Hard News by Russell Brown


The Munter and the Munted

I'm glad that this will be the last series of Outrageous Fortune. Really. I know TV3 harboured hopes of getting its hit show to run and run, but it's right and proper that the writers who brought the phenomenon into being will be allowed to bring it properly to a close.

Better that, than it simply be kept on air until we eventually fell out of love and the talent drifted away. This way, we can begin watching it tonight in the knowledge that there will be An Ending.

I don't seem to have reviewed the first episode, but various of us have kept you updated on the Wests here these past six years.

I found, in Ep 2, Season 2, the best line to have aired on television that year:

"Well … yeah - but only because I thought you were Hayley Westenra!"

Fiona reeled with Aurora's shocking death, we discovered the true meaning of Tutaekuri afterOutrageous Fortune: The Movie screened on Boxing day 2006. Our so-called sports blogger passed up the Olympics to watch it in 2008. And the following year, Emma wrote this:

There are lots of reasons I love Outrageous Fortune. It'd be rude not to, really, after people went to so much trouble to make a dramatisation of a couple of years of my life. Alright, the names have been changed, but like I'm not going to recognise 'Pascalle' and 'Munter' and 'Van'. I'm just relieved that it wasn't me who slept with 'Aaron Spiller', it was 'Pascalle'. Alright, 'Munter' and 'Van' I'll cop to, but Aaron's name in Real Life was Rhys and the resemblance is fucking uncanny.

Primarily, though, I'd like to give Outrageous Fortune the first ever Up Front Award for Services to Sex (Television).

You may close your eyes and imagine what that trophy looks like.

Although I recognised the Auckland the Wests inhabited, they were not, as such, people I'd known. The people who created it were. The conspiracy theories are true: the liberal cultural elite really did club together back then, at parties in draughty Grey Lynn villas. As Shortland Street became the unstoppable soap, people I knew worked on it, got burned out, left, went back, moved on.

Like everyone else, James Griffin and Rachel Lang were there too. I recall an enjoyable interview with James on bFM, where he made two observations that are still worth hearing. One was his view that Shortland Street's dramatic moments were always most effective when they were set against comedy. The other was that when we look at brilliant TV writing (I think we were talking about prime-period Sex and the City), we often forget that everyone involved in those successes has previously failed, and learned from that.

And so, there was the should've-worked-better City Life, and the fairly funny Serial Killers. James, a Public Address reader, chipped in here to explain what really happened with City Life:

It was a very odd show to work on. The oddest day was turning up for work and being asked if I was coming to the meeting. What meeting, I asked. The meeting where everyone was being told the series was being dumped from its timeslot, I was told. Its always nice when you're the last one to find out.

I later found out there was a senior TVNZ executive (now departed these shores) who said I would never write for another TV show as long as I lived, all because of City Life.


And then (yes, I'm leaving some bits out) there was Outrageous. I wonder if it might not have gone to TV3 had TVNZ not been going through a period of curious hostility towards South Pacific Pictures, but it did.

This was the brilliant TV all that learning went into. Lesson number one? It's the characters, stupid.

They were young and old and stupid and weak and devious and sexy and scary and caring and funny. The things they did had authenticity because their actions flowed from who they were. You'll have your favourite. You may even have pondered which one you'd have sex with. Emma Hart chose Jethro over Van, even though Van would surely have been much the more attentive lover (which goes to show I don't know much about women).

And they became family. As James pointed out in his wonderful long-strange-trip piece for Saturday's Canvas magazine (now online!):

For all the sex and the swearing and the crime and the stupidity and the morally dodgy stuff, Outrageous Fortune was always, at heart a very conservative show, exploring family values.

And the production itself was a family, with all the tears and laughter that might entail:

We were all in this together. We were the Wests and we fell in and out of love with each other, but that was our right, and if anyone from outside said bad things about our family or tried to hurt us in anyway, by crikey we would put aside our differences to join forces to kick their arses.

Yes, within the walls there were fights and there were family bust-ups and occasionally things got thrown (usually food, as it turned out) but the fights were always followed by hugs and tears. I think there have been more tears shed while making bloody Outrageous Fortune than on any other show in television history.

The series is wrapped and the production family has had its ending – although I'd be extremely surprised if they didn't contrive another wake, just to be along with the rest of us.

And there is a next act. The Almighty Johnsons, written by James and Rachel, began shooting this month. It stars Keisha Castle-Hughes, and it's also about a family. With godlike superpowers.

Rachel has already collaborated with Gavin Strawhan on Go Girls (dear curmudgeon reviewers – bite me), and later this month, This Is Not My Life, starring Charles Mesure, starts on TV One. My in-house TV reviewer has seen the first two episodes and is very impressed. Creepy, she says. In a good way.

It's also likely that when this season finishes, you'll have the opportunity to revisit the story with new faces. When Outrageous was licensed for adaption to the US, SPP carved out an exception to TVNZ's Disney/ABC supply deal so that TV3 can, if it chooses to, screen the American version, Scoundrels. The British adaption, Honest, was just a mistake, but Scoundrels, now up to Ep 3 of its summer run, has its moments. I suspect its main problem is that it's a network show: this is a tricky story to tell without nudity, swearing and smoking.

But tonight, we'll be watching the first episode of the final season of Outrageous Fortune. Live. Not even on the DVR. We'll find something to do during the ad breaks. It's too soon to cry, but I confidently predict we'll laugh.

Thanks, all. Go well.

PS: You can watch last season's finale online here.

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