Auckland Daze – disturbing but likeable

by Diana Wichtel / 01 September, 2012
Fellow Aucklanders, we have something new to worry about.
The stars of new series 'Auckland Daze'


‘I need a programme,” declares unemployed thin model (thodel) Millen. “Let’s get with one!” This sort of purposeful-sounding, fundamentally meaningless pronouncement captures the vibe of Auckland Daze. More worryingly, it captures something about Auckland, with its blundering, headlong, smug momentum. After Daze, which began its life as an online series and is currently infesting TV1, we Jafas may have to think even more carefully before showing our botoxed and fake-baked faces south of the Bombay Hills. The comedy follows the delusional adventures of four scarily entitled showbiz types. They are played by actual showbiz types playing eye-wateringly awful versions of themselves. It’s all very self-reflexive – they might have called it Curb Your Entourage – but in a particularly regressive Antipodean kind of way. Cue a lot of truly revolting toilet jokes and more excruciating political incorrectness than even Paul Henry could countenance. “You’re a Maori, aren’t you?” someone says to star of stage and screen Mika. “Sometimes,” he says airily.

Millen, a creation of epic imbecility bravely played by Millen Baird, hangs out with other tragics, including Fasi, a Samoan stand-up comedian so bad you will find yourself groaning aloud in actual pain. There is Jimmy, a dwarf with a drinking problem whose dreams of getting into The Hobbit are thwarted by Craig Parker, and less-than-stable stuntman Glen. They lie around the pool, work out, drink – you had to fight the urge to check the listings and adjust the contrast in case this was another series of The GC. Daze comes with all kinds of warnings. “This web series contains swearing, sexual references, violence … We’ve got some bar scenes in there …” None of this is sufficient preparation for such running jokes as the characters’ pick-up lines, some contributed by online viewers. “I love every bone in your body, especially mine” seems almost romantic alongside “Roses are red, violets are blue. Shut up and get in the van.”

Millen still lives at home with his mother, Wanda, celebrity real estate agent and cougar, played, with blithe disregard for her dignity, by Jennifer Ward-Lealand. When Millen’s girlfriend, Natalie, refuses to move in with Wanda and her boy, Wanda exacts Old Testament vengeance. She breaks Natalie’s hair straightener and threatens to un-friend her on Facebook. “I’ve already blocked you, horse-face,” responds Natalie. The guys hang out with actors in sandals and skirts, engaging in thespian debate. “Ares – that’s the rip-off of Spartacus”; “No, Achilles was the rip-off of Ares.” Daze is juvenile and disturbing and makes you fear for the gene pool. I quite like it. Anyone considering a career in acting in New Zealand – or even living in New Zealand – should be forced to watch this.

Sadly, another self-parodying comedy set in the world of showbiz, the wonderful Episodes, in which Matt LeBlanc plays a tragic version of himself, has been chopped to make way for Auckland Daze. Did they not recognise a dream double bill? Episodes features Green Wing’s Tamsin Greig and Stephen Mangan as talented, if annoying, television writers who go to Los Angeles to recreate their clever comedy about a boarding-school headmaster. Think History Boys, the sitcom. Instead, they find themselves down the Hollywood rabbit hole, where they watch, first with panic, then with soul-destroying resignation as their show morphs into something ghastly called Pucks! It doesn’t sound like a barrel of laughs, but its hilarious skewering of show business cynicism is deadly. This is a world where the goody bag at a rape prevention fundraiser/wine-tasting
contains a bottle of wine, a corkscrew and an attack whistle.

As with Daze, there is sex, drugs and swimming pools. There was also, as time went on, a little poignancy
and insight. It didn’t deserve to be shelved. Yet, ironically, this is exactly the sort of thing that would happen to an excellent show in the craven media world of Episodes. As Woody Allen once said, “Life doesn’t imitate art, it imitates bad television.” Or even, on occasion, brilliant television.

AUCKLAND DAZE, TV1, Thursday, 10.05pm.

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