Cheers TVNZ?…?for nothing


T?here are some jobs you can probably do without. 

Spokesperson for BP Oil springs to mind. Public relations advisor for the Israeli “Defence” Force. Speech writer for Sarah Palin. 

But if there were one pair of shoes to avoid in television last week they had to belong to TVNZ spokeswoman Andi Brotherston, who rather unluckily found herself having to defend the indefensible after the deserved slating of the broadcaster’s celebratory show, Cheers for 50 Years. 

The only redeeming aspect of this cringe-worthy attempt to celebrate half a century of New Zealand television was the polished performance of host Jason Gunn who, like Brotherston, managed to stand out despite the level of quality, rather than because of it. 

For those fortunate enough to have missed it, Cheers was produced in a game show format that pitted Simon Dallow, Lucy Lawless, Dave Fane and Matt Gibb against Simon Barnett, Jackie Clarke and Jordan Vandermade, on the subject of Kiwi telly. 

I still have no idea who Vandermade is, and given his response to most of the questions asked, I’m not sure if he does either. 

Be that as it may, it was still Brotherton’s performance in the days that followed that caught the eye. 

Dismissing the archival footage most folk were expecting as being too “slow paced”, she then came out with this memorable statement: 

“If it was poor, people wouldn’t have stayed with it. People don’t stay watching terrible television.” 

This was nonsense, of course. The numbers don’t lie. 

According to TVNZ’s own figures more than 760,000 people tuned in to watch Cheers, apparently making it the sixth-highest rating programme of the year. 

Clearly then, people do “stay and watch terrible television”. And not just terrible. One blogger described Cheers as crap, another as a “pile of dog-turds”. 

Even Brotherston confirmed there had been some criticism, but preferred to call the feedback “mixed”. 

All of which should act as a timely promotional tool for Prime TV’s more substantial, documen-tary-style offering on the same topic; 50 Years of Television (Sunday, 8.30pm). I mean it would be hard for it to be any worse. 

Prime are pushing the 90-minute special as a look back at the evolution of television, from the first broadcast in 1960 to the multi-channel, high-definition, 3-D offerings of today. 

Hopefully this will also mean a chance to re-live many of those old watershed moments that we were deprived of last week – coverage of the Vietnam War protests, Bastion Point and the Queen St Riots; glimpses of some of our early TV celebrities; the likes of Billy T James, Hudson and Halls and Selwyn Toogood. 

Not to mention the shows: Gliding On (was it as funny as it seemed?), A Week of It and McPhail & Gadsby; the move into politics, the development of sports broadcasting and, if we’re really lucky, some of those early, embarassingly-inept cricket commentaries. 

I’d stay up all night to hear Glyn Tucker again, and he was both terrible and slow-paced. But he was still better than a game show.