Series worthy but not much more, while MPs make fun return.

Its a strange and slightly sad state of affairs weve reached where anything faintly sensible and informative on television seems so out of place. But thats how it felt around halfway through Primes new primetime local offering, Making New Zealand.

The dedication of the four-part series is to the story of building modern New Zealand and Sunday nights first episode was all about roads.

That's not a prospect that might quicken the pulse of many modern viewers and, as mentioned, it failed to much quicken mine, though I do like a good road.

It just felt like what it was a blast from the past, a history story, told reasonably well, with loads of good archive footage (including what looked like old movie clips) and interviews with fairly interesting historian types.


The stories the documentary focused on were mostly the well known road tales the heroic constructions of Arthurs Pass and Milford Sound roads in the south and Great South Rd and the Auckland Harbour Bridge in the north, with a sidetrack to an old coach road near Ohakune and Auckland's ongoing Waterview motorway.

The avalanche stories from Milford were terrific, as was the interview with the bloke who said on the first day on the job in the old days the boss gives you a shovel and a pick and says, just start digging through the bottom of that hill.

But otherwise, the roads story lacked the angle and attitude the right sort of presenter and the right sort of script might have brought. So worthy was about as good as this show got.

The stories of the nations railway, power stations and ports are to follow over the next three Sundays.

Also in the slightly sensible and old-fashioned TV zone, but much more fun, is Back Benches, which returned to our screens last Wednesday (Prime, 10.30pm) after a long break.

Pity they didnt upgrade their opening titles, which feature a long-gone Phil Goff lined up against John Key, but the show has updated its style to good effect.

It now has an amusing impatience, which better suits its eccentric frontman Wallace Chapman, who continues to suffer some of the same glottal issues as our famously mumbly Prime Minister.

A couple of times, on last weeks show, guest MPs had to ask the host to repeat his question, but what makes Back Benches such good viewing is its chaotic energy as Chapman tries to wrangle a panel full of attention-seeking MPs and a pub full of enthusiastic political punters.


Normally Chapman would also have to cope with his attention-seeking sidekick Damien Christie, competing for camera time from the crowd, but he was away having a baby. Standing in for him, and playing it straight, was veteran broadcaster Barry Soper.

In an hour, the show managed to talk and shout about the Budget, the retirement age, legalising weed, animal testing, political payola and party funding.

Chapman seemed to swear a bit more than necessary what a shitter of a show, he said referring to the first-ever Back Benches seven years ago but he has become very good at cutting off those MPs in mid-boast.

And the show is funny asking National MP Mark Mitchell if he'd rather be stuck in a lift with two wet dogs or Conservative Party leader Colin Craig.

He didn't hesitate about choosing the dogs.