Rick Ellis was fired in 2002 from his position as TVNZ’s chief executive. After a tough four years in the wilderness he was back, and in Wednesday’s paper, criticising New Zealand’s ‘cultural cringe’ in not getting behind local shows. He then picked his favourite ten TVNZ shows. Not withstanding New Zealand’s constant ignorance of local talent, complete failure to promote local shows even when they have had millions of government money sunk into them, and the fact that the shows he names are the very shows that would make any one cringe regardless of nationality, I decided against my usual seethe against the system. Why complain about TVNZ? Instead of criticising its failings, I thought I’d look at a half-full glass, and instead of harping on about TVNZ’s quite boring reliance on the same old bullshit (your Shortland Street and Dancing With The Stars’ that make Ellis’ list) talk about some of the local culture that makes me happy to associate myself with this country.
Flight of the Conchords
I always just thought Flight of the Conchords were one of the multitude of New Zealand comedy acts that were probably okay, but unspectacular all the same. I figured that I’d probably see them by accident one day, maybe at Indigo or something. Until one day a foreign friend of mine brought up that he’d seen them on the Conan O’Brien Show and HBO. Then I happened across a North and South article that spelled out just how big these guys were: a bidding war for a television show in the United States between HBO and CBS, a record deal with Sub-Pop, a BBC radio show that took England by storm, sell out crowds, movies in the works. And when these guys were in New Zealand last they toured as the opener for Bic Runga. I can’t wait to see these guys buy and subsequently destroy Bic Runga in five-years time. And why not? The self-proclaimed “fourth best folk-parody outfit in New Zealand”, rise above Tenacious D comparisons by just being better than Tenacious D. (‘Frodo, don’t wear the ring’ out Jack Blacks Jack Black.) ‘The hiphopopotamus meets the rhymenocerus’ should one day take its rightful place in the cannon of rap classics.
Still largely ignored by New Zealand audiences.
How much kudos can you give a man for pretending to be asleep while they were reading out his category at the Oscars? One gesture has never said more about the stale and boring set of industry routines the ceremony has become. And the guy was from New Zealand!
So much more than that guy from Scarfies, he got nominated for an Oscar for his short film Two Cars, One Night (as you will all probably know) and his follow up debut feature film will be released in the coming months. He was unavailable to be interviewed recently because he was stuck in the United States becoming involved in yet another bidding war over a New Zealand artist because of said movie.
Somehow manages to also indulge in standup comedy under various different guises. Despite obvious forces pulling him overseas, has expressed a desire to never relocate his base from Wellington.
Forget Connan, no one plays the guitar better than Shayne Carter. And no one has a more sexually explicit guitar face than the man himself. It’s been a big couple years for Shayne. He released You’ve Got To Hear The Music, a soulful, simmering album, then toured it to rapturous reception, and then reformed the Straitjacket Fitz, to even more rapturous receptions. He then got his heart broken by indie wet-dream Heather Mansfield of the Brunettes. Subsequent emotion-wrought break up album Here My Dear is released to a crescendo of adulation. The man refuses to blow out, and does not know how to put a foot wrong. Critically, but not commercially rewarded. A career spanning four bands over a quarter of a century has apparently left the man in no state of financial security. Such is life I guess, but you’d think being part of the band that the US Rolling Stone named the best rock band in the world may come with some clichéd high-life kickbacks.
R. Carl Shuker
Shuker was turned down by every publisher in New Zealand – persevering to find an overseas agent, and then an American publisher for his debut novel The Method Actors. He came into some money recently, picking up a cheque from Glen Schaeffer for $65,000. Shuker’s novel has the courage to place roaming and displaced New Zealand ex-pats amongst an international cast in an international setting, instead of insisting on the whole clichéd New Zealand theme of darkness, depression, isolation, and claustrophobia. Despite a couple of attempts, I still haven’t seen his book in a Whitcoulls.
So I guess when some bigwig is telling you that Shortland Street is bang for your buck, and that you have no right to be ashamed about Dancing With the Stars, go to your happy place. There’s a lot of culture that’s doing pretty amazingly, behind the backs of the major New Zealand avenues.