The BBC seem to have a habit these days of putting the best sites on in the middle of the day and then ditching them for low viewing figures!
They did it last year with The Coroner. If have loved to be on that myself, shooting around Dorset & Devon. Fab!
Then, they had Shakespeare &Hathaway. Lovely detective series about a private investigator and his new sidekick.
And now I find a retiree friend of mine asks me if “800 Words” is really like life is in New Zealand?
‘What’s “800 words”?’ I ask.
It’s a new (-ish… It’s been going for 2 series already!!) TV series from South Pacific Pictures co-produced with Australia’s Channel 7 Production company.
Now I’m already sold…SPP were responsible for a TV series I adored when I lived there, “Outrageous Fortune” (Incidentally starring among others Anthony Starr who went to the States and was in “Banshee”).
“800 Words” is a fish-out-of-water story about an Aussie journalist (he writes a regular column for a Sydney paper and anally sticks to exactly 800 words per column like some unquestioned OCD affliction… hence the title) seeks a new life in small-town New Zealand after the sudden death of his wife.
Not only do his children not like the idea much; he then has to deal with cultural differences between Australia & New Zealand, and the contrast of big city Sydney and small town ‘Weld’ – fictional, mind you.
Retiree friend asks if this made up town is typical of small-town NZ.
I say, it’s typical of small-town ANYWHERE. Transplant this story to a Londoner moving to West Wales, or a New Yorker moving to Iowa, and there will still be cultural and lifestyle differences these storylines could fit in to.
But watching 800 words brings back memories of living in NZ which is the other reason it appeals to me. I don’t know if I was happier there than anywhere else, but this nostalgia, this ‘hiraeth’ seems a little stronger; but then that’s the appeal to me, not to a general wider audience.
Watch it if you’re interested in New Zealand – the accents, attitudes, Maori integration into everyday culture, and the locations and the landscapes are typical. Watch it if you’re intrested in fish-out-of-water stories. Watch it.
The beach used as the surfing beach – is world famous – in New Zealand. It’s Piha, on the West coast, over the Waitakere ranges from Auckland. It’s in the guide books and tourist information. What isn’t though, as far as I know, found by accident on one trip over is a cafe en route called ‘Elevation’. It looks pretty regular from the front. And the food is ok – what you’d expect from a roadside cafe, if not a little better. After you enter, however, and choose a table at the back, preferably outside on the deck, which protrudes out from the side of the mountain range so it feels like you’re sitting on Tarzan’s tree-house; the view of Auckland city is spectacular.
But that’s besides the point. Why are these gems of television being hidden away at 2-3pm when most of us are working or else otherwise tied up with the demands of the day? My erratic schedule allowed me to watch some of Shakespeare&Hathaway on days where I was going to pick the children up from school; in which case, it saw me leaving 10 mintues before the end and having to catch the conclusion on BBC iPlayer later on. Or never.
By the time Shakespeare&Hathaway had finished I wasn’t even aware that 800 words had taken the slot until someone else told me about it and this week it’s become our must-binge-watch programme of the evenings after the children are in bed.
Now I know the way we (in general, as a worldwide industrialised-nations viewership) watch TV is changing. We watch mostly on-demand, when we want to. The BBC appear to be catching up….programmes tagged as ‘BBCThree’ productions don’t actually exist on the ‘real world of TV’ since BBCThree moved exclusively ‘online’ (i.e. BBCThree is basically a section of BBCiPlayer). Recently, BBCWales seems to be putting an awful lot of weight on how well ‘Keeping Faith’ went down with online audiences, given that it was only broadcast within the confines of the BBCWales region in English (and S4C in Welsh), so the only way viewers who couldn’t pck up BBCWales (numbers of whom must be dwindling these days as more and more set-top boxes and smart-TVs give everyone the myriad of freeview channels available wherever you are regardless of regionality).
So, now I’m telling you. Watch it!