Earlier this week, Ted Lasso – a hugely popular streaming series famously developed from a TV commercial – cleaned up at the Emmys following a critically acclaimed second season. The result prompts all sorts of navel-gazing questions about the blurred lines between art and commercial creativity, the role of storytelling in business and how simple stories can shape culture.
But on a less pretentious note, it also prompted a more simple question: who's our Ted Lasso? Which Kiwi ad characters deserve their own TV show? I asked around the office. The suggestions were many, the vetting process controversial, but here are my picks:
Sky TV's 'on the floor' mates
Their comic timing: perfection. Their on-screen chemistry: iconic. Their quotability: timeless. If the "on the floor" mates were a TV show, I would definitely watch it. What are their jobs? Who are their love interests? What happens when their mums pop around for a visit? Do they clean up or double down on the 'on the floor' philosophy? I could see this as a two-season, 16-episode run.
The Molenberg army private
She's strong, fast and loves our Molenberg. Tall poppy syndrome be damned, the Molenberg army private leaves her male peers in the dust. This gripping drama set on West Auckland's moody beaches would explore what it means to stand out from the pack in New Zealand's close-knit armed forces. Deserves a BBC-style run; six one-hour-long episodes.
The premise needs no further embellishment. Goldstein's task is clear: corporate espionage. He's coming to New Zealand to find out what makes our banks different. But what he never expected was to find love behind enemy lines.
A single-cam sitcom with shades of Arrested Development, Goldstein's deadpan delivery paired with an increasingly ridiculous escalation of the stakes will keep audiences enthralled for three seasons before it gets cancelled, leaving us with an unsatisfying cliffhanger. Fan petitions to bring it back will be spirited but ultimately unsuccessful.
Inspector Joseph Morrison – Vogels
One of Aotearoa's most iconic comedic villains, known for slowly incinerating our precious Vogel's evidence "piece by piece", Inspector Joseph Morrison has a clear onscreen presence and nothing's more despairingly funny than petty bureaucratic power-tripping artfully applied.
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To localise the show we'd need the pilot episode to cover Inspector Morrison relocating to regional New Zealand, taking up a role at Nelson Airport where he becomes increasingly frustrated by the complete lack of security measures. This premise could run for eight seasons with global syndication.
The dissatisfied Toffee Pops lover feat Carlos Spencer
Hottest take of this whole list: I'd argue that the Toffee Pops lover has already been turned into a TV series and Griffins deserves recognition. The recently launched AMC comedy series Kevin Can F*** Himself centres on a woman in an unhappy relationship who fantasises her husband is someone else, with the show jarringly jump-cutting between fantasy husband and real-life husband. Sound familiar? I think we need a Herald investigation to blow this story wide open.
The Polar Pop Bears
Do the Polar Pop Bears even need a pitch? They're iconic, they already have a killer theme song and the merchandising opportunities are endless. I'm shocked this show doesn't already exist.
The New Zealand Pineapple Lumps ambassador:
As a premise, you might not think a show about a celestial Kiwi ambassador who negotiates with the creator of all things on behalf of New Zealand could stretch far enough for a TV series, but it's not far off the premise of The Good Place which ran for a solid four seasons to great acclaim.
Following the pilot episode in which our ambassador secures eternal rights to pineapple lumps (which he's quite rightly stoked with), we learn that not everybody in the interdimensional United Nations is happy with their lot. Alliances are formed, trades are brokered, the Australians are stirring trouble – chaos ensues. I see this TVNZ OnDemand series attracting a small but fiercely loyal audience, running on a shoestring for four seasons and ending perfectly. A few years later it will attract a broad audience after being picked up by Netflix. The reunion film will be terrible but worth it for the nostalgia.
So, there you go New Zealand TV execs, you can stop hunting for the next big thing – they were there all along – hiding in the ad break. If you need help getting them off the ground, come and chat to me. We can discuss royalties later.
• Gary Steele is executive creative director at DDB Aotearoa. For impartiality, he hasn't included any of his own ads in this list, although he's convinced a New Zealand version of Celebrity Splash inspired by L&P's Space Manu would be a television sensation.