For TimeOut TV reviewer Rebecca Barry Hill, 2012 on telly was the year of ...
Reality TV overkill
It's a scientifically unproven fact that 95 per cent of New Zealanders are now related to someone on a reality TV show. This year, you were nobody unless you were on the telly and, in the case of The GC, still nobody after. The Ridges, The Block, New Zealand's Got Talent - no reality TV format was untouched, no brazen opportunity for fame untapped. Particularly in the case of those cheeky but vain brown brothers and their bikini-wearing, hair-flicking girlfriends on The GC, which scored $420,000 of NZ On Air funding for what turned out to be a dull local version of Jersey Shore. The cultural cringe continued on The Ridges when Sally and Jaime gave us a peek into their uneventful lives, but when the two worlds collided and Rosanna fought Jaime on TV, the Mayans' apocalyptic predictions finally began to make sense.
The Bunnings, I mean The Block, fared a little better, pitting four couples against one another as they renovated adjacent dungas in Takapuna; New Zealand's Got Talent also won over viewers, and at least revealed some actual talent (winner Clara Van Wel) as well as a surprising bank of magicians, jugglers, dog handlers, yodellers and ballet dancers.
Shortland Street's 20th anniversary episode
There can't be many countries that celebrate their soap operas with quite the same enthusiasm as New Zealand. But Shortland Street has become a local institution that helps to fund our biggest TV dramas. Love it or loathe it, it's one of the most-watched shows on the box, frequently out-rating the news, while often incorporating elements of it. Twenty years in, have the tangled lives of Ferndale's finest dried up? Not a chance. This year's 20th anniversary episode, a feature-length special, had it all: a love triangle, (Nicole, Maxwell and Maia), a life or death surgery, (Gerald and his dicky heart), returning former stars, (the Jeffries clan) and even a night-time chopper crash. The big ep also saw the pinnacle of the psycho-Hayley and Chris storyline, with poor old Chris arrested for her murder, and the introduction of suave English doctor, Josh Gallagher. Since then the Street has upped the tension with the Roimata attacker storyline and the development of new villain Zac, whose poisonous deeds against TK played out in last week's end-of-year cliffhanger.
As Valerie Adams, Mahe Drysdale, Lisa Carrington and their fellow Olympians battled their guts out to bring gold medals home to their country this year, we were urging them along, with beer and chips, at home. Never mind how the athletes felt to compete at the world's biggest tournament, couch potatoes had it all, what with Prime offering the whole shebang free-to-air and eight channels on Sky broadcasting every Olympic event you could imagine, and a few you couldn't. Canoe sprinting anyone?
Those adept at multi-tasking could even watch several sports simultaneously care of Sky's mosaic channel. Perhaps it was the London setting, where so many Kiwis have done time, or maybe it was simply superior coverage (well every Kiwi journo appeared to be there). Winter water cooler conversation revolved not around the All Blacks but whether or not China could take out the diving, or if the Italians would win at shooting.
Only a year after our eyes were glued to the box for the Rugby World Cup, we were more than prepared to hang out at home watching the Olympics unfold on the other side of the world.
Bye bye TVNZ 7, hello Shopping Channel
On the surface, it appeared an incongruous move: New Zealand's only public service channel scotched for its polar opposite, a frequency dedicated to 24 hours of live and pre-recorded advertising. But, strictly speaking, TVNZ 7 was not transformed into the Shopping Channel. Considered too costly to run, the Government pulled the plug on the channel that brought us the likes of The Good Word, Media 7, Back Benches, Talk Talk and a range of smart docos and leased it to the Ogilvy ad agency. Eva Longoria was whisked out to New Zealand for the glamorous launch of the Shopping Channel, a wall-to-wall promotion of all the artificial candles, convection ovens and fitness gear you never knew you didn't want. Celebrity faces Candy Lane, Monty Betham and Mike Puru are among those flogging all of the above, although recent industry talk suggests the channel is struggling.