Anne Gibson

Anne Gibson is the Property editor of the NZ Herald

Robyn Malcolm's agent Anna annoys real estate agents

Writers of comedy series about hapless house-seller have lost the plot and times have changed, property dealers insist

Robyn Malcolm's real estate office has fellow agents sleeping with each other and with their clients and stealing client listings.
Robyn Malcolm's real estate office has fellow agents sleeping with each other and with their clients and stealing client listings.

Real estate bosses aren't laughing at TV One's new hit comedy series Agent Anna.

Robyn Malcolm's fledging middle-aged solo mother character from Eden Realty has colleagues who treat her badly as she tries to get listings to make a living in the cut-throat Auckland market.

But plot lines watched by 1.2 million people are not impressing Barfoot & Thompson managing director Peter Thompson or Real Estate Institute of NZ chief executive Helen O'Sullivan.

They are scathing about the antics on Thursday night's show and say it just reinforces negative, often misleading, stereotypes.

"Load of rubbish, to be honest," Mr Thompson said. "It's anti-real estate agents. I would just love to do the same thing for media, TV people, plumbers or politicians. It's disappointing. I find it incredible they can create a TV programme like that. Let's do one on actors!"

Ironically, TV One's website promotion of the comedy links directly to Barfoots' market data information, giving latest sales reported by TV One's news team.

Ms O'Sullivan said she had recorded episodes, had not had the time to watch them but themes of agents in the same firm stealing each other's listings, sleeping with clients and each other and trying to shunt a dishevelled, depressed vendor out of an open-home to make it more saleable all left her cold.

"It's very disappointing because the industry has spent a lot of time and money cleaning up behaviour since the new act came into effect. It will take time before there's an improvement in people's perceptions," she said.

Of the lying, back-stabbing, cheating and promiscuity depicted, Ms O'Sullivan said such a dysfunctional agency would not last long.

"It's TV, it's not real life."

Mr Thompson said it was unfortunate that some agents engaged in unscrupulous practices.

"In some ways, our own people bring it on themselves, the industry as a whole. We do need to improve our image but you look at every other industry and you have to say what'd happen with plumbers, doctors, politicians?"

Reading death notices to get listings as depicted in the series was uncommon although the series had picked up one or two issues based on real-life cases which Mr Thompson said were "horrific", citing a Greymouth incident where a real estate agent defrauded a 92-year-old woman out of $171,269.

"They pick up on those things and turn it into, 'This is what commonly happens', and it's not the case at all," Mr Thompson said.

The Real Estate Agents Act 2008 significantly improved the sector and of all the properties Barfoots sells, less than 0.1 per cent of transactions result in a complaint, he said.

TV One says more than 1.2 million people had tuned in so far and on average more than 400,000 viewers were watching each episode.

TVNZ commissioner of drama and comedy Kathleen Anderson said: "We're thrilled the audience is enjoying Agent Anna. We also know it just keeps getting better, so we think the viewers are in for a real treat."

Producer Rachel Gardner said: "We set out to make a comedy that all Kiwis would relate to and find funny."

Jeff Latch, head of TV One and TV2, said he was delighted with the ratings success which could be attributed to those involved in making the series.

Phil Wakefield's ScreenScribe said the premier of Malcolm's first New Zealand drama series since Outrageous Fortune had not rated through the roof but still proved a sound investment.

It averaged 4.4 per cent to 11 per cent of the key demographics, including 8.6 per cent of TV One's target audience, 25- to 54-year-olds.

He said Agent Anna's first reviews had also largely been positive.


Agent Anna, TV One, Thursdays, 8.30pm.

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