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Paul Casserly: Water cooler moments

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The Sopronas inspired many to seek out fresh episodes online. Photo / Supplied
The Sopronas inspired many to seek out fresh episodes online. Photo / Supplied

Stop worrying about school lunches and the Arctic ice shelf. We have bigger problems facing us.

I don't know about you, but I've noticed a receding coastline around that social continent known as Water Cooler Moments. Some might still call them Smoko Moments, or you might even know them simply as conversations about shared TV experiences that help fill up the work day.

In reality these moments have been slowly eroding since the introduction of multiple channels. Back in the days of the NZBC, when we had one channel, you'd be assured that nearly everyone you came across had indeed seen last night's episode of Doctor Who or Bonanza.

You have to be pretty old to remember Bonanza, which was kind of like Hell On Wheels without the sex. It was the show that literally stopped the country in its tracks. Can you imagine any current TV drama being the reason that a council meeting was adjourned (true story) so that the councillors could watch the final episode?

Talk about being a Water Cooler Moment, not that water-coolers existed in New Zealand of the 1970s. Like nachos, sushi and blow jobs, these were still decades away from our shores. Everything changed when New Zealand finally got the '80s, which arrived here in approximately 1992.

When The Sopranos was screening in the late '90s and early 2000s the writing was on the wall, and it was in capital letters. When the show was pulled mid-season by TVNZ - apparently because Prison Break was whipping it in the ratings - I began to get my first taste of pirated TV. Like many people I was addicted to the show and was angered by the rescheduling. I wanted my fix.

People began to download the show in earnest and copies of these DVDs passed around the city like cold inedible hotcakes, and we all began to watch them. The problem was we now watched them at different bloody times. So began the "ah, don't tell me, I haven't seen it yet" conversations. Now I'm finding it fruitless to talk to friends about Mad Men ("I'm only up to season three") or even Breaking Bad ("I Just watched the one that screened in the US a quarter of a second ago").

But like that lonely Polar Bear on the North Pole, the Water Cooler Moment is hanging on. You can thank the likes of Sally and Jaime Ridge for that, or even one-man-band Bill Rimmer, the memorable opening act on New Zealand's Got Talent. Local shows that no one in their right mind would record, but that have huge live audiences, are the saviours of these moments. As of course are rugby tests, netball games and Valerie Adams. I'm really hoping that the rumours of that Fight for Life boxing match between her and Ostapchuk are more than just rumours. That would be one hell of a moment to waste most of a work day morning over.

Local TV will save our collective moments of televisual chit-chat because pirating will not affect it. It's something that people over 40 may not get, but the coming generations won't sit back and wait for an episode of anything if they know it's out there - and usually it is. I'm guessing the networks are aware of this growing tide and are taking steps. Channel Four has recently been trumpeting that fact with promos for popular American shows "two days after the USA" while Prime got True Blood on air quick smart and Soho has been even quicker with the most pirated show of all time - Game of Thrones. But for fans of hot shows like that, you can never be quick enough. A day can be a deal breaker.

TV3 has announced that the second season of Homeland will hit our screens only hours after it airs on US cable channel Showtime. It starts October 1 (there's a trailer here).

But am I right in assuming that pirating is behind the trend to fast-track TV shows? After interviewing my laptop, which agreed with me, I decided to ask a bunch of the major networks and a couple of them even replied:

John Kelly from TV2: "If a show fits the needs of the schedule and we can make it work, then yes we would air close to US transmission, as we have done in the past with series such as Lost, American Idol and we will be launching the new US hit drama Revolution very soon."

Lisa Franklin from Sky: "SoHo is programmed so that all new content will screen as close to the international premiere dates as practicable, either by satellite delivery or digital transfer - dependent on approval by the respective distributors. The reason for this is less about pirating and more about ensuring content is available to customers as soon as we are able to."

I guess it's only slightly sad that our Water Cooler Moments have ceased to be about quality drama. Instead we now shoot the breeze ranting on about that auction at the end of The Block - I couldn't help but wonder what people outside of Auckland made of that spectacle. You might have got some response at work if you tried to drum up some natter about Jaime Ridge screaming at that bloody mouse, although statistically speaking you probably had better luck mentioning Ritchie McCaw getting that cheap shot in the chops.

Here's an Australian perspective on the fast-tracking of TV shows.

The Hollywood Reporter's seven biggest water-cooler moments for women.

Here's one of those great clips that show how the special effects comes together on the most pirated show of all time, Game of Thrones.

And apologies to my Twitter followers for naively falling for a scam and annoying everyone with unwanted tweet herpes. In my defence I was distracted at the time as I was inserting an eel up my bum while talking to my broker in Abuja.

Follow Paul Casserly on Twitter.

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