Weld? Yes we do have some funny place names in this country. Um, Gore. Cape Foulwind. Farewell Spit.

That's not to mention the hours of fun foreign folk find in those places starting with a "Whaka".

Against that, making "Weld" the name of fictional coastal hamlet that's the setting for the pleasantly forgettable, enjoyably formulaic new dramedy 800 Words ... well it, just seems a bit lacking.

There'll be no "Where the Whaka you" tourist campaign for one thing.


Though, it offers the chance for locals, presumably named Welders, to quip "nice spot Weld".

Which it is. Sorry tourists, it's a composite of multiple locations stretching from French Bay to Warkworth via Muriwai. No doubt all that green scenery and black sand has helped 800 Words become Australia's new favourite show - it's rated its thongs off across the Tazzie where it was made for Channel Seven.

That's undoubtedly also been helped by the affable familiarity of Erik Thomson from Packed to the Rafters in the leading role.

In this, he's grieving columnist George who, after the death of his wife, drags his teenage kids to live in Weld where he spent holidays as a kid but has no other connections.

And if this New Zealand-written (by James Griffin, who used to pen a weekly 800 words for canvas) and made show might be in unfamiliar territory for Aussie viewers, the premise sure isn't: Big town folks adapt to small town while dealing - or failing to deal - with life-changing event.

The first episode had George prising his kids Arlo (the sensible ginger one) and Shae (the eye-rolling, whiny blonde one) away from Sydney for reasons he couldn't quite articulate to them or the rest of his family, even though he spends much time writing and verbally narrating a navel-gazing column of homilies for a weekend newspaper supplement - where the pay must be remarkably good, though not enough to afford decent dictation software.

Certainly not enough to pay for a trans-Tasman flight to check out the house he bought online, sight unseen, but supposedly the one he spent many a golden summer in as a kid.

And so began a hour of gentle encounters with the mildly colourful locals.


That started with George's car running into an errant piece of sculpture - a runaway concrete sphere possibly indicating that anything arty in this show had best be rolled out of town.

Still, that slow-speed prang at least got a whole lot of character introductions made fast and thankfully stopped Dad's anecdote about Fanta-fuelled carsickness when he came up this way as a kid.

From there it was through the inevitable disappointments.

The house is a lemon. The real estate agent who sold it - another amusing turn from Jonathan Brugh - has a very good side-step.

The kids are sulking about the lack of wi-fi and George's first surf at the local break ends in ignominy. Worse, he's rescued by a fellow Australian, a chippie who can't figure why the locals call him "Woody".

"Because you're a builder, possibly?" says George.

Yes, George had some good lines.

But his character - and Thomson's performance - lacks much to remember him just yet.

That's despite George dealing with the death of his wife and now the ramifications of a rash and apparently foolish decision to shift his life east to spend more time with his kids and write columns from and about a "dead-end town at the ass-end of the world"."

The show's visual delivery and pace aren't exactly gripping either. Much of the first episode felt like a loop of scene ending on sad note, cue sunny music refrain, scenic seaside shot and repeat.

The 800 Words family of Shay (Melina Vidler) George (Erik Thomson) and Arlo (Benson Jack Anthony).
The 800 Words family of Shay (Melina Vidler) George (Erik Thomson) and Arlo (Benson Jack Anthony).

But as it ended, curiously resembling a episode of Mucking In, 800 Words had done enough to make you want to see how George's new life pans out.

Especially as the number of available attractive single women around the place seems right up there with a Bond movie.

So yes, the first visit to Weld was less than, er, riveting. But with some extra spark, it could be cooking with gas, bro

Footnote: A very smart reader has pointed out that Weld - and the show's nearby town of Stafford - are both the name of 1860s prime ministers so "quite plausible names for small dull towns in NZ". No doubt the residents of Massey, Seddon and Coatesville will be happy to hear that.


What: 800 Words

When and Where: TV One, Thursdays. 8.30pm