Press record for a tough Tuesday

By Nick Grant

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Weeknight television leaves viewers wanting, says Nick Grant

Immigrants to NZ face challenges in Both Worlds.
Immigrants to NZ face challenges in Both Worlds.

The most obvious current examples of TV programmers' tendency to schedule similar shows together are Four's animated series line-up on Thursday evenings and 3's Friday night queue of comedy programmes.

It's a strategy that makes some sense: having watched the animated antics of one bunch of literally two dimensional characters, odds on I'll be up for another. But it also carries a degree of risk: is it wise to remind me American Dad is a knock-off of Family Guy, itself a raunchier rip-off of The Simpsons, by playing them back-to-back-to-back?

Thanks to the various digital video recorders now available, it's easy to curate one's own strands of likeminded shows from across the channels.

Indeed, to ensure it's not too easy, I propose two rules: the selection of shows all have to screen on the same day; and the thematic thread you choose can't be a deep contempt for the audience's intelligence.

In this spirit, I present Tough It Out Tuesdays, in which the programmes' subjects struggle to survive in hostile environments for our entertainment.

First up is Wild Planet: North America, featuring various fauna demonstrating if they "have what it takes to join the story of the continent, to bathe in its riches and soak in its wonders", to quote narrator Tom Selleck.

As is invariably the case with modern nature series, the footage is simply stunning, whether it's of sweeping panoramic landscapes or orcas ganging up on an infant whale.

But, unfortunately, everything else is awful, for example, the strong strain of anthropomorphism in overly sentimental stories is often nauseating, and the music is generically manipulative. The worst aspect, though, is the narration: clearly intended to stoke an American audience's already pumped-up patriotism, it made my teeth ache - and is it just me or does "the stallion's earned the respect that only comes from defending what's yours" sound like an ad for the NRA? To maximise enjoyment, mute the sound, put on your own music, and marvel at the murderous majesty of Nature.

Next is the start of the fourth season of The Walking Dead, in which a rag-tag band in a post-apocalyptic US spend their time bickering when not battling the dead-eyed zombies who've brought the country to its knees. The series' strongpoint is its stomach churning special effects; its weakness is the way it spins its wheels story-wise between bouts of carnage. Still, it knows what it's good at and if the introduction of a large number of anonymous characters at the end of last season made you think "fresh meat", this opening episode proves you right.

Finally, there's doco series Both Worlds, each installment of which shows an immigrant to NZ facing challenges in their adopted home. This quietly compelling show includes intimations that Godzone can be unwelcoming, but the strongest evidence of an at-best indifferent attitude is its timeslot: after screening Saturday mornings on 3, it's now being shown on Maori Television at a decent time. That's a big improvement but Both Worlds still deserves better.

Screening Tuesday: Wild Planet: North America (8.30pm on One); The Walking Dead (9.30pm on 2); and Both Worlds (10.15pm on Maori Television).

- Herald on Sunday

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