Earlier this year, when the monstrosity of the new Three logo first slithered from the creative dungeons of MediaWorks, there was a public outcry, with viewers across New Zealand condemning it for being too weird. But none of this criticism fazed the team at Three and they stuck with it.
It was a bold move, but indicative of a confident brand looking to concretise its place in the New Zealand livingroom. And that confidence has now been woven into the programming lineup, which builds on the channel’s comedic strengths with the likes Jono & Ben, Funny Girls and 7 Days (all featured throughout The Hot List) while simultaneously breaking new ground with shows like The Project. There’s also a good dose of reality TV, with local versions of The Block and The Bachelor putting Three at the heart of the country’s conversations.
The strength of the channel is also carried online, where Threenow serves as host to both Three and Bravo shows, giving audiences their much-needed on-demand fix.
While Three was the outright winner in this category, it’s far from being the only risk taker these days. Also looking to change things up is TVNZ Duke, which launched last year in a bid to chase the eyeballs of the hard-to-reach 18- to 39-year-old males. A year on, it hasn’t failed in that mission as it boasts a 57 percent male skew with its unique blend of sports, comedy and drama.
Another recent edition to the local lineup is Sky’s edgy youth channel Viceland, which deserves a special mention for delivering younger subscribers a plethora of documentary-style programmes, such as Grace Neutral’s Needles & Pins, Ellen Page’s Gaycation and Action Bronson’s F*ck That’s Delicious.
All in all, the recent history of television is one of risk-taking. Long may it continue.
People's Choice Award
Having launched its colourful and mathematics-inspired rebrand last year, Three took the risk of alienating an audience accustomed to the classic TV3 look. However, the people have spoken, and 42.3 percent of voters picked the channel as the hottest one out there. And while Sky TV’s edgy youth channel Viceland might not be available free-to-air, but it still took out second place with 20.5 percent of the vote.
Nominees: Westside, Hillary, The Brokenwood Mysteries
Having recently celebrated 25 years on TV, Shortland Street is showing no sign of losing its momentum. A whopping 627,000 New Zealanders tuned in to watch the celebratory special feature-length episode, which managed to stay top secret until going to air. Its script producer, Nick Malmholt, takes us behind the scenes to explain how it’s avoiding leaks and why Ferndale holds a special place in New Zealanders' hearts.
What role do you see Shortland Street having in New Zealand?
Shortland Street is a huge, storytelling bonfire, around which all New Zealanders, young and old, rich and poor, north and south, can gather and be warm.
How important is it that Shortland Street reflects New Zealand society?
Shortland Street doesn’t just reflect New Zealand society; Shortland Street is a child of that society. It’s in our DNA, with stories about New Zealand, told by New Zealanders, to New Zealanders. Without New Zealand, Shortland Street would wither and die.
It’s tackled topics such as medical marijuana, euthanasia and HIV as well as featured LGBT characters and a range of ethnicities. Do you see it challenging New Zealanders thoughts and beliefs?
Yes. But not just through controversial subject matters. All dramatic storylines should be challenging. Powerful storytelling and emotional truths will provoke reaction—for good and for bad. Comfortable indifference is our enemy.
Are there any storylines you’ve been nervous about running? If so, which ones?
All stories are sent out with love and the hope they will shed light on the mysteries of the human heart. What makes us nervous is the ever-present fear that we’ve run out of time to make the stories as good as they can possibly be. We don’t want to let down our characters, or our audience.
Which storyline has generated the most response, positive or negative?
“Please tell me that is not your penis.” An unexpected, unlikely, global, viral sensation.
What’s the craziest idea you’ve had that never made it to the screen?
Not telling—I still hope to get it to screen...
Is it challenging keeping the storylines under wraps?
Yes, especially in the days of omnipresent, omniscient, social media. But it can be done. And when secrets leak, they aren’t always snapped up so they fail to gain critical, damage mass. A recent example is the build-up to Shortland Street’s 25th anniversary volcanic eruption. Hundreds of people were involved in the production, all with mobile phones and cameras, and the production studios were covered in fake ash—clues for all to see. Some inside knowledge was indeed leaked to social media, but the leaks were largely ignored because the vast majority of people were convinced it was going to be an earthquake.
