Lou isn't happy. She's standing next to her wardrobe, while Luke Bettesworth, a taut Auckland man with a meticulously trimmed beard, rifles through her clothes. He starts methodically grabbing hooded sweatshirts, brisk and economical in his action, while asking questions dripping with disappointment.
"Do you feel good in these?" Bettesworth asks.
"I do, because they're warm and comfy," Lou replies.
"I might change your opinion," he warns.
A few minutes later they're down in her living room in suburban Christchurch. Her children and husband look on meekly. Bettesworth, having informed Lou that her signature hoodies and bootcut jeans are not acceptable, has a solution: "It's time to get on a plane to Auckland and sort out your wardrobe," he announces with a flourish.
It's the second segment on the second episode of Kiwi Living, TV One's new Friday night vehicle, hosted by Sunday presenter Miriama Kamo and celebrity chef Michael Van de Elzen. The show promises "a fun and informative mix of lifestyle and entertainment television, bringing viewers the best of New Zealand's food, travel, living spaces, health and well-being, fashion and the outdoors".
If that formula sounds familiar, it should. For years TV One has been getting a good chunk of viewers and an even better chunk of dollars with Good Morning, a mix of sponsored segments and idle chat running from 9am every weekday. What Kiwi Living represents is an attempt to use a near-identical formula not in the quiet wastelands between Breakfast and lunch, but right in the heart of prime time. I'm not the first to suggest that a more accurate title for Kiwi Living would be Good Evening.
Another more honest title might be Parnell Living. The show's central tenet seems to be taking regular New Zealanders and telling them they're doing everything wrong, because they're not doing it like we do in Auckland's city fringe. Call it lifestyle shaming - inviting a collection of self-appointed experts into your lounge every Friday to tell you how unfashionable you are.
In Bettesworth's segments, that means throwing away your hoodies and rugby league jerseys. Erin Simpson's Living Spaces lets us know our "cold", "dark", "useless" spare room is only a few thousand dollars away from being acceptable. Lee-Anne Wann's Health and Wellbeing gives us tips about "cheap" (read: really freaking expensive) foods like coconut oil and chia seeds instead of the crap we normally eat.
I'm sure they didn't mean for it to be like this. Kamo is a terrific journalist and writes like an angel. Matt Gibb, who presents Travel and Inspirational Homes segments, was the glue guy who kept TVNZ's brilliant youth channel U together. Simpson was effervescent on her self-titled show. But this isn't great use of their talents - despite their best efforts, this feels like an hour-long advertorial for a way of life barely any Kiwis can afford. A fully sponsored show created by the sales department.
Not that I have any issue with the selling as such. We all have to pay the bills, and both the Herald and my own website The Spinoff contain sponsored content. But it's well-flagged, and only a small proportion of the overall mix. Within Kiwi Living, everything's for sale, and what's not is going quickly (the fashion section featured an uncredited trip to Portmans in week one. By week two it was a well-flagged wander through Max). As a result, it's hard to escape the feeling that we're watching an hour long, high-gloss version of The Shopping Channel.
And yet, against the odds, it's not entirely without merit. Gibb wanders around New Zealand, inevitably dredging up some terrific characters along the way. The Mangere couple building according to Vedic architectural principles. The teenagers feeding Loch Ness Monster-sized eels in the Marlborough Sounds. Van de Elzen, despite looking like he's wearing those costume shop glasses with men's eyes through the lenses, is endearingly buffoonish at times.
And even Bettesworth's segments aren't entirely evil. On the one hand, he seems to treat women as dolls for him to play with. "[A makeup consultation was] a rare treat for the lady who tells me she's only worn makeup five times in her life," he said breezily, as if that was a subject upon which he should have an opinion.
But then you watch Lou glow in his outfits, and see her adorable husband openly weeping - not at the transformation, but at her happiness. And you think, whatever nakedly commercial instincts propelled this segment into being, it has a little heart murmuring away in there.
If only they can figure out a way to have more moments like that, and be less obnoxiously dismissive of our national idiosyncrasies, then this show might feel less like an hour-long commercial slap bang in the middle of our biggest channel's Friday night.