By the conventional wisdom, The Nutters' Club shouldn't make good television. It is, after all, just pictures of some people in a room making talkback radio. But it works as television for the same reason it works as radio: it's frank, funny, honest, unburdening and even transgressive.
The radio show, hosted by Mike King and psychiatrist David Codyre on Sunday evenings on Radio Live, speaks to, and for, people with mental illness -- and of course, hears from them too. The way it has found an audience -- from a once-dead timeslot on the radio, to Facebook, to Maori Television and, now, a book -- has been surprising and gratifying for everyone concerned.
I've been on the show myself, talking about being the father of autism spectrum disorder kids. No, AS isn't a mental illness, but in the real world it is associated with various psychological challenges. AS people are more likely to suffer depression and anxiety, and -- as we have been seeing lately -- run into trouble with the police. It felt like a really worthwhile thing to do, and I felt comfortable speaking frankly. At one point we got an unhelpful caller, who was gently but firmly seen off by Mike.
It's certainly not all shits 'n' giggles. Perhaps inevitably, the hosts have more than once encountered the most difficult situation in live radio -- the suicidal caller. I'll be talking to King and Codyre about handling that and about what makes the show tick on Media7 this week.
In the second half of the show, I'll be talking Chris Banks and Andy Jalforn about a completely different production -- but one, like the Nutters' Club, created with the assistance of the Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand.
Their film, The Colonel's Outing, is the story of two elderly men who develop a loving relationship when they are brought together in a rest home. We'll talk about getting these stories made.
If you'd like to join us for the Media7 recording, come along to the Victoria Street entrance of TVNZ (it's a gate leading to a courtyard) after 5.15pm (but before 5.45!) tomorrow evening.
Otherwise, I'm interested in your views on the topic.