What’s been Shortland Street’s key to reaching 25 years and still be going strong?
Love and laughs. Never giving up.
People's Choice Award
According to the people, there’s a new reigning soap in town with Westside boasting 37.9 percent of the vote. The Outrageous Fortune prequel was renewed for a third season last year, while Prime’s detective drama The Brokenwood Mysteries, which came second with 26.1 percent, has also been renewed for another season. Meanwhile, Shortland Street still gets
a bit of love with 21.2 percent of the vote.
Nominees: Jono & Ben, Funny Girls, Tery Teo, Darryl: An Outward Bound Story, Family Feud
Created by The Down Low Concept (also nominated in the Hottest Production Company category) and styled on the UK’s Mock of the Week, the show provides a pithy and quick-witted commentary on the week’s news and current events.
As the purveyor of Friday night laughs since 2009, 7 Days is not only the hottest comedy show on our screens, but the most popular on Three’s crowded entertainment roster. Even without looking at the numbers, 7 Day’s popularity can be seen in its expansion to live shows that see its hosts and set traverse the country and perform every year.
The mischievous trio of Jeremy Corbett, Dai Henwood and Paul Ego have served up an impressively consistent job over their eight years on-air, while recurring cast members Urzila Carlson, Ben Hurley, Jeremy Elwood and Josh Thomson have managed to add their own bit of comedic spark to proceedings.
Some of these comedians also grace the screen in Three’s other shows, such as Jono & Ben and Funny Girls, the latter of which deserves special credit for helping dispel the age-old myth that women just aren’t that funny.
People's Choice Award
7 Days 7 Days also earns itself the People’s Choice with 36.5 percent of the votes. Jono & Ben and Funny Girls take out second (23.7 percent) and third place (18.4 percent) respectively, further solidifying MediaWorks’ prime position in the genre.
The Bachelor NZ
Nominees: The Block NZ, Real Housewives of Auckland, Survivor NZ
Love it or hate it, everyone’s talking about it. It’s become an annual ritual for office watercooler conversations across the country to arrive at the scandalous dating show, and this year has proved no different. Bachelor Zac Franich, new host Dominic Bowden and a fresh flurry of female suitors once again kept Kiwis glued to the screen as it regularly topped Three’s list of most watched shows. Judging by the sheer amount of scandal, coverage, hubbub and hype the show entails, The Bachelor tops our pick for Hottest Reality TV.
However, Bravo’s flagship show Real Housewives of Auckland also deserves a worthy mention for helping launch the likes of Gilda Kirkpatrick and Anne Batley-Burton into the public limelight. The show has potential to become a mainstay on the nation’s reality TV roster (although fewer racial slurs would be much appreciated).
People's Choice Award
The Block NZ
When it comes to reality TV, the results of the People’s Choice Award show it’s all fair game. There was just 0.1 percent separating first and second place, with DIY renovation show The Block scraping past The Bachelor with 28.8 percent of the vote. Third and fourth place were also a close call, with TVNZ’s brand new show Survivor getting 22 percent and Bravo’s Real Housewives getting 20.5 percent.
Nominees: Mind Over Money, Gutsful, Country Calendar, Coast New Zealand
In 2014, TVNZ opened the unsuspecting eyes of New Zealanders to a South Island community many had no idea existed. Since then, the continuing series of documentaries have become must-watch viewing ever since.
The annual visit inside the controversial Christian community has become something of a bizarre New Zealand TV tradition. This year’s instalment, Gloriavale: A Woman’s Place, enthralled audiences to the point that it topped Nielsen’s list of most watched shows for 25- to 54-year- olds. The episode gave a special insight into what life was like for the women of Gloriavale, and focused on a young woman named Dove Love and her quest for marriage and motherhood in the secluded community.
Off air, the series continues to be watched online, with bonus content including a sing-a-long to Dove Love’s wedding song (#soblessed), which alone generated 345,000 views on TVNZ 2’s Facebook page. There were also online tools available for fans of the show to generate their own Gloriavale-inspired name.
