Disaster telly

by Diana Wichtel / 25 December, 2010
It was a good year for local drama and local comedians, but then there were the earthquakes, volcanoes and floods ... not to mention Paul Henry's racist eruptions - and the small screen got to show what it's still capable of when it comes to big events. Here, then, are the <i>Listener's</i> annual best and worst awards.

2010: beginning of a new decade or end of the old? We bickered our way into a new millennium having that old argument, so let's not. Either way, uncertainty suits a turbulent year. 2010 is the Year of the Tiger and the big cat had its claws out.

Television worked its socks off broadcasting disaster after disaster. The Haiti quake in January, another in China in April. Eyjafjallajökull erupted in a cloud of ash and unpronounceable consonants. TV3's mad volcano drama, Eruption, was almost as much of a disaster. There were the floods in Pakistan and then our own date with the Richter scale in Christchurch. The Chilean miners lifted spirits that were dashed at Pike River. Twenty-nine souls. Television helped make West Coasters of us all.

The medium was also perfectly capable of dividing the nation over such vital issues as whether Paul Henry is a complete arse. But then everyone from Andy Haden to the Prime Minister also had attacks of foot in mouth. The country produced a sort of crazy remake of The Hobbit, as written by Charles Dickens: harmless, peace-loving thespians receive death threats for asking if they can please, Sir Peter, have some more.

It was a brutal year: the news was full of cruelty to children and cruelty to animals. There were, thank God, images of grace: Emma Woods embracing the sobbing teenage driver who killed her four-year-old son.

It was a good year for local comedians in late-evening slots with the variable charms of A Night at the Classic, Feedback and 7 Days. There was some television drama - Bloodlines, a second series of Go Girls - and it was better than The Cult.

As for serious current affairs in primetime, there were flickers of life such as Campbell Live's reporting on Destiny Church. But mostly - the Cadbury Creme Egg backlash!; how to straighten your hair! - it was a circus. As Campbell Live's Tristram Clayton said, after smoking a legal herbal joint on our behalf, "It's safe to say I'm impaired."

It was the big events that showed what the small screen can still do. We saw it in Christchurch, once TV3 got its act together. We saw it at Pike River, even if over­emotional local journalists sometimes allowed themselves to be finessed out of asking the hard questions. In the face of commercial pressure and corporate cynicism, that public-service spirit is increasingly threatened with extinction. Let's not allow that to happen.

Meanwhile, there's much to celebrate in our annual highly subjective trawl through the best and worst we saw.

And the winner is...

The "Cometh the Hour, Cometh the Mayor" Award for Rising to the ­Occasion:

Christchurch's Bob Parker and Auckland's Len Brown are beaten out by the bluff unself-consciousness of Greymouth's Tony Kokshoorn.

How to Make a Public Apology:

Shane Jones - no excuses, even for the "Prawnographic" pizza. David Fane, on comments about Jews and people with HIV: "Dumb words said by a dumb man."

How Not to Make a Celebrity Apology:

Tiger Woods; Paul Henry; Robin Brooke; David Garrett; the "puckish" Michael ­Laws ...

Puckhead of the Year:

Out of a crowded field, Michael Laws.

Ngati Us Award:

Maori TV's Waitangi Day coverage; Mikey Havoc brings his unthreatened, it's-only-television sensibility to race relations in Are You My Tribe?

Car Crash Television:

Where to begin? Paul Henry; the anniversary awfulness of TVNZ's Cheers to 50 Years; Eruption; any show about car crashes.

The Remake Mistake Award:

Spartacus: Blood and Sand.

The Television Actually Is Crap Award:

Campbell Live explores the toileting habits of free campers; MAF hunts out medicinal squirrel droppings on Border Patrol.

Best Educational Moment:

Border Patrol. Who knew squirrel droppings could be medicinal?

The Mr Spock Award for Literal Mindedness:

Shortland Street's cliffhanger, in which Keiran and Sean ... hung from a cliff.

Comedy of the Year:

The dysfunctional goings-on in a family of mismatched egomaniacs - the Act Party beats out Modern Family. Nurse Jackie. Matty McLean on Breakfast.

Animal of the Year:

Paul the World Cup Octopus; Juanita, the dog that survived 16 days alone on a yacht; the squirrel with the medicinal droppings. Moko - RIP.

Services to Sanity Award:

To Prime, for Survivor, Being Human, Last Chance to See, QI ... And for showing TVNZ how it should be done with its excellent 50 Years of Television in New Zealand. UKTV: Who Do You Think You Are? and pre-Raphaelite romp Desperate Romantics.

Walking with Dinosaurs Award:

Andy Haden, for his Jurassic views on young women and rugby players.

Binned:

Paul Henry; TV3's Sunrise; any semblance of serious primetime current affairs.

Best Local Drama:

The whole year was a drama. In the realms of fiction, the great Outrageous Fortune went out in an only slightly disappointing cloud of hype, cigarette smoke and saccharine. And we were happy to hang out in wacky Waimoana with This Is Not My Life. More, please.

Best Indigenous Existential Moment:

Charles Mesure stuck in paradise without his shirt, going, "Who am I?"; "Who are you?"; "Why am I here?"

Worst Drama:

TV3's Eruption; Paul Henry - can he be sent to Waimoana?

Best Doco:

Winnebago Man on the Documentary Channel: angry mobile-home salesman as art. Anything involving Louis Theroux.

Worst Weather Line:

Jim Hickey's "Easy peasy sea breezy." Unforgivable.

Trickiest News Dilemma:

Pippa Wetzell being unsure whether to wear her happy face or her sad face "It's sad. It's sweet, though. It's sweet ..." - when announcing a trapped Chilean miner had become a father.

Best Corrie Food-Related Dialogue:

Blanche scores highly with the philosophical "You know where you are with a banana." As does Luke's take on his date with Rosie: "There was more understanding, more spark in the eyes of me king prawns." But the award goes to Teresa and the kebab-shop poetry of "You can take your butties and bog off."

Unlikely Stars:

Tony Kokshoorn, University of Canterbury geologist Mark Quigley.

Biggest Damp Patch:

WikiLeaks lobs a grenade into Pandora's Box; "leaky mayor" Andrew Williams waters a lemon tree.

Most Annoying Instrument:

Those musical veges in the New World ad; the vuvuzela.

Most Annoying Word:

Vuvuzela.

Best Toddler Show for Adults:

Timmy Time, from Aardman. He's a little lamb with a lot to learn.

Best Soap. Ever:

Coronation Street. Fifty years of Ken Barlow? Thirty-six years of Gail Platt? Flaming Nora. It's a mystery up there with the Shroud of Turin, but it's brilliant.

Best Wedding:

The bride was dead drunk the first time and arrested for drug dealing the second: Coro's Steve and Becky stage a feathered fiasco. How will Wills and Kate compete?

The Phil Gaffe Award for Clanger of the Year:

John Key calls the US Secretary of State "President" Clinton; Phil Goff takes a trip in the Tardis and mistakes David Cunliffe for David Caygill; Sarah Palin expresses solidarity with North Korea; Sarah Murdoch announces the wrong winner on Australia's Next Top Model. And, following the lead of our own Simon Dallow when he referred to "the global credit c---", UK broadcasters unleashed a hail of "c" bombs.

Happy holidays.

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