Once upon a time, not so long ago I wrote a television review blog called Couch Potato for Stuff.co.nz. It was, generally, a fun thing to do. They paid me a small amount that made a big difference when I initially separated from my now ex-wife and finances were tight. But it’s fair to say that I wasn’t the most liked of contributors – because I steadfastly refused to separate television from the society it operates in.
This manifested largely via negative comments on the blog, most of which I could dismiss. Some crossed a line but I’m incredibly proud of what I did and I still use some of those shitty comments as a means of keeping myself focused on things I find important. (You can read some of them in From Parts Unknown).
There were a couple of moments when I doubted myself and came close to chucking it. One was just the sheer weight of comment negativity dumped on top of my personal life at the time. I was persuaded by one of my heroes (who shall remain nameless) to keep going because they felt it was important that my different point of view was heard. That kept me going for quite a while.
The second time was when a journalist at the same outfit as me used a (deserved) negative review I gave of a show to suck up to its star, holding me up as someone who seemingly just tried to bring down successful people. It was low, untruthful and allowed me to see just how much I was actually respected. Which was zero.
And that’s fine. Respect has to be earned and, frankly, if I needed the respect of someone who would write that about me then my life was in a worse state than I thought. But I stand by what I did because I did it for what I felt – and still do – are important reasons.
When one of my favourite television shows, Nothing Trivial, used a gang-rape plot in their two-hour finale I wrote a scathing commentary highlighting the lack of thought put into that particular storyline – and the danger it played in potentially stopping other young woman who had something happen to them in real life from coming forward. Reading it again now I actually feel more angry that this wasn’t picked up and dealt with appropriately. It ruined the ending of a great show and shows that television SHOULDN’T be excused from criticism because it’s not real.
But something else happened after that, something I’m not prepared to go into further, except to say I know it was read by important people, including those involved in the making of television shows in New Zealand. I don’t know if it had any long-term impacts but if it makes them think for just one second about not doing it again in the future then every one of my overly-verbose columns was worth it. And I’m damned proud of it too.
Which brings me to today and the point of Watching on Wednesday. It’s to write about something I love, television, but do it on my own terms, which will include societal impact. Much like I did when I wrote Couch Potato but without the extra money! Which brings me around to Find Me A Māori Bride.
If you read my review from the first season you’ll see I enjoyed it very much. I’ll go as far as saying it was the best comedy in New Zealand last year, followed closely by streaming sensation Auckward Love. Season two of the show just started airing on Māori TV and is available to stream around the world. And, of course, it’s been virtually ignored by the Kiwi press. This is for a couple of reasons, in my opinion.
First, Māori TV is seen as not being important enough to write about. There’s a societal racism, some deliberate, some not, that means it’s harder for shows like this to be taken seriously. I’ve seen criticism of the show, though. Mostly used to try and make a (shitty) political point and clearly often from people who have never watched the show. It’s sad, but not a surprise and requires a much bigger shift in attitudes than New Zealand seems capable of.
It’s not necessarily the fault of those who write about television, though – and that’s because the number of people doing just that looks to have dropped over the last few years. This is understandable given the massive changes in the industry but merely highlights the importance of a fully-functional press for everyone. Not covering these types of shows is no judgement on their quality, but on our overall media environment. Why spend column inches or internet pages on this when you could have five stories about The Bachelor instead? As an online editor I know from first hand experience how easy a decision that is to make.
I was no loss and don’t claim to be – but I’m hoping that by writing just once a week I can make one person look at things in a slightly different way. Actually that’s being overly optimistic about my reach and ability to influence – so I’ll stick with giving those who enjoyed my Couch Potato blog somewhere else to read my ramblings. There were at least a couple.
Watch Find Me A Māori Bride on demand on the Māori Television website.