Finding Aotearoa's Next Hit Show

Aotearoa's best exports.

Aotearoa's best exports.

By Jordan Hamel

It’s pretty well established that we’re currently in a golden age of television. Thanks in part to the success of prestige drama, mini series’ and the on-demand, binge watching generation, big content producers like Netflix and HBO have seen the form and genre pushing capabilities of television. As a result, we are constantly blessed and often overwhelmed with a stream of quality shows to consume as we please. New Zealanders are starting to get on the bandwagon too. 

National Treasure, Dame Jane Campion directed the Golden Globe and Emmy winning crime drama Top of the Lake, Amazon Prime dropped a cool $250 million to buy the rights to Lord of the Rings (claiming it for Aotearoa) in hopes of turning into ‘the next Game of Thrones’ and now FX - of American Crime Story and Atlanta fame - has commissioned a What We Do In The Shadows series based on the hit film. While details are scarce, Taika Waititi and Jermaine Clement will serve as executive producers and it will star British actors, most notably Matt Berry (shouts to Toast of London).

It’s great that kiwis are finally getting in on the TV game in my opinion it’s only the beginning. As networks, content producers and directors scour the world for quality unique source material to turn into the next Stranger Things or True Detective, they need to turn their attention towards Aotearoa, where original stories are everywhere. I’ve taken the liberty of doing some of the research so take a look at the next batch of Aotearoa inspired hit TV shows.

Hunt for the Wilderpeople/Boy/Eagle vs Shark (Netflix)

This seems like a logical place to start. America can’t get enough of Taika these days, as seen by the reception of Thor: Ragnarok and FX’s purchase of What We Do In The Shadows, it only makes sense that media giant Netflix would want a slice of that sweet, sweet, Taika pie. It’s feasible that Netflix could easily throw a bag of money at Waititi and say ‘make whatever you want’, as its been known to do with film auteurs recently (Scorcese, The Coen Brothers and David Fincher are all proud recent recipients of said bags). But Taika is a busy man with nothing short of 1,000 upcoming green-lit projects. So it makes far more sense for Netflix to steal a play from FX, buy the rights to an existing Waititi film, attach him as an EP and go from there. 

Heavenly Creatures (Hulu)

From the Network that brought you phenomenons such as True Detective and Big Little Lies, comes the latest miniseries to dominate two months of water cooler chat and the award season: a remake of Peter Jackson’s 1984 Oscar winning, gay-panic-inducing, fever-dream Heavenly Creatures.  Dark, female-centric thriller miniseries are all the rage right now, and rightly so, HBO struck gold with Big Little Lies and are surely looking for their next weapon in the fight against Netflix and other streaming providers. 

Enter Heavenly Creatures, the film that shocked Aotearoa for its violence and blunt portrayal of mental illness, sexuality and mother-daughter relationships. It’s the film that gave Peter Jackson notoriety and I think it's high time America was reminded of what pre-Lord of the Rings Jackson can do. I’m sure original cast member Kate Winslet would be keen to get in on some TV money and while she couldn’t pass as a teenager again she would be perfect for the role of the (spoiler) ill-fated mother, while having someone like, say; three-time Oscar nominee and Ladybird star Saoirse Ronan play the lead role.

High Country Weather: James K Baxter’s Poetry Reimagined (FX)

The short-film anthology format is having its moment in the sun. Netflix bought Black Mirror and turned it into a juggernaut, now every major network is playing catch up trying to find their own Black Mirror. While dystopian sci-fi has been done to death recently, networks should be looking for other anthology-friendly source material. FX, known for recent leaps of faith that have turned into hits like Atlanta, would turn its attention towards Aotearoa and utilize two of our best assets: Richie McCaw and Dan Carter… Just kidding, our landscape and our literary history. 

It’s time for NZ’s most famous poet, James K Baxter, to see eight of his best pieces turned into stand-alone episodes in his next anthology series.  Baxter’s narrative style is perfect for the format and the visual care and detail that goes into his work was made to be seen and heard as well as read. I can’t help but think of Jason Momoa, or if he’s not available, Steven Adams, as ‘The Maori Jesus’  sailing into Wellington harbor tearing apart mussels with his calloused hands, or see some small screen version of the poorly-insulated, student loan romance that is ‘A  Small Ode to Mixed Flatting'. Baxter was one of Aotearoa’s greatest storytellers and it's time his stories were given a bigger platform. FX, if you aren’t interested I’ll make the series myself, but if you are, please send the cheque to The Niche Cache.

Boners of the Heart (Amazon Prime)

Heard of ‘Two Dope Queens’? Two New York comedians, Jessica Williams (of The Daily Show fame) and Phoebe Robinson (host one of the most downloaded podcasts ever) were rewarded by HBO for their efforts with a ‘Four episode HBO special’. The podcast, which features guest comedians every week in a live comedy interview format, became a sensation.

Williams and Robinson may be two of the pioneers of the podcast game but fear not, Aotearoa has its own two dope queens who are ready for the big screen. Let me introduce you to ‘Boners of the Heart’ a podcast hosted by NZ comedians Alice Snedden and Rose Matafeo. It's two friends who talk about their celebrity crushes, who’s hot, who’s magnetic, who they’d bone, who’d be a good cuddler and who’d be there to make eggs in the morning and it’s become one of New Zealand’s most popular podcasts. 

While the premise alone may not pique your interest (it should), Snedden and Matafeo have the kind of comedic chemistry you and your best friend think you have after a couple of Lime Crusiers. Unlike you and your tipsy best friend, Alice and Rose should have their own TV show, and a network looking for the next comedy podcast crossover should figure this out sooner rather than later.