TV Awards 2017: A year of trials, trolling and tribulation

by Diana Wichtel / 12 January, 2018

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An indelible line of Kiwi dialogue in Shortland Street.

After a year that saw tragic tweets, naked dating shows and indignant dinosaurs, Diana Wichtel names her television Best & Worst.

As a great philosopher once said, “We’re all just evolved gorillas that are trying to hide our leftover body hair.” Actually, that was Nina from The Bachelor New Zealand. Never mind. It’s as good an explanation as anything for 2017, a year when the Aussies finally got their heads around same-sex marriage and some powerful sexual predators finally got called out. It was also a year of alternative facts, fake news, ill-advised Trump tweets and white supremacists marching in the streets of America.

Thanks to the America’s Cup and, well, Lorde, we made our mark on the world. On the other hand, our reputation as a barking small nation was enhanced when Last Week Tonight’s John Oliver got wind of then Prime Minister Bill English’s wretched spaghetti-and-pineapple pizza. The alleged confusion by US President Donald Trump over the exact nature of Jacinda Ardern’s relationship with Canadian PM Justin Trudeau threatened to cause an international incident. Jimmy Kimmel and Alec Baldwin re-enacted for bemused viewers of Jimmy Kimmel Live! the Shortland Street cliffhanger featuring this indelible line of Kiwi dialogue: “Please tell me this is not your penis.” Dear oh dear.

It was a year of some workmanlike local drama: Jean, Dear Murderer, The Brokenwood Mysteries … As its habitat is progressively destroyed, the near-extinct species that is television current affairs clings on in such shows as TVNZ 1’s Q+A, Three’s The Nation and Maori TV’s Native Affairs and Hui. Quietly enjoyable local programmes such as Grand Designs NZ, Heritage Rescue (museum makeovers) and Lost and Found (reuniting family since ages ago) showed that reality television isn’t required to be complete crap.

It was left to new platforms such as Netflix, with provocations like 13 Reasons Why, tackling teen suicide and rape culture, to show that television can still shock, disrupt, shout fire in a crowded theatre or, in the case of Sky SoHo’s Curb Your Enthusiasm, shout fatwa at a crowded Jewish funeral to get our attention.

2017: channel surfing one day, you could come across footage of a burning tower block in one of the world’s great cities in which men, women and children were trapped and about which seemingly almost nothing could be done. It often seemed like no one was in charge.

It was a year of trials, trolling and tribulation. Women – Hilary Barry on Breakfast, Kanoa Lloyd on The Project – stopped being the sidekick. The courage under fire of some broadcasters ensured Māori language found a place on mainstream television and radio. Despite the indignant roaring of dinosaurs, we were becoming more ourselves. There will be no going back.

So, here’s the annual slightly pained, ever-hopeful, highly subjective trawl through the best and worst we’ve seen. Happy Holidays.

13 Reasons Why.

Shocking Viewing of the Year

Teen suicide drama 13 Reasons Why.

Shocker of the Year

The glitches, nip-slip and galloping-retro awfulness of the Miss Universe New Zealand.

Soap-tastrophe of the Year

The eruption of Mt Ferndale for the 25th anniversary of Shortland Street threatened to vaporise a viewer’s brain cells; the infamous live episode of Coronation Street in which Kylie killed her homicidal drug-dealer ex and David buried him under the floor of Gail’s garage conversion. Another day on Planet Platt.

The “Will You Accept This Rose?” Award for Reality Couple of the Year

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle; Winston Peters and Jacinda Ardern.

Born This Way: Awa’s Story.

Best Current Affairs Item

Sunday’s Born This Way: Awa’s Story, about transgender film-maker Awa Puna and her family.

Worst Current Affairs Item

Sunday’s spectacularly tone-deaf tale of ski-resort pioneer and former Nazi Waffen-SS soldier Willi Huber.

Presenter of the Year

The Project’s Kanoa Lloyd, for heartfelt, unsentimental reports on youth suicide, life on a benefit and an elegant takedown of the “bigotty” response to a few words of te reo on the airwaves.

Useful Word of an Often-Dispiriting Year


Euphemism of the Year

Top of the Lake: China Girl’s “She’s gone to Canberra”, a fate arguably not as bad as being thrown off a cliff in a suitcase. “Chicky babe” – delivered by a right-wing male talkback host, it means “threateningly powerful young woman”.

Nude-dating game show Naked Attraction.

Jerk of the Year

Up against unprecedented competition, Curb Your Enthusiasm’s Larry David remains a complete arse.

Drama of the Year

We binged on Ozark, Tin Star, Game of Thrones, but the award goes to The Handmaid’s Tale. Margaret Atwood’s 80s dystopia is terrifyingly relevant again. Twin Peaks season three – work of genius or hellish hot mess? Either way, an event.

Dramedy of the Year

Transgender triumph Transparent; anything involving the election.

Actor of the Year

It was going to be Transparent’s Jeffrey Tambor until those public sexual-harassment allegations. Oh dear. It’s been that kind of year.

Punishing Sight of the Year

Duncan Garner’s The AM Show jackets; Mike Hosking’s distressed denims; the pants-free punters on nude-dating game show Naked Attraction.

The AM Show’s Duncan Garner.

The “It’ll End in Tears” Award for Reality Downer of the Year

The mismatches on Married at First Sight NZ; an almost profit-free season of The Block NZ.

The “Nice Guy Comes First” Award

To Survivor NZ’s Avi Duckor-Jones, who planned to use some of his $100,000 prize to help a school in Ghana.

Overused Paddy Gowerism of the Year

“Drama!”; “Utu!; “Winston!” (feel free to jump in here).

The Push Me, Pull You Award for Disturbing Body Language

The freakish Trump handshake.

Best McNugget-Related News Report

From Sydney: “When the heavily intoxicated vegan went to the Thornleigh Maccas drive-through, they refused to serve him nuggets, because they were not on the breakfast menu.” He was just a hungry Kiwi in search of an ambitious 200 nuggets.

Survivor NZ.

The McNumpty Award

To the 9News reporter who chased the animal lover after his court date, demanding, “What were you doing with all those nuggets?”

Animal of the Year

Mr Pigglesworth the pig on Married at First Sight NZ; late police guinea-pig Constable Elliot and Tia the police cat scored highly. But the prize goes posthumously to our tweeting polydactyl First Cat. RIP, Paddles.

Most Mature Character on Married at First Sight NZ

Mr Pigglesworth.

Character of the Year

Jeffrey Tambor’s Maura (formerly Mort) Pfefferman; Dougie Jones, Kyle MacLachlan’s endearing, coffee-loving idiot savant on Twin Peaks; Elisabeth Moss’s steely Offred in The Handmaid’s Tale.

Viral Video of the Year

That Korea expert who had his BBC interview interrupted by his toddler and baby.

Viral Video Parodying the Viral Video of the Year

Jono and Ben’s feminist multitasker who does an interview while cleaning the toilet, cooking dinner, minding kids and defusing a bomb.

Feud: Bette and Joan.

Punishingly Overused Expression of the Year

Mike Hosking’s “Any way, shape or form”, as in “Without blowing my trumpet in any way, shape or form …”

The Golden Log Award for Courage Under Fire

The Twin Peaks’ Log Lady, valiantly played by a terminally ill Catherine E Coulson.

The Feud, Glorious Feud Award

To Feud: Bette and Joan – a timely reminder that the entertainment industry has always been a toxic environment for women.

The “Danger, Will Robinson!” Award

For TVNZ 1’s What Next?, in which we learnt that in the future John Campbell still won’t eat bugs.

This article was first published in the January 6, 2018 issue of the New Zealand Listener.


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