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It's war

The best television dramas of 2003 went on in TVNZ's bloodied corridors.

As local television goes, it was a great year for film. Whale Rider and Lord of the Rings enhanced our credentials abroad as a creative and geographically blessed, if slightly weird, people.

Meanwhile, the small screen in the era of the charter was busy taking one step forward - Give It a Whirl, Home Truths - and 10 steps back - The Big Night In and Paul Holmes's venture into international race relations.

It was a year of great television spectacle - from the America's Cup to the rugby World Cup to Iraq, we certainly saw some spectacular screw-ups.

Bill "Big Pussy" Ralston ripped through TVNZ news and current affairs like an episode of The Sopranos. Bada boom, bada bing, it was arrivederci Richard Long, Pam Corkery, Maggie Barry, April Bruce, Jim Hickey and that nice guy who used to do the weather on Breakfast.

It was war overseas, too, as news from Iraq came via "embeds". At home, the media generally became a more toxic place as, like lab rats in an overcrowded cage, the hacks turned on each other. Kim Hill got pilgered. Mike Hosking took on New Idea. Jonathan Marshall took revenge with the grubby nztabloid website. Eating Media Lunch brought some of Marshall's junior media-terrorist tricks to television. Brian Edwards and Rodney Hide turned Edwards at Large into a talkshow version of Celebrity Deathmatch.

With the personalities so busy making their own fun, no wonder primetime is still overrun with real people.

The good news: more talk-shows than you could shake a stick at, local television comedy was sighted in odd corners of the schedule and Carol and John became the new Richard and Judy.

So let's celebrate what we saw in 2003, often just before running screaming from the room:

Best Drama: was probably taking place in the bloodied corridors at TVNZ. There was Six Feet Under (still) and The Sopranos (always). Surprise big winner: Coronation Street, for turning its serial-killer storyline into a sofa-chewing international event.

The Enid Blyton Memorial Good Golly! Award: Paul Holmes. There are some words that should never be used together, like "cheeky" and "darkie". Or "Holmes" and "current affairs".

The Jackass Award for Arrested Development: Eating Media Lunch; Paul "Prepare to go ballistic!" Holmes.

The "Can't We All Just Get On?" Award: Kim Hill scores highly for book-flinging during the Pilger skirmish. Then there are Edwards and Hide and the bitching "stars" on Celebrity Treasure Island ... But the winner, by at least 10 expletives, is Mike King's vocabulary-

challenged answerphone message to an Eating Media Lunch writer.

The "Can't We All Just Get a Life?" Award: American Idol - Ruben or Clay? Don't pretend you didn't care.

Best Tearjerker: the final of McLeod's Daughters; Holmes's apology.

Environment Award for Best Recycling of Local Personalities: sending them to distant, uncomfortable locations in Intrepid Adventures.

Buried Treasure: Good Hands: Lima Leilei - our first Pacific Island drama series, set in the world of South Auckland netball, local comedy Moon TV, The West Wing and John Campbell's amiable Home Truths all deserved better timeslots.

Soap Villain of the Year: Coronation Street's Richard Hillman, of whom Shortland Street's Dom was but a pale imitation. Highly Commended: royal love rat James Hewitt and Princess Diana's wretched butler.

The Mind Your Ps and (Auto)cues Award: former TV3 newsraver Darren McDonald.

Oops! Award: 3 News went hobbit mad during Return of the King premiere coverage, playing Elijah Wood's "Hello, sweetheart!" greeting to the PM, funny enough in itself, over footage of Ahmed Zaoui in court; Darren McDonald.

Only in Christchurch: to howls of protest from Cantabrians and helpless tears of mirth from royalist John Campbell on 3 News, three bronze corgis are unveiled to mark the Queen's Jubilee.

Newsperson of the Year: John Campbell. Ever the professional. Just don't mention corgis.

Body Part of the Year: Michael Jackson's face beats out Nicky Watson's incredible cantilevered cleavage by a nose.

The PMS Award: Paul Holmes, for his remarks about "ignorant and bitchy" female journalists. So what's his excuse?

Scary Sight of the Year: Michael Jackson's Face; The Anna Nicole Show; Helen Clark in chainmail.

Kinky Sight of the Year: Helen Clark in chainmail.

The Aaarrgh! Award for Most Excruciating Television Moment: the Target spoof on Eating Media Lunch; the "back, crack and sack" waxing segment on Reel Life's Vain Men. Special Mention: the Jackass vomelette - even more revolting than that sounds.

Best Comedy: The Office. Aaarrgh.

The Very Queer Eye Indeed Award: Investigate magazine, for suggesting that gay content on television is all part of Helen Clark's fiendish plan to brainwash us.

Best Evidence of Life on Mars: Martin Bashir's interview

with Michael Jackson; Pam Corkery's The Last Word.

Local Comedy of the Year: Sports Cafe, Moon TV, Eating Media Lunch - a good year for local shows that actually meant to make you laugh. Highly commended: Holmes's apology.

Best Show Featuring the PM in a Kayak: the Discovery Channel's The Royal Tour.

Best Reason to Destroy Your Television Before It Destroys You: The Big Night In, How's Life?, Hitler: The Rise of Evil, DIY Surgery, Finding J Smith; anything featuring Helen Clark in a kayak.

Makeover Madness Award: Extreme Makeover took things to Frankensteinian new heights, but the genre also spawned one of the best shows of the year, the hilarious Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.

Unlikely Stars: Iraq's former Minister of Information, the highly optimistic "Comical Ali"; "That Guy"; Queer Eye's divine Fab Five.

Things They Said:

"This interview is a disgrace!" - John Pilger.

"Little man!" - John Campbell goes gaga over David Tua.

"I'm sorry I won't answer any questions about my personal life, even though I like you very much." - At last! John Campbell finds someone (Chris Martin of the band Coldplay) who returns his affection.

"There are no American infidels in Baghdad. Never!" - "Comical Ali".

You're f---ing with the wrong person." - Mike King.

"These shoes aren't going to make me gay, are they?" - nervous punter on Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.

"It's like pre-war Iraq with Gandalf standing in for Saddam." - Jeremy Wells reports from The Return of the King premiere.

"You f---ing jumped up little f---head." - Guess who?l "My view is that everything we broadcast, one way or another, reflects the charter." - Ian Fraser. Right. So that's why Michael Jackson's Face screened in a DNZ slot and Perfect Match USA is screening in primetime on TV1.

Happy Holidays.