Hard News by Russell Brown


We invented everything

Fiona has to speak on a panel about Survivor-style reality shows at the weekend, so we watched a Survivor-style reality show for a while last night. Indeed, it may actually have been Survivor. I wouldn't know. They all look the same to me, and all the contestants seem like people I'd try and avoid down the pub.

That'll be it, actually: I can't relate to the sort of people who appear on this sort of show. I feel no empathy for them at all. And I think I'm correct in saying that the only New Zealanders with the personality for pointless castaway shows have been "celebrities".

We had Celebrity Treasure Island – and, although at least one person on that was not a celebrity at all, she was graspingly ambitious to be one. An American, which rather proves my point. We didn't have Non-Celebrity Treasure Island first; we jumped straight to the variant.

Oh yes, we have our array of knock-offs and franchises: The Apprentice, Masterchef and the staggeringly bad New Zealand's Hottest Home Baker, but none of those have the inbuilt psychological venality of the isolation shows. We've never had a Big Brother.

But here's the thing: New Zealand invented Big Brother, just like it invented Idol. Yes, most of us dimly recall that Jonathan Dowling's Popstars preceded Idol – members of True Bliss are still knocking about to remind us.

But who remembers Flatmates? I briefly wondered whether I'd imagined it myself, or at least got the name wrong – apart from the odd actor's CV, the original lock-'em-in-a-house-with-hidden cameras (and an internet stream, courtesy Ihug) show is virtually absent from the record. The co-creator, artist manager Karen Kay, doesn't mention it on her websites, and it's absent from the filmographies of the production company, Isambard. Even the broadcaster, TV4, is long gone.

But there it is, noted at the bottom of a Hard News from July 18, 1997. That's two years before Big Brother.

We have forgotten a show in which Jacqui Brown flashed her tits.

I suppose our house has a particular reason to recall the barely-on-the-rails spectacle that was Flatmates. Fiona reviewed it for the New Zealand Herald and received a preposterous threat of legal action from Kay and her hubby. One of the lines in the review alleged to be defamatory was actually a direct quote from the script of the show. Did I say it was preposterous?

But still: we invented Big Brother, and we were rather winningly crap at it.


Here's a flawed, but intriguing project: Peace. No, not the concept of laying down our arms and finding a way beyond violence and bloodshed, although that might fit the same description.

Peace is a project mounted by Amnesty International Catalunya and the obscure digital music platform Buffetlibre, which aims to be the internet's "first music atlas", with 180 songs donated by artists from 50 countries. New Zealand is represented by The Veils and the Phoenix Foundation.

The thing is, you can download all 180 tunes for a donation to Amnesty International Catalunya. The website is a bit crap, but the payment gateway works well enough. Then, the download options are unhelpful – either seven 250MB .rar files (so you can't listen to anything until you've got the bleedin' lot and can reassemble the archive) or 180 individual MP3s which need to be separately downloaded. Wouldn't this have been a good job for BitTorrent?

Nonetheless, if you're prepared to cough up the donation (we kicked in 15 Euros, which is less than 30 of our raging strong Kiwi dollars) and some bandwidth, this is quite a score, with bonus conscience points for supporting Amnesty.


Also: last night's Media7, on the media and climate change, is available for viewing on demand. On your Playstation 3, even.

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