A New Zealand-written and produced drama about an Aussie heading to Aotearoa to live is topping the ratings across the Tasman.

The third episode of the series, 800 Words, created by former Canvas columnist James Griffin and Maxine Fleming, and which stars Erik Thomson from Packed to the Rafters, was the most watched show on Australian television on Tuesday night for a second week in a row.

Its 1.17 million viewers beat the top-rated Seven News (1.11 million) and the X Factor Australia (1.083 million) as well as The Block (855,000) and long running soap Home and Away ( 827,000).

The series is a joint production between Auckland's South Pacific Pictures and the Seven network. It is due to screen on TVNZ in the New Year.


Thomson plays writer George Turner who, after the death of his wife, shifts from Sydney with his two children to live in a small coastal settlement called Weld.

Near the end of filming Packed to the Rafters, Thomson read Griffin and Fleming's script for 800 Words and pitched the show to Seven.

"When I read it, it screamed Channel Seven to me," says Thomson.

"My role was the matchmaker between Seven and South Pacific Pictures ... I had a lot of input in finding locations, casting and being on set.

"It took about another year and a half for this project to get the green light."

The series is shot in the Auckland region including the west coast beaches.

New Zealand cast members include Michelle Langstone and Anna Jullienne. Starring as Thomson's teenage children are newcomers Melina Vidler and Benson Jack Anthony.

Scottish-born Thomson started his acting career in New Zealand in the 90s after attending drama school in Wellington before becoming a regular face on Australian television.

His local knowledge was useful in helping to choosing locations and the hybrid Australian-New Zealand production means the series can be easily marketed either side of the Tasman.

"Co-production deals make it a bit more viable. Rafters was a big success in New Zealand as well and our cultures are similar enough that we can share shows, so it ticked those boxes," he says.

- nzherald.co.nz