The Best and Worst Television of 2016

by Greg Dixon / 27 December, 2016

Naz Khanjani, Paul Henry and Julia Sloane.

It was a year in which some Auckland housewives made racist and sexist comments and the most popular shows seemed to be reheats of bad TV takeout.

Forget “post-truth”. Forget “xenophobia”. The word of the year wasn’t actually a word at all, it was a bleeeeeep! Never in the field of local telly history has so much been said to so many but so little of it heard, as when Louise Wallace tried passing on gossip about Gilda Kirkpatrick on The Real Housewives of Auckland, only to have it bleeped into oblivion.

It may not have been the world’s longest bleeeeeep!, but it was certainly an Olympic-standard one. And I’m sure it wasn’t done out of concern for viewers’ delicate constitutions.

If we were going to have an attack of the vapours while watching The Real Housewives of Auckland, it would have been during the episode ­dedicated to a racist ­comment, or perhaps during the one with the skin-crawling discussion about a cock ring, or maybe the one with the most appallingly sexist comment heard on local television this year: “Darling, you have to understand: I pay for the pants, I get into the pants.”

So, no, the nation’s longest bleeeeeep! wasn’t really about us at all, it was to save the blushes of – and probably a blood vendetta from – Kirkpatrick, a woman who, as she reminded viewers, comes “from the land of the AK-47”.

Elsewhere on local tele­vision, 2016 proved to be the land of no new ideas.

Hilary Barry and Mike McRoberts.

The most popular shows seemed to be reheats of bad TV takeout: new series of The Bachelor NZ and The Block – shows that make me want to commit harakiri but which remain mysteriously exciting to Twitter twits, TV bloggers and tabloid newspaper editors. Meanwhile, First Dates New Zealand furthered the trend toward peeping-tom TV, Nigel Latta droned on again about something and Westside and Dirty Laundry reminded us that Outrageous Fortune may be gone, but the ratings it generated will never be forgotten by unimaginative programmers.

Kiwi comedy was business as usual, too, with the best laughs again unintended and often from the mouth of the ever-more lifelike Mike ­Hosking. Meanwhile, local drama was plentiful, but in the case of Filthy Rich, very silly indeed, or like Hillary, good without ever quite becoming what it was promoted as: landmark ­television. Actually, the best local dramas were off-screen, with TVNZ dumping its Breakfast hosts, Hilary Barry dumping Paul Henry, Paul Henry “semi-retiring” from MediaWorks and MediaWorks suddenly saying goodbye to its CEO, the much-loved and respected vintner Mark Weldon. ­MediaWorks’ ­newsroom was so upset about the last one that it immediately sent out for the finest wines known to man, although possibly not for Weldon’s Terra Sancta.

As entertaining as all that was, though, the best locally made television I saw turned out to be current affairs: Pike River, a feature-length documentary on the mine tragedy. Conversely, the most infuriating thing was the further retreat from current affairs indicated by TV3’s announcement that Campbell Live replacement Story will be replaced by something even less like current affairs in 2017.

Thank goodness for abroad. You could almost forget about the even more dumbed-down news, the continuing ­reality television overload and Hosking by instead tuning into some unbelievably good television from the US and Britain. Some of it screened on traditional television, but mostly it was found on streaming services Netflix and Lightbox. Long may my ­internet connection be strong and uninterrupted.

Still, you have to give traditional TV its due. It gave 2016 a bleeeeeep! so big it was probably visible from space. But they weren’t the only moments deserving of a gong. Here, in no particular order, are a few more ­subjective and selective awards for the best and worst of television in 2016. Happy watching in 2017.

Honking Great Goose of the Year: Mike Hosking. Still. Mind you, on those nights he’s not on Seven Sharp, you always miss him. The show just isn’t the same without his near-perfect Westworld-like impersonation of one of us.

The Sexy Wonderbra For Making a Complete Tit of Yourself: Paul Henry, semi-retired breast man. If he really wants to leave New Zealand, can we name a distant star after him and send him there?

Hook-up of the Year: Hilary Barry. No sooner had she walked out on her insufferable husband of 20-odd years, TV3, than she was announcing she’d moved in with some old duffer named TVNZ. Proof you’re never too old for Tinder.

Divorce of the year: It was almost Hilary Barry. Instead, it’s Heather du Plessis-Allan. Fair enough she’d decided to leave MediaWorks, but announcing her decision via a tabloid paper owned by a MediaWorks competitor wasn’t subtle. That’s one way to avoid working out your notice.

Most Devastating Force of Nature: Not so fast, ­Kai­koura earthquake. Please step ­forward The Real Housewives of Auckland’s Angela Stone. She should be given her own show immediately.

Rear of the Year: Prince Philip. Actually, British actor Matt Smith, who plays the great man, while briefly (but twice) showing off his firm, naked bottom, in the wonderfully good Netflix drama The Crown. What can I say? It’s always good to see Prince Philip making an arse of himself.

The Victoria Cross For Being a Brave Soldier: Mike ­McRoberts, the lonely, lone survivor of the Great War on talent at MediaWorks. Could someone please help him fill out the ACC forms for post-traumatic stress disorder?

The Baden-Powell Scarf For Most Widely Celebrated Demise: Scout. MediaWorks walked away from the gossip website, and immediately killed off Scout’s excruciating, minute-long gossip breaks before TV3’s 6pm news. ­Runner-up: the West African ebola outbreak, finally declared over in March.

Most Disappointing Appointment Viewing: Lotto. Twice a week, every bloody week!

The Donald J Trump Golden Hairpiece For Making Me Shout at the TV: Paddy Gower. Sent to cover the ­bonkers US presidential election, he responded in kind. I say send him back again as our ambassador – as things stand, it could only strengthen ties between our two great nations.

