Australia's Channel Seven has a pretty good track record when it comes to creating well-balanced, heartfelt family drama that strikes a chord with audiences: Always Greener, Packed to the Rafters, Winners and Losers, and A Place To Call Home have grabbed attention on both sides of the Tasman.

Where 800 Words is different, is that it's actually created and written by James Griffin (Outrageous Fortune, The Almighty Johnsons), and filmed in New Zealand, with a lot of Kiwis in the cast. And in that indefinable sort of way, it has a different edge - a sense of humour, idiosyncratic characters, and scenery that can only be found on the west coast of Auckland.

New Zealand-raised Aussie actor Erik Thomson stars as George Turner, a Sydney columnist whose world is turned on its head when his wife dies suddenly, leaving him and their two teenage children Shay and Arlo (newcomers Melina Vidler and Benson Jack Anthony), heartbroken and adrift.

On a bit of a whim, he decides to move the family from Sydney to the (fictional) New Zealand coastal town of Weld.


It's an effort to start afresh, and also a bit of a distraction from life, plus it's a picturesque spot with a great surf break, and George has fond memories of summer holidays spent there as a kid. So he buys a house from an internet listing, boxes up their possessions, and forces the kids into his crazy plan.

Except of course, all does not go smoothly. It turns out the real estate agent (Jonny Brugh) has been a little misleading. Then there's the small matter of a large stone sculpture rolling away from the artist (Anna Julienne) and writing off their rental car.

Plus there's no reception or internet connection, which leaves Shay feeling entirely shut off from the world, and the overwhelming sense that, without his wife, George has no idea what he's doing.

The thing about Weld though, is that word gets around. And soon enough the locals are being friendly, supportive, and overbearing in equal measure. And the "Women of Weld" (surfer Hannah played by Cian Elyse White, businesswoman Fiona played by Michelle Langstone, teacher Tracey played by Emma Leonard, and Julienne's artist Katie) have their eye on George too. After all, it's not often an eligible widower moves to the small town.

But all is not necessarily quiet and comfy in Weld, even after the Turners have settled in. It's a small town with a few secrets, and a few issues of its own, including a protective, patriarchal family headed by William McNamara (Peter Elliott).

When: Thursday, 8.30pm
Where: TV One
What: Transtasman family drama