NZ On Air has hit back at criticism of Filthy Rich, TV2's newest drama show given $8 million of public money and screening in prime time but slated by a Herald critic and readers.

Twenty episodes of the show are screening on TV2 over the next 10 weeks, charting the death of a rich businessman and three heirs who collectively granted a controlling interest in his billion-dollar business.

The show was created by acclaimed writers Rachel Lang and Gavin Strawhan, and stars Miriama Smith, Josh McKenzie, Elizabeth Hawthorne and Jodie Rimmer.

A scene from the TV show Filthy Rich.
A scene from the TV show Filthy Rich.

NZoA said it was happy with Filthy Rich's performance and ratings, saying: "The target audience appears to be enjoying [it]."


Nearly 350,000 Kiwis, aged 5-plus, tuned into watch the debut episode, dropping back to 264,000 last night.

In a review for the Herald, TV critic and editor of The Spinoff Duncan Greive wrote Filthy Rich "can't escape the crushing weight of its conceit and script" and called for "young talent" to get a turn at making high budget shows.

Read more: Filthy Rich just more of the same

"Filthy Rich should signify a moment in which we need to thank its creators for their services to our industry, and ask that they politely pass the torch to a new generation. Because we can and should do better than this," wrote Greive.

In an email to the Herald, a NZoA spokesperson said "there is a great deal of diversity" in the shows chosen for funding and pointed to recent dramas When We Go To War, Hope & Wire, Step Dave, Outrageous Fortune and the upcoming Sir Edmund Hillary show Hillary.

As for Greive's criticism that Filthy Rich felt "entirely adrift from the thrust of contemporary international drama" like Mad Men and Transparent, NZoA said the comparison wasn't fair.

The cast of TVNZ's new TV show, Filthy Rich.
The cast of TVNZ's new TV show, Filthy Rich.

"It's not realistic to compare these to shows that screen on pay channels or PBS overseas. Series for mainstream broadcast audiences are quite different - mainstream prime time requires broad appeal," the spokesperson said.

Writers Gavin Strawhan and Rachel Lang with the Filthy Rich cast. Photo / Norrie Montgomery
Writers Gavin Strawhan and Rachel Lang with the Filthy Rich cast. Photo / Norrie Montgomery

The spokesperson said Lang and Strawhan, who were also involved with Go Girls, Nothing Trivial and The Almighty Johnsons, were award-winning writers experienced at crafting hit shows, "so it is inevitable producers will be drawn to them".

"We also have been putting more into local webseries, an area where new and emerging writers have been having very good success, such as the writers of High Road (Justin Harwood) and Flat 3 (Roseanne Liang)."

Lang and Strawhan will debut another new show this year in Dirty Laundry, which received more than $6m in funding from NZ On Air and will screen on TV One.

• Filthy Rich screens on TV2, 8.30pm Mondays and Tuesdays.