Radiation by Fiona Rae

Scheduling schmeduling

I’d like to draw your attention to a little gem called Julian and Camilla’s World Odyssey. Someone’s got to. For unfathomable and no doubt stupid reasons, TVNZ has seen fit to screen it at 1pm on a Thursday. Perhaps they think the slacker backpackers who might want to see it will be home then, or smoking dope in some hostel with others of their kind.

What they fail to understand, of course, is that it’s not only slacker backpackers who would like to see it. People who have never been backpacking might like to know how the other half lives and then they can say, “I’ve never been to a full moon party in Thailand, but I saw it on TV and it looked effing shocking.”

The show is pretty much as the name suggests: Julian and Camilla have recorded their travels – I saw last week’s episode in Thailand – but they managed to get in a few documentary-style items as well. Like talking to a “gender reassignment” surgeon in Thailand. I had a real sense of what it was like being there on the beach as everyone got loaded on a “bucket of joy” at the full moon party, or on Julian and Camilla’s train journeys or their trek, complete with elephant ride.

Speaking of stupid scheduling, National Radio’s Mediawatch played an interview last week with Anne-Marie Duff, general manager of programming at TVNZ, who said that the reason The Market is on at 10.30 at night is because it is censored to be there. I’m not entirely sure how the internal censorship thing works – the networks have their own censors, who give programmes ratings – but according to the BSA website, AO programmes can play after 8.30pm, or if they contain a greater degree of violence, sexual activity etc, should play after 9.30pm. Here’s the guidelines, if you scroll down to Appendix 1, it tells you the classifications and time zones. From the outside, Duff claiming her hands are tied seems like rubbish – after all, if CSI can play at 8.30pm, or Nip/Tuck at 9.30pm, why should The Market, which has hardly got continual sex and violence, play at 10.30pm? There’s no mention of a 10.30pm watershed time for programmes in the guidelines.

The thing that really, really, really irritates me, is that – with a couple of exceptions – TVNZ can’t see innovative television when it’s right in front of it. And it constantly squanders its opportunities to make innovative television. Like a great, big, stupid institution, it always takes the safest path which, I guess, has worked for quite a while. But now it’s stopped working, TVNZ doesn’t know what to do. Instead, we’re going to have to suffer through yet another bloody rebranding exercise courtesy of Saatchi & Saatchi.

Years ago, just before the Charter was instituted at TVNZ, there was a live debate on TVNZ about broadcasting. Rick Freisen, of TV3, was asked whether he thought the Charter would be bad for TVNZ. His reply was something along the lines of, “Don’t write off Rick Ellis. He’s a smart guy, he’ll find a way to make this thing work.” Ellis is gone now, of course, and what successive chief executives and boards and middle managers and heads of department have failed to have is a bloody vision that would have set TVNZ up as an innovator and creator of good telly. Jeez, they had free money to do so. Instead they’re now constantly being shown up by smarty-pants such Mark Jennings (TV3 head of news who set up Campbell Live) and Caterina De Nave (commissioner of bro’Town and Outrageous Fortune) and Andrew Shaw at Prime. And despite the fact that CanWest is global media organisation and Prime is now owned by Sky, they constantly look like the plucky underdogs.

Okay, ‘nuff said. Ocean liners take a long time to turn around and TVNZ has been crowing about its ratings for Insiders Guide to Happiness which, it must be said, was given the best possible time slot for a 9.30pm show – after the hugeness that is Desperate Housewives. They keep mentioning the new local dramas slated for next year as well – Rude Awakenings and Orange Roughies. The trouble with being reliant on British output, for TV1 anyway, is what happens when that output starts to suck. Here’s NZ On Air’s recent report into attitudes towards locally-made television: we want it.

In other news, Oprah has just appeared on Letterman after 16 years, quadrupling his viewership. The show plays here on Monday night – she was really doing it to promote the musical of The Color Purple.

Enjoyed this list of TV’s Top 10 Scariest Characters, although I dunno what John Locke from Lost is doing there. And I always thought Paulie, or Tony, from The Sopranos was scarier than Silvio.