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OPINION: It’s great to learn that TVNZ series Wellington Paranormal will air internationally, including in the US and the UK. It’s a brilliant show that deserves as much recognition as it can get.
But are overseas audiences going to get it? Will a show filmed in New Zealand, with a Kiwi cast speaking in (shock horror) Kiwi accents, and jokes that frequently send up local cultural or traditions translate for viewers in Brazil, or Bristol, or Baltimore?
There is a surprising amount of precedent here. Wellington Paranormal is far from the first local production to air in major international territories, and many of its forebears have proven hugely successful with overseas viewers.
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Here are some of our top small screen exports, showing there’s lots of potential for Wellington Paranormal abroad.
The Brokenwood Mysteries
New Zealand’s answer to Midsomer Murders or Death in Paradise isn’t exactly zeitgeisty. Covering murder and intrigue in a small town, with a light dollop of humour thrown in, it’s a fun and entertaining show even if the ground it covers is well-trod.
Despite, or because, of that, Brokenwood is one of our most successful television exports.
It airs on terrestrial TV in countries including France, Australia, Italy, Denmark, Finland, Germany, and Belgium, and is currently a top title on streaming service Acorn TV, where it’s available to US and Canadian subscribers. Last year, it was named Acorn’s top crime drama and thriller series of the year.
Brokenwood has been praised by no less an authority than The New York Times, which called it “droll” and said the lead actors were “a perfect pairing”.
The Casketeers is a deservedly popular show here in New Zealand, but there was always a question over whether a show about a Māori couple running a funeral home in Auckland – one that specialises in indigenous practices, and episodes of which feature frequent use of te reo and references to te ao Māori – would translate internationally.
The answer is a resounding yes. The show has proven hugely popular on Netflix, to the point where Francis and Kaiora Tipene’s funeral home has been visited by tourists from as far away as Idaho, some of whom, Francis told Stuff, don’t realise the series is a documentary.
You wouldn’t think the Aussies would need another soap on their schedules, what with Neighbours and Home and Away, and any number of other more fleeting homegrown soaps.
But Shortland Street is hugely popular across the ditch, to the point where when Foxtel abruptly dropped the show in the middle of a juicy storyline late last year, it led to social media outrage.
A look back at Shortland Street’s most memorable weddings.
SBS Viceland swooped in as the show’s saviour, ensuring Australians will continue to get their fill of New Zealand’s longest-running TV series, which has also aired in Ireland, South Africa, Ukraine, Zimbabwe, and the United Kingdom.
The Almighty Johnsons
This high concept comedy-drama about an ordinary Kiwi family who are reincarnated Norse gods is one of our bigger critical successes. It carries an 83 per cent “fresh” rating based on reviews from critics in including Australia, Canada, the US, and Ireland, all of which have aired the show.
Reviewing The Almighty Johnsons when it launched on Syfy in the US, industry bible Variety called it “strangely compelling and fun” and said “this Kiwi extract is certainly a cut above” comparable programming, while the LA Times said “the epic and preposterous blend profitably with the commonplace and casual” and called Kiwi accents “100 per cent adorable”.
New Zealand’s answer to the Scandi Noir genre was picked up by US platform Sundance Now, which specialises in prestige drama and crime content.
The series about a cop with amnesia has found an audience there, with critics praising the writing, Kate Elliott’s star performance – and the Waiheke Island scenery.