Alan Waldman :
TELEVISION | ‘800 Words’ is a fun Aussie-Kiwi comedy-drama

The top-watched series features enjoyable characters & situations with an Aussie family trying to fit in to a New Zealand town.

By Alan Waldman | The Rag Blog | July 24, 2017

Australian-New Zealand TV series 800 Words is a hit
with all demos.

[In his Rag Blog column, Alan Waldman reviews some of his favorite films and TV series that readers may have missed, including TV dramas, mysteries, and comedies from Canada, England, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and Scotland. Most are available on DVD, Netflix and/or Netflix Instant Streaming, and some episodes are on YouTube.]

Last year PBS stations ran the first eight-episode season of the top-watched Australian-New Zealand TV series 800 Words; the second season has aired down there and a third season has been ordered. At more than 91.3% of 601 viewers gave it thumbs up and 25.1% rated it a perfect 10.

It was a hit with all demos, particularly females 45+ and 18 and younger. My third and favorite wife and I enjoyed it greatly. The first two seasons will be coming to Netflix. YouTube charges you to see episodes, but here are two consecutive free trailers.

This year the series did very well at Australia’s top awards (Logies), snagging best actor for star Erik Thompson, most outstanding newcomer actress for Melina Vidler, who plays his daughter, Shay, and best new talent and breakthrough star of tomorrow nominations for Benson Jack Anthony who plays Thompson’s son, Arlo, plus noms for best drama program and most outstanding drama series.

Thompson plays recently widowed father George Turner who quits his job as a popular 800-word columnist for a top Sydney newspaper and over the Internet he buys a house on an impulse in a remote New Zealand seaside town. He then has to break the news to his two teenage kids who just lost their mum, and now face an even more uncertain future. But the colorful and inquisitive locals ensure his dream of a fresh start does not go to plan.

The cast is unknown to us, but much fun. George initially faces widespread hostility because he referred to his new hometown of Weld as a “dead-end town.” The family must deal with faulty plumbing, surfing incompetence, a dangerous school bus driver, theft of the town founder’s sculptured head, four competitive and horny women, rumors that George may have killed his wife, a wealthy developer’s plan to turn the main park into a seniors’ village, a seductive Maori boy with designs on daughter Shay and many other girls, and more.

Locations on the North Island’s northwest coast are lush, the show’s tone varies from playful to dramatic and everything moves on light feet. Many of the characters are pleasantly “kooky.”

For the first seven episodes this was the top-rated show in Australia, drawing more than 1.2 million viewers.

Creator James Griffin has created three other popular Australian/New Zealand TV series including Outrageous Fortune and has won top Kiwi writing awards for the latter. He wrote 15 one-hour episodes of 800 Words. Maxine Fleming wrote four episodes of this series. Erik Thompson won Australia’s top award (Logie) as 2016 best actor for this role, to go with his other two Australia-New Zealand honors and 10 noms for other works.

[Oregon writer and Houston native Alan Waldman holds a B.A. in theater arts from Brandeis University and has worked as an editor at The Hollywood Reporter and Honolulu magazine.]

Alan Waldman has updated 89 of his Rag Blog columns with recent information and current free links in his new paperback, 89 Smart. Foreign TV Series: English-language Comedies, Thrillers & Dramas from the U.K., Canada, Australia, Ireland, N.Z., Scotland & Europe (+362 Favorite 1997-2016 Films for Grown-Ups). Rag Bloggers have never seen his descriptions of 255 great 1997-2011 films in the book. Find it at Create

Note: Several fine series mentioned on The Rag Blog and in Waldman’s paperback have recently come out with new seasons, many of which are on YouTube, PBS and/or Netflix, including Wentworth, Prime Suspect, Grantchester, and Broadchurch.

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