Speaker by Various Artists

Kicking and screaming with Mr Gormsby

by Nathan Torkington

This has got to be the definition of "dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century": the first season of the Kiwi satire show Seven Periods With Mr Gormsby is being respectably traded on BitTorrent. The private tracker Demonoid shows between 100 and 200 downloaders for each show, as does the public tracker mininova. The most recent Lost did more downloads (20k and still going) but Gormsby's done well to be 1% of Lost with no marketing budget. For those of you keeping track of how much the production company would have made if they'd put it on Google Video and charged $2/view, Demonoid doesn't represent all the downloaders - there have probably been more than 500 downloads.

It says a lot about our pisspoor broadband that it's only traded on BitTorrent because someone in Australia grabbed it when it was broadcast over there (you can see the ABC logos in the bottom-right corner). Even though the show's available on DVD, nobody's taken the easier route of ripping the DVD and uploading. I can easily attribute that to the gut-shot upload speeds of our last mile net connections.

But it might just be because nobody knows that you can buy the DVD. The show's Internet presence lies somewhere between diddly-squat and fuck-all (stop me if all this tech jargon gets too much). If you Google for the show, you find an IMDB listing (Internet Movie Database—Wikipedia for TV and movies but without the recent controversies) but no home page. The second hit in Google is TV1's listing of the second series, and the third hit is the ABC Shop offering to sell you (from Australia) a copy of the DVD. Amusingly, it's worse if you search just within New Zealand—the first hits are Broadcasting Standards Authority (BSA) pages about complaint from a wingnut in Whangarei and a Dame in Wellington.

You can only determine that the show's available for purchase within New Zealand by scanning down to the sixth Google result where Aro Video list it for $29.95. Things are even more grim on Yahoo! search, where the IMDB entry is nowhere near the top and if you just search for "gormsby" the results contain (surprisingly tame) discussion on skinheads.net. Yes, BitTorrent users are peer-to-peer trading a show that doesn't even have a web site.

NZ television needs a bit of a hurry-up in the online department. Some shows like the venerable Shortland Street, the excellent Maddigan's Quest, and even the stained grundies of New Zealand culture, Street Legal, have perfectly good web presences. Bonus points to Maddigan's Quest for streaming episodes online as the shows were airing in New Zealand, though all the episodes were already on BitTorrent because they had aired in the UK before they aired in New Zealand (!). However, these shows seem to be the exception rather than the norm.

NZ TV hasn't had to worry about building web sites before, because we were all afraid of our computers - every time we dared fire up Internet Explorer it was a race between the malware forcing its way over our dog-slow XTRA dialup line and Telecom's per-megabyte charge for that malware to see which would leave us sorer and poorer. But now there's at least the promise of more widespread, faster, and less gouged-for connections, we're about to join the rest of the developed world in turning to the Internet first for answers. And that means that if TV shows want to be found, talked-about, cited, and linked-to, they had better bloody well have a web site. Even crusty old coots like Gormsby.

If the TV shows don't engage with the Internet, they leave it to the skinheads, the downloaders, and the BSA to say who and what they are - and you can be sure those pages won't give a toss about selling DVDs or getting a second season.