TV One follows up riveting Erebus drama and classy Topp Country series with less-than-compelling viewing.

Sunday, a week ago, the nation's biggest television channel TV One seemed to suddenly remember what it was here for and really delivered the goods with two hours of top-notch local viewing.

It was a powerful mix of light and heavy - starting out with the last episode of the top-rating Topp Country and finishing with Erebus: Operation Overdue, the first in a short new series of well-funded docu-dramas, presented in the channel's plum Sunday Theatre slot at 8.30pm.

Really, I'm not much of a fan of the docu-drama, a match up which tends to sell you short on the veracity of the documentary form, while blundering about in the misty boundaries where re-enactment meets acting.

The Erebus piece, though, blew those qualms right out through the lacy curtain. It was a film so well made and so real it probably still haunts anyone who saw it.


While Topp Country, featuring our singing, cooking, joking rural superstars Lynda and Jools Topp, can't come back quickly enough for me - and a good portion of New Zealand's viewers.

They were hard acts to follow, as this past Sunday's efforts duly demonstrated with a new gooier mix of the light and heavy.

First, in the 8 o'clock slot, there was Radar Across the Pacific, the start of a new six-part series starring local funnyman Te Radar - as the title suggests, exploring a selection of Pacific islands.

On Sunday, he was in Easter Island, though not in a hugely interesting - or indeed funny - way. These days, when he's allowed on TV, Radar is only ever funnyish.

His sideburns and his curly golden locks are as eye-catching as ever, but that first taste of Radar Across the Pacific was a bit like being on a school trip with a nicer sort of teacher.

There was an interesting story about the island's dark sheep-farming past, but not a great deal else, except a fair bit of the usual stuff, like staring at those strange stone statues of theirs.

28 Jun, 2014 7:35am
2 minutes to read

Second up on Sunday, in the new local Sunday Theatre series, was Nancy Wake: The White Mouse, a docu-drama about the wartime exploits of the New Zealand-born undercover agent and resistance fighter.

And this was where the going did get a bit gooier, which was quite an achievement because Nancy Wake's story is one you'd kill for. She certainly did, lobbing a grenade under the lunch table of a bunch of Gestapo officers in one scene.

But, riddled with cliches verbal and visual, French accents you could crush garlic under and oddly absent of the sense of danger that must have been Wake's wartime reality, it was a great tale pressed rather flat.

It mixed archive and interviews with acted segments and an awkward voiceover. "Could this really be my story?" Wake wondered out loud at one point. Then, "I was a Kiwi girl in a hurry" and, inevitably, "This was just the beginning".

A coarse, noisy and exceptionally strong-minded woman, apparently, Nancy Wake lived on to be 98, dying just three years ago, but White Mouse told only the war story - and really not very compellingly.