Well, that went fast didn't it? 2019 is now an overcooked sausage but what were the ingredients? Let's highlight the tasty bits and regurgitate a bit of visual gristle shall we? At first, I considered presenting you with a sprawling poetic stream of consciousness, a sort of mind rissole, or televisual potpourri. Then I thought, nah. People want a list. Life is short. So here we go. 12-and-a-half of the best and worst of 2019.
12 AND A HALF
If I were to burp out the best top-of-my-head stuff, Succession would be there, as would Chernobyl, Killing Eve, The Loudest Voice, Year of The Rabbit, Billions, After Life and that ginger kid from that daggy family on Travel Guides. So to that ginger kid on Travel Guides (TV2) I award the coveted 12-and-a-half spot. People really put themselves out for reality shows and often for little money and maximum shame. The redhead in question; Jonathon from the daggy Fren family on Travel Guides, gave it his all, his expressions were priceless.
That was my revelation a few weeks back but what was I watching in February? Recent stuff is easy.
I saw the doco Maiden (about the first all-female team of Whitbread Round the World Yacht Race fame) a week ago and was moved to tears by it. It was also a great reminder of the joys of seeing a film with a room full of people, in a cinema, many of whom seemed well versed in the subject matter and were especially engaged by the copious Kiwi connections. There was the unmistakable sound of Pete Montgomery's voice booming throughout, the late Peter Blake and the boat Fisher and Pykel. All received the loud mutterings of an old boy up the back. For some reason I find this amusing and it warms my heart, but a muppet pulling out a phone three rows in front makes me feel like pulling out an AR 15. Maiden is not especially flashy or technically brilliant but it's rather choice.
Oh that's right I remember now, in February I saw one of the other best docos of the year, a TV special that was as kiwi as a clip round the ear. It was called Underarm (Prime) a reference to that infamous 'incident' during a cricket match between NZ and Australia back in the 80s. It was a shameful display and we have nursed that hurt for all these years like a psycho ex. How I loved pressing on that bruise again.
The Educators. (TVNZ OnDemand) Jackie van Beek (The Breaker-Upperers), Jonny Brugh (What We Do In The Shadows) and Jesse Griffin's (Wilson Dixon) morbidly hysterical school teacher comedy and ensemble masterclass, deserves a gold star for so many reasons. Mostly cause it's funny as f**k.
I thought Gower on Weed (Three) was the best title. The scene when he cried with his dad over the death of his mum and the possible help some "medical" weed would have been, was the most remarkable moment. The short series also showed that a good idea, well made and given superb promo, can suck up the ratings in primetime without the aid of mock weddings, thrice-cooked cauliflower or integrated advertising. Fat lot of good that did. The news of the impending demise of Three is depressing. I know it's a sign of the times but what of 7Days, The Hui, Westside and Tova O'Brien? And what about Guy Williams?
That gangly goose Guy Williams was finally let loose with his own show and it was tremendous. New Zealand Today (Three) showcased his unique ability to mock and celebrate us at the same time. A visit to Hawera to conduct a comedic autopsy on an infamous black-face parade incident was inspired and also unexpectedly charming.
Married At First Sight. (Three) Watching TV isn't meant to make you feel this bad. (7 is the gristle btw)
Funny As. The Story of New Zealand Comedy (TVNZ) A beautifully made doco series that pays homage to the kiwi comedy scene. A related delight was National Anthems, a potted history of NZ's best songs (Prime). Both shows uncovered some absolute gems. Seek them out online.
Bellbird. A simple, beautiful and funny rural NZ movie starring Cohen Holloway, Marshall Napier and Rachel House. Standing ovation at the film festival and in cinemas now.
NZ Wars: Story of Waitara (RNZ) Mihi Forbes does what James Bellich did a couple of decades ago in New Zealand Wars, telling the sorts of stories we should all have been taught in school and doing it in style.
Country Calendar. (TVNZ) It's like an antidepressant and I hate missing my meds.
Attenborough: Dynasties. (TVNZ) See above, but with more sex and violence.
Taskmaster (TVNZ DUKE) The best comedy game show format and a constant joy. A local version is planned but finding anyone to match the genius of hosts Greg Davies and Alex Horn will be a monumental task. Saving Three may be easier. I pray that both will happen in 2020. That and another series of Succession.