On a slightly different note, Mind Over Money with Nigel Latta deserves a special mention for making the topic of money appealing to audiences during primetime while taking the unusual route of being entirely sponsored by Kiwibank.
People's Choice Award
If there were ever any doubt New Zealand was a farming nation, Country Calendar’s 27.8 percent win should put those thoughts firmly to rest. Having aired on TV since 1966, Country Calendar is the nation’s longest-running TV series, with its twangy opening theme music and lush rural pastures ingrained into the cultural mindset. TVNZ has even more to celebrate, with Gloriavale coming a close second with 26.8 percent, and Mind Over Money nipping third with 20.1.
Nominees: Stranger Things, 13 Reasons Why, Westworld, Abstract: The Art of Design, The People vs. OJ Simpson, Bojack Horseman, The Crown, Mr Robot
Dystopian sci-fi thrillers are clearly a thing at the moment with android-populated theme parks (Westworld) and neurotic cyber hackers (Mr Robot) all making an appearance. But it's Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror that manages to stand out from the rest of the pack.
With stand-alone episodes instead of recurring plotlines, each hour-long instalment provides a jarring and twisted take on the human relationship with science and technology. From the toxic and all-too familiar social media habits in ‘Nosedive’, to the vigilante blackmailing and trolling in ‘Shut Up and Dance’, Black Mirror reflects an exaggerated truth that resonates deeply in our tech-obsessed society.
On a similarly depressing note, 13 Reasons Why deserves a mention for not only being New Zealand’s most popular digital show last month according to Parrot Analytics, but stirring up a much-needed debate on the topic of teen suicide. It seems local audiences got swept up in the hype surrounding the controversial teen drama, tuning into all 13 episodes to find out what drove protagonist Hannah Baker to kill herself.
People's Choice Award
Spielberg-esque sci-fi is back in style with the Duffer Brothers’ supernatural series Stranger Things whipping Netflix viewers into a bingeing frenzy. With elements of mystery and horror, combined with commanding performances by Winona Ryder and Millie Bobby Brown, the show captured the attention of internet as well as viewers here in New Zealand, with the series attracting 28.7 percent of the vote in an extremely crowded category. 13 Reasons Why took out second place with 15.8 percent, while royal drama The Crown pulled in a respectable 14 percent.
Nominees: The Nation, Sunday, Attitude, The Crowd Goes Wild
Over the last decade, New Zealanders exposed to Close Up, Story, Seven Sharp and Campbell Live have come to expect the same old setup when it comes to 7pm shows. The format usually involves a middle-aged authority figure talking to a camera, interviewing various important personalities and relaying stories from reporters dissecting the day’s news and events. In light of this, and despite still being relatively new to air, The Project tops the category for being brave enough to try something a little bit different in the post-newshour slot.
Fusing comedy, banter and journalistic flair to tackle the day’s most topical issues, the show has yet to reach its Australian counterpart’s level of relevance, but it’s certainly making an impressive attempt at breaking Seven Sharp’s nightly hegemony. Hosts Jesse Mulligan, Josh Thomson and Kanoa Lloyd (who takes the title of Hottest News Anchor over her MediaWorks counterparts) have so far proved a dynamic trio and lived up to its tagline of “News Delivered Differently”.
While not quite graced with The Project’s colour, flair or primetime slot, Lisa Owen and Patrick Gower’s The Nation provides a rare in-depth look into the week’s most newsworthy events, delivering a regular slate of insights from politicians, academics and commentators from New Zealand and abroad. In a similar vein, Sunday has been informing audiences about politics and topical issues for years now, with the programme ranked as TVNZ’s fifth most popular show last year.
People's Choice Award
With 38.5 percent of people selecting The Project as their pick, the show also takes out the People’s Choice Award, with Sunday grabbing second place with 27.5 percent. Third place honours goes to Prime’s The Crowd Goes Wild, proving that sports will always be at the heart of New Zealanders’ viewing habits.
We'll be posting the rest of the Hot List over the next week. Stay tuned to find out who wins the News Anchor, Production Company and Social Presence categories.
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