Following on from the success of Three’s Far North drama, several scripted productions are about to film in New Zealand, including our very own versions of Glee and Sex Education.
Happiness centres on a Kiwi-born Broadway director’s return to small-town Aotearoa, where he is roped into directing a local musical theatre production.
Featuring quirky and diverse characters, the show will put regional New Zealand centre stage as it is based in Tauranga.
With a plethora of talent available for the lead, the role for a male is yet to be cast. Spy thinks comedians Chris Parker or Tom Sainsbury would be a great choice as would-be actor Mark Wright.
Spy is told that the series has been created by Kip Chapman, the music will be composed by Luke Di Somma, (who wrote the opera, The Unruly Tourists,) and is being produced by Greenstone TV.
If Happiness is New Zealand’s answer to Glee, then another Three series, n00b, is our answer to Sex Education.
n00b is set in Gore in 2005 and follows five Kiwi teenagers who use the newly invented internet to escape their depressing realities. The series is created by hugely talented newcomers Victoria Boult and Rachael Fawcett and produced by Great Southern TV.
Also about to be made for Three is Madam, an adaptation of the unpublished memoirs, Madame Mom, by Antonia Murphy.
Author of Dirty Chick: Adventures of an Unlikely Farmer, Murphy moved from the US to NZ, where sex work is decriminalised, and in 2016 founded an escort agency built on a philosophy of protecting women’s legal rights, emotional well-being and financial independence.
Sources close to the production are tight-lipped, although we hear famous Hollywood names have roles in the series, which is due to start filming in Auckland in the next few weeks.
Madam is described as a half-hour dramedy, written by Shoshana McCallum, who won an International Emmy for the NZ series Inside, and Harry McNaughton, who was a writer for The Pact.
The show is described as a wry, dark comedy looking at motherhood, feminism, and the controversial topic of legal prostitution. Combining the edge of shows like Weeds and Shameless, and the indie spirit of Red Rocket. Madam is being is a co-production between Auckland-based production company Tavake and USA prod-co XYZ Films.
The new shows come off the back of Far North, based on the true story of a married couple living in Ahipara who get caught up in an international drug deal involving half a tonne of meth, was the No. 1 local debut on Warner Bros. Discovery’s ThreeNow.
“The phenomenal success of Far North proves that New Zealand audiences have a strong appetite for premium local drama so we are bringing Kiwis more,” says senior director commissioning ANZ Vicki Keogh.
“We believe the path to commercial success lies in supporting our production partners to take creative risks and push boundaries to delight and entertain our audiences.
“The exciting and diverse slate of scripted content we currently have in production means next year is shaping up to be huge for ThreeNow and Three.”
Meanwhile casting for Jono Pryor’s new comedy show Vince is underway. The show has been written and created by the Hits radio host, and former Westside star David de Latour, and produced by NZ’s leading comedy production factory Kevin and Co.
The show, which sees Pryor play Vince Walters who is “The Nation’s Father,” a beloved TV host who for 20 years was the flawless face of everything from game shows to reality shows. The seemingly perfect Vince dreams of hosting his own chat show but plays second fiddle at the network to superstar Mike Martin. When Martin leaves to film a movie, Vince is given the chance to step up, but his illustrious two-decade showbiz career quickly crumbles around him.
Shooting for the show starts in November.
Currently filming is Tinā - a movie being made for a theatre release and Three and produced by Daniel Higgins, husband of journalist Nadine Higgins.
The film tells the story of a sassy Samoan teacher who overcomes personal struggles to bring joy to a newly-formed youth choir, in the wake of the Christchurch earthquakes. Tinā is understood to be starring Anapela Polataivao , who has starred in NZ TV series, Duckrockers, Our Flag Means Death and The Panthers. The movie is being directed by Miki Magasiva and is the first production from his company - The Brown Factory.
Another new Three show, Friends Like Her, which was filmed in Kaikōura and Auckland in winter, is now in post-production.
The drama series stars Mean Mums’ Morgana O’Reilly and Vinnie Bennett from F9: The Fast Saga and explores a friendship that turns toxic when a surrogacy deal goes wrong between two best friends facing very different futures in Kaikōura when the town is already divided by a catastrophic earthquake.