languid Mistresses, there's a far more sober look at Brits and bonking in The Sex Education Show.

Ostensibly public service television for the famously repressed nation (a reputation rather undermined, one would think, by the preceding drama), this appears to be, in fact, the first sex education show where adults learn what their kids get up to. No those squeals of disgust are not coming from teens being told where babies come from, but from their innocent parents exposed to what the kids are watching in cyberspace.

Sex education in the internet age seems to consist of deprogramming teens' warped ideas of body shape and sexual performance garnered from all that porn they've seen and shared at the press of a button with their mates. Welcome to the Age of Dis-enlightenment.

- NZ Herald

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