I'm not sure if the title of this column is an exercise in reverse psychology or if I have reached the intersection of madness and fatigue, just a bit up from the dry well of ideas. You know, it's just across the road from Subway. Isn't that the problem with the world these days? Everything is within sight or sniff of a Subway. The German's probably have a word for it. I'll take three. We've sold out.
At least on TV the global brands are more forgivable when inserted into quality drama, especially the one that has Mark Sainsbury sporting a bowl cut. TV One's current screening of Broadchurch is a welcome oasis right smack in the guts of primetime, on a channel that everyone can see for free, in full HD glory.
Sadly, half of the country wont get to see Heartland's delightful new series There and Back on an actual TV, just yet, highlighting the sad state of affairs that means the we have to pay to see what is essentially public television. That the Heartland channel is only on Sky and not on Freeview is a travesty, if not a fully blown symptom of the prevailing problem.
To be fair, a partial solution to the issue has been offered by making There and Back available 'on demand' on the TVNZ website. It was the same solution used to screen the Rhys Darby and David Farrier comedy Short Poppies recently, after the folk at Throng made a hullaballoo about the NZ On Air funded show being available on Netflix, in the rest of the world, while it was yet to be screened here. (It will screen on TV One later this year.)
While good in principle, there is a problem with actual 'on demand' viewing. It looks like s***. This isn't so important when you're catching up with an episode of Campbell Live or your favourite soap, and you just need to know what happened, but the low-fi blocky looking picture quality is a disappointment for anything with pretentions to visual artistry. All those expensive cameras and hours of lighting and careful colour correction are squeezed down into something that doesn't even look third world. Turd world, more like. And if you doubt that we have sold our souls to commerce, just wait for the ad breaks, the jump in picture quality is remarkable. The burger glistens in all its dimpled glory while I can barely read the credits on the actual programme. End of moan.
There and Back is hosted by the amiable Matt Gibb, the joker who encourages people to use more broadband on those Telecom infomercials, so I guess it's fitting that his show is being pushed in its online iteration. The format is a twist on the familiar presenter driven tour of heartland New Zealand. The twist being the use of the TVNZ archive as a device to compare then with now.
In episode three Matt travels to Oamaru with the promise of reinventing the creation of the "World's Largest Saveloy", which was constructed in the town in 1974. Some brilliantly bizarre footage of a ridiculously gigantic sausage being made is shown, followed by a modern day Oamaru butcher who undertakes the task in 2014. Naturally, he succeeds. The news of this long sausage, made for the show, even makes the front page of the local paper. History repeats, although this time, only half of the country can see the results in all its glory. As a travelogue and light-hearted romp through our pictorial history, There and Back is a pleasure to watch, and depending on how you view it, a visual treat.
Other TV highlights this week:
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (Soho, Monday 10.30pm). He's good, slightly annoying, but bloody good as he presents a Daily Show style weekly wrap.
Britain's Got Talent (TV One,Tuesday 8.30pm). Surely the best iteration of the brand to date, thanks mainly to David Walliams and the "Golden Button".
The Hunt (Rialto, Tuesday 8.30pm). Harrowing and brilliant movie starring Mads Mikkelsen (Hannibal - the TV series). BTW, there's an impressive line-up of movies on the channel this week including the Central Park Five doco at 8.30pm Thursday.
The Shock Doctrine (Maori, Tuesday, 8.30pm). Doco based on Naomi Klien's book of the same name about "disaster capitalism". Directed by ace helmsman Michael Winterbottom.
Drunk History (Comedy Central, Tuesday 9.50pm). Utterly inspired comedic take on the history genre, with literal drunkenness, from a who's who of American comedy/satire talent.
Best Bits (TV One, Thursday 9.40pm). They said the 'c word' four times last week! At least they didn't do in front of the kids like this lady (Warning, language).
Silicon Valley (Soho, Friday 8.30pm). The new HBO comedy series based in the heart of the dotcom beast. A sort of Entourage for nerds.
* There and Back, Heartland, Sky 17, Tuesday 7.30pm.