Before watching the first episode of TVNZ's new local series Talkback, I was under the impression it was a comedy. I was wrong.
Although it is incredibly funny, the bite of the show's pointed satire snaps down with such ferocity and force that it tears right through the flabby flesh of its target to cut extremely close to the bone.
All of the best lines in the show are funny because they're true. That's a great recommendation for the series, which lands on TVNZ OnDemand on Wednesday, but is also a brutal indictment on a society that's tearing itself apart in a nonsensical ideological political war that's all about point scoring instead of finding ways to come together like grown-ups to solve basic problems that affect everyone.
Looked at like that, Talkback can be viewed as documentary.
The show follows Malcolm White, a right-wing radio talkback host, whose top-rating show slips to the number two spot after his on-air ravings become out of touch with his audience - such as a long-winded moan about Ponsonby's pothole infested roads wreaking havoc on his Lamborghini- and his once-hardened conservative views begin melting like a polar ice cap into a more moderate standpoint.
Sensing trouble, his otherwise gormless producer Steve tries to encourage him back to his old combative ways.
"My point is callers never have anything intelligent to say," he says, imploring Malcolm to once again begin punching down.
"And my point is the whole point of talkback is for people with nothing intelligent to say to have somewhere to say it," Malcolm shoots back. "The audience deserve our respect, mate."
It's a great little exchange that, as I said earlier, is funny because it's true. You can almost imagine it was a real conversation that series co-creator, co-writer and star Jason Hoyte overheard as he skulked around the offices of the radio station he used to work at.
Fun as that thought is, he almost certainly didn't. In a pre-screening interview Hoyte claimed resemblance to any specific, highly rating, morning talkback host was purely coincidental. Instead, he claimed that much of the series was based on his own five years behind the mic hosting Radio Hauraki Drive with his long-term comedy partner Leigh Hart.
Which is a wise thing to say if you want to keep one foot in radio's door rather than having it slammed forever shut.
Hoyte worked with Wellington Paranormal star Mike Minogue to create and write the Talkback series, with Minogue also stepping in front of the camera to play producer Steve. Both bring their wry and dry comedy styles to the series. That it's shot in the classic fly-on-the-wall, workplace mockumentary style only strengthens the humour of its painfully real observations.
After discovering that Malcolm's been overtaken by a left-leaning rival at a competitor station they're called into the office of the station's boss for a right old bollocking. But before Sir John - played to perfection by a snarling Simon Prast - can get revved up Steve attempts to defuse the situation.
"We all know that ratings don't capture the actual numbers," he says, in a sentence that will be instantly recognisable to anyone working in a ratings-driven industry.
His effort is greeted only by a sneering and silent stare that causes him to blurt out, "which is something losers say".
It turns out that Sir John holds Malcolm's softening political views and increasing lack of relevance to the man on the street directly responsible for the show's fall from grace, warning them to get the show back on top or they - and a part of their anatomy - will be cut off.
"Audiences want drama, they want conflict, they want you to say the things they're too scared to say to the people they blame rightly or wrongly for threatening their way of life," he roars. "Conflict is entertainment and talkback is in the entertainment business. Talkback is to journalism what professional wrestling is to sport. Let's not overthink it."
That last bit is good advice for anyone who's ever found themselves getting riled up over the latest ear-bait babbling of New Zealand's more divisive talkback hosts.
"Where there's conflict we play it up," Sir John continues. "Where there's none, we create it."
If you've ever wondered how seemingly smart and intelligent people can say such bafflingly dumb things, well, Talkback just provided the answer.
So best not to overthink their outrage provoking sentiments or infuriatingly wrong opinions, because that, friends, is precisely what they want and will only lead to you living a life filled with unhappy days.