A prediction: the second season of The Jaquie Brown Diaries (TV3, Fridays 9.35pm) will be the last.
Or at least, a third season will be a flop – a bridge too far for a show that, once you get the basic joke, is only mildly funny and certainly no more amusing than the industry it seeks to parody.
I mean, you’ve got to admit, there were far more laughs in the offing the other day when TV One’s arch-sceptic Paul Henry interviewed a TV One Sensing Murder “psychic” – and proceeded to treat the space cadet with deference and respect, as if viewers might be unaware of the conflict of interest.
Now that was real split-your-sides comedy.
This is where The Jaquie Brown Diaries faces its sternest challenge. The more absurd the New Zealand current affairs landscape, the harder it is to lampoon it. It’s a bit like Saturday Night Live star Tina Fey. Faced with the task of satirising US politician Sarah Palin, she eventually gave up and started mimicking her instead.
Maybe Jaquie Brown writers will have to consider a similar approach. After all, it’s difficult to trump the true story of TV3’s Campbell Live team, who last year used actors to recreate an interview with a fugitive then conned their national audience by passing it off as an original. How do you beat that?
The idea of plucking a real-life TV reporter from the floor and making her the central character in a satire about her former career seemed fresh and lively enough last year, as evidenced by The Jaquie Brown Diaries winning a Qantas gong for best comedy.
But whether it can sustain itself beyond this season is another question. It isn’t a new concept. In 30 Rock Fey played herself as the writer of a fictional comedy series, and of course stand-up comedian Jerry Seinfeld played himself in Seinfeld.
Both, it must be said, depended heavily on the quirkiness of the stories created around them, not to mention the quality of the writing.
The Jaquie Brown Diaries works hard in that area without really bringing home the bacon. Last week’s opening episode featured our starlet trying to rehabilitate her media career after a fall from grace and agreeing to work as radio co-host with James Coleman – formerly TV3’s Sunrise presenter – who also plays himself.
“I think the last time I saw him I called him a ‘festering, talentless bag of piss’,” says Brown when offered the job.
Much emphasis, of course, is placed on showcasing the bitchy, back-stabbing environment within the media, and though this is all pleasantly amusing the show consistently lacks a laugh-out-loud factor.
It’s also a shade one-dimensional in that it revolves entirely around Brown – there aren’t enough stories within the story.
For all that, The Jaquie Brown Diaries is a worthy enough initiative. To suggest it’s not bad for a NZ comedy might sound horribly patronising but this is a notoriously demanding genre. To have won a second season is quite a coup – a third might be pushing things.