Wine of the Year: Mark Weldon’s Terra Sancta 2016. A little bitter at first, but it had a satisfyingly sweet finish.

Best Place to Eat Humble Pie: Ngaruawahia. After Heather du Plessis-Allan slagged off the Waikato town in a tabloid newspaper column, she then recanted, after the town stood up for itself, on Story. Doesn’t she know that the best way to throw shade is anonymously and online?

The Fake Sheikh Keffiyeh For Reporter of the Year: Newshub’s Julian Lee for his ground-breaking work on how you can lose weight on a ­beer-and-pie diet.

John Oliver.

The Captain Bligh ­Popularity Award For ­Unusual Boating ­Knowledge: The Real Housewives of Auckland’s Julia Sloane.

The Honorary Peerage For Most Hare-brained Idea: TVNZ, for its new channel Duke. Yes, it’s a silly name, but not as silly as the idea of a “male-skewed” channel filled with crap action shows and sport. Did I mention it’s 2016?

Kiss of the Year: Mike and Eleven in Stranger Things. It was more like a peck, but it was still the most heart-warming moment of the year.

The Bigfoot-Sighting Prize For the Nation’s Hairiest Man: Could someone give Story’s Ryan Bridge the name of a decent barber and buy him a goddamn razor? Thank you.

The David Bowie Starman Space Suit: The Auckland kids who gave us ­wonderful footage of the country’s first teddy bear launched into space on a high-altitude weather balloon. One small step for a teddy, one giant leap for Forrest Hill School Year 3 pupils.

Best Mea Culpa Mic Drop: The Bachelor NZ’s Naz ­Khanjani. After coming over a bit sweary, she apologised to viewers in a Facebook video, but not without sticking it to her social-media haters: “I dropped a couple of F-bombs under a lot of pressure – that doesn’t even compare to half the things some of you have written. What does that make you?” Naz out!

The Mr Robot “Please Tell Me You’re Seeing This Too” Hallucination: US election coverage; US election result. We’re down the rabbit hole and into Trump’s brain now, Alice.

The NRA’s “From My Cold, Dead Hands” Rifle: Heather du Plessis-Allan, again, for avoiding doing hard time for buying a gun illegally online for a Story story in 2015. In March, the cops finally opted not to charge her. Will her next job be gun running or gangsta rapping?

The Paddy Gower Foaming at the Bunghole Award For Best Political Commentary: John Oliver trying to get his head around Trump’s win. “A Klan-backed misogynist internet troll is going to be delivering the next State of the Union address,” he said. “That is not normal. That is f---ed up.”

Best Banzai Charge: The bloke who, on seeing Don Brash and David Rankin being interviewed in the street by TVNZ 1 news reporters, leapt out of his car and ran at them with a metre-long sword. Brash left quickly soon after, which on balance was probably less a “Hobson’s Pledge” and more a “Hobson’s Choice”.

The Millennium Falcon Hyperdrive Malfunction For Best Epic Fail: Mike ­Hosking in one of those talking ­Chewbacca masks. How could it go wrong? Unfortunately, he couldn’t make it go. The Force wasn’t with him.

The Pulitzer Prize For Showing Us the Future of Journalism: Duncan Garner, for keeping calm and ­continuing to live tweet about being stuck in a lift at TV3.

They said what?

“I can see breast.” – Paul Henry to Hilary Barry, Paul Henry

“She’s not overweight, but she’s a big unit.” – Louise Wallace on Angela Stone, The Real Housewives of Auckland

“I don’t cook, I host.” – Michelle Blanchard, TRHOA

“I actually hand-selected the marble.” – Blanchard again

“You know what I’ve heard about you? F---ing nothing.” – Gilda Kirkpatrick to Angela Stone, TRHOA

“I’m not used to little pricks.” – Julia Sloane is given an injection, TRHOA

“There’s no money in poor people.” – Economist Shamubeel Eaqub on Labour’s housing policy, Breakfast

“You go to the Holocaust Museum, you think this is as bad as humanity gets. But then you see someone playing Pokémon Go at the Holocaust Museum. You think, ‘Oh! Just got a little bit worse.” – Jack Tame on Seven Sharp

“To be honest, we haven’t even been showering.” – Emmett Vallender, The Block

“I spent the middle of the week getting naked in Hamilton.” – Jay-Jay Harvey, The Friday Show

“It’s a little bit funny, you silly bint.” – Hilary Barry, Paul Henry

“It’s my duty to @#$! her right off.” – Angry Naz Khanjani, The Bachelor NZ

“TV3 has a proud history of weekly current affairs, but that’s what it is now. History.” – Samantha Hayes on TV3’s changes

“She’s small, but she ain’t no midget.” – A servant appraises Queen Victoria, Victoria

“That’s the fabulous thing about the Olympics, you pay attention to sports you might not normally, and suddenly – ha, ha – you brush up to become armchair experts!” – Nadine Chalmers-Ross, Breakfast

“Now there’s a big sword here, we’ll pull that out [too].” – A healer removes spiritual “daggers” from Angela Stone, TRHOA

“Control is an illusion.” – Mr Robot, Mr Robot

“Do you like dogs? I thought I’d either go on a date or get a dog.” – Elaine, First Dates New Zealand

“A bunch of ice-veined monsters.” – The Duke of Windsor on the Windsors, The Crown

“Nothing says great live TV like a heart attack.” – Jack Tame, Breakfast

“I can’t get my head around it and I sure as hell can’t get my heart around it, either. It’s too big, too big. They killed our men, our boys. They killed them.” – Leeza Verhoeven, who lost son Zen Drew in the Pike River mine tragedy, Pike River

This article was first published in the January 7, 2017 issue of the New Zealand Listener. Follow the Listener on Twitter, Facebook and sign up to the weekly newsletter.


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