The Diary: 'Crazy cast' take to lake for TV series

Top of the Lake, a six-part TV drama series for BBC Two and the Sundance Channel, has started filming in Queenstown and Central Otago. It's written and directed by Oscar winner Jane Campion and stars Mad Men's Elisabeth Moss as a detective looking for a pregnant 12-year-old girl who goes missing.

Holly Hunter, who worked with Campion on The Piano, also stars in the mini-series alongside Robyn Malcolm and Lucy Lawless, who took to Twitter to describe the shoot.

"High times with the crazy women on the lake," Lawless tweeted this week.

"They've all been here a month but so kind and nutty, I fit right in."

She added: "That was the most astonishing day of filming I've ever had! What a nutty bunch. Campion sure knows how to pick 'em."

Malcolm was a little less revelatory. "It's gunna [sic] be amazing telly."

CLASH OF THE TV QUESTS

The battle for the reality TV talent show is about to heat up, The Diary can reveal, with both networks - TVNZ and TV3 - going head to head with their own local versions.

Jeff Latch, head of TV One and TV2, said the state broadcaster "is looking at producing New Zealand's Got Talent" - a talent quest show which first aired on Prime TV in 2008.

This comes in the wake of TV3's offering, X Factor New Zealand, which "continues to chip away at pre-production," a MediaWorks publicist said. It is likely to screen in the new season line-up next year.

"We think [New Zealand's Got Talent] would be great for TV One," Latch told The Diary this week.

"It would be a big budget, entertainment-format talent show, the likes of which New Zealand hasn't seen in some time."

The show's failure on Prime after just one season, was, said Latch, down to "lack of audience".

The show followed NZ Idol, which broadcast on TV2 and ran for three seasons, culminating in 2006.

Latch believes the long break between locally made talent quest productions has been necessary. "You need a few years [to go by] to get more talent."

But have we got enough local talent to warrant two local talent shows? Latch reckons we have. "The beauty with [New Zealand's Got Talent] is that it is the broadest of all entertainment formats. It's not limited to singing, like X Factor."

He acknowledges it would have to be "a multi-million-dollar show" and is looking at funding options - including New Zealand on Air.

But should our public funding purse support two commercial and competing reality talent shows at the expense of other quality local productions?

TV3 programme director, Kelly Martin - who likens New Zealand's Got Talent to a "tap dancing juggler" - said public funding is important for shows like this. "They are incredibly local shows that display our wonderful musical talent."

Both franchise formats may be international, but the talent pool will be inherently Kiwi, and on that level, platforms like these are vital for our fledgling musicians and dancers to break into the industry.

TVNZ REPORTER JOINS RIVAL

One News sport reporter Charlotte Bellis, 25, resigned this week and will move to Prime News in April under Alistair Wilkinson, formerly of TV3.

Her move to Sky TV, makers of Prime News, is "very exciting," Wilkinson told The Diary. She will have a variety of roles, including video journalist, sports producer and weekend anchor.

The former junior tennis champ, who dated professional cyclist Hayden Roulston, is understood to be romantically linked to 23-year-old Black Cap Tim Southee, TVNZ friends told The Diary. Bellis did not return calls.

DINNER WITH TED, RICHIE

The company expecting to settle a dispute with foul-mouthed celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay is behind an exclusive, black-tie dinner with Sir Graham Henry and All Black skipper Richie McCaw on April 19 at the Telstra Clear Pacific Events Centre in Manukau.

Duco Events, which is suing the British chef for pulling out of charity events last year, is expected to reach a commercial settlement with Ramsay and his litigators when they fly here in a couple of weeks.

The Diary understands both parties are making a concerted effort to reach a mediation settlement.

Lawyer Damian Chesterman wouldn't divulge details, or be led on how much a settlement figure is likely to be, but court documents show Duco has made a claim of $2.2 million.

McCaw is also unlikely to be drawn on money at the black-tie bash. Ranked tenth on the NZ Herald's list of New Zealand sport's most powerful people, he is said to earn a salary of $750,000 - more than double that of Prime Minister John Key - and has several lucrative commercial endorsements and investments.

Tickets to the dinner are $399 (plus GST), or a table of 10 is $3995 (plus GST). Contact www.ducoevents.co.nz.

HENRY'S DEBUT LAUDED

Paul Henry launched his new Aussie TV career yesterday on Channel Ten's Breakfast - four days earlier than planned. The network said the decision came about because of Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd's resignation. However, news that company shares had plunged to their lowest level in almost three years, is likely to have been a contributing factor too.

Henry's boss, Anthony Flannery, Channel Ten's head of news, told The Diary moments after the debut show went off air that it was important to leverage off the Labor Party stoush.

"It is a huge story in Australia, with the leadership of the country on the line. It was vitally important that Breakfast was on air to cover this nationally important story. Who needs rehearsals when you've got the real thing?"

He said Breakfast promised to be unpredictable and it "truly lived up to its promise". Henry, he said, "showed, once again, what a champion broadcaster and journalist he is".

Henry has retained his links to MediaWorks across TV3 and RadioLive, and the company is considering broadcasting Channel Ten's Breakfast after Firstline each day.

- NZ Herald

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