February 27, 2007

Life in Welly: TV

Before we moved, Darren and I decided to bring our old TV even knowing that it would not have reception here (we were bringing for his Xbox). We reasoned that we most likely would not be familiar with the shows here, and even if we were, we would not want to spend a lot of time watching TV. That TV is still in its packaging out in the garage. As you know, we bought an awesome TV over the holidays that is perfect for watching our DVDs and for playing Xbox games. It is also perfect for watching the television shows we have become addicted to. *sigh*

I do have to point out that we only watch TV a couple nights a week, which is far less than we did at home.

There are six main TV channels here, similar to the primary four channels in the US (ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox). They are: TV1, TV2, TV3, Prime, C4 and the Maori channel. The first three are typically found on channels 1-3 respectively. Astonishing, I know. Prime is usually channel #6, with the other two showing up in random spots on the “dial”. All these channels are free. There is “satellite” TV, which is called SKY. I believe SKY only provides an additional 13 channels, including CNN, some movies channels, and some sport channels. Our apartment came with a SKY dish, but we have no interest in paying for the service, as we are quite lucky to get great reception on the main six channels.

The first three stations are also government sponsored stations, so many of the popular shows are not set against each other. Instead, you’ll find that the most popular shows are scheduled in a way to let everyone watch all of them without having to tape one. You’ll even find promos on TV1 for shows on TV2 and vice versa. All four of the main channels show a lot of American and British popular dramas and comedies. They are typically one whole season to ½ season behind, although I think American Idol is only a few episodes behind (I haven’t been watching). This is good and bad…good because we can keep up with a few of the shows we really liked in the States, and bad because we have the opportunity to become addicted to shows we didn’t used to watch because we didn’t want to get addicted to a show we would have to leave behind.

The best example in the latter category is Heroes. LOVE IT. We are about ½ season behind, and since it was new in the Fall in the US, its new here too. Awesome.

We also make sure to catch the newer British version of Dr. Who, as well as Ugly Betty, which just premiered here. ‘My Name is Earl’, ‘Scrubs’ and ‘How I Met Your Mother’ have also started up again here, but we’ve already seen the episodes so far.

We haven’t quite figured out the “seasons” here, if there truly are any. In the US, it’s very clear that most shows start between Sept/Oct and go through December (with ‘sweeps’ occurring in November), then reappearing sometime in January-February (again, sweeps in February and May) until May/June. There are no sweeps here, though, and the breaks between ½ seasons don’t seem to follow any particular method. When we first arrived, we were pleased to see that ‘Dead Like Me’ was premiering here. We watched the first ½ season episodes every week until it stopped – sometime in January. We just saw last night that it is coming back soon. Whereas, Dr. Who episodes have played uninterrupted (3 more episodes until the full season end) – maybe because it’s a BBC show?

Most Kiwis love their soap operas, and like the UK, they are played at night. ‘Coronation Street’ is a popular British soap opera, while ‘Shortland Street’ is a NZ soap opera. I’m pretty sure they are both quite popular, but we’ve never had the urge to see one, so this paragraph is a short one!

The other boggling thing about NZ television is the time schedule. Many hour-long TV shows are scheduled to start on the ½ hour, instead of the top of the hour. Several shows are also scheduled to start at 5 after, 10 after or 35 after the hour. These aren’t mistakes – the TV Guide actually shows these times as the starting times of shows! I think part of the reason for this is that there are fewer commercials here, and they are shorter in length. Not all of the breaks in a show are taken here. We’ve also found that sometimes there are a few minutes between the end of one show and the start of another; often the station will play a random music video or a cartoon short to fill the time.

The best part is that many shows that were on pay TV in the US (HBO et al), are shown on the primary four channels here – such as ‘Dead Like Me’, ‘The L Word’, ‘South Park’, ‘The Daily Show’ and ‘Sex and the City’. And the full versions are shown; nothing is cut out. It’s perfectly normal to hear the “F” word or see some boobs flopping around. They do have a rating system here, and will play an obligatory message before shows that some people might find offensive (that’s how WE know they are the good shows to watch!)

It is rare to find sports shown on the primary channels, except during Rugby ‘sevens’ or ‘fourteens’. Even then, it is one or two fairly short games on a weekend night. I guess that is why so many people have SKY.

As for channels C4 and the Maori channel…C4 is primarily a music video channel. In the early evenings it will also play ‘King of the Hill’, or ‘Family Guy’ during the week. The Maori channel is aptly named, as it shows programs for Maori by Maori often in the Maori language. Occasionally there will be a random British or American movie or TV movie, but it is rare.

The commercials here are often hilarious or just plain strange. There are many run by the government as well, to target what we can only guess are large issues here: depression, drinking and driving fast near schools. I do like that there are very few jewelry store commercials here. They do have them, but not nearly as many as in the US. I remember in the month or two before each holiday (Christmas, Valentine’s, Mother’s Day were the big ones), Kay’s and De Beers would inundate us with the message that a woman needs diamonds to understand that you love her, and anything else is crap. Oh, and she will love you if you give her jewelry. And diamonds are forever. And a trip to Italy is not enough – you must give her jewelry too. :-P Here, the jewelry commercials are informative “we are having a sale”, period.

The news is very very short. I don’t recall seeing an evening version – I believe it is only on around 10:30. I believe there is one morning news show as well. The news delivery is the same – short sound bites without much meat to them. It seems most people get their news from the internet or one of the two main newspapers. The weather report is a complete joke, as the weather here is so variable. They almost never give the forecast more than one or two days out, and most of the time even those predictions are wrong! Last night at 10:30, they said it would be rainy in Wellington…and when we got up this morning, it had changed to ‘cloudy’. For the record, the weather conditions here are: showers, rain, cloudy, partly cloudy and fine. I like the ‘fine’…not ‘sunny’ or ‘nice’ – just FINE. Still don’t know the difference between showers and rain…


KJ said...

I love Heroes too. I have to watch in online the next day though b/c I don't have a television.

As for the showers/rain dilemma:

Showers = drizzle, you can probably get by with just a raincoat and hat and you won't get soaked

Rain = heavy downpour, you probably need an umbrella along with your raincoat

At least that's my interpretation.

Merrin said...

Hi Dawn

Sorry, just a few corrections for the US viewers! TVNZ owns TV1 and TV2, so they don't compete, but TVNZ does compete with TV3, so there are often clashes between them. And the news is on TV1 and TV3 from 6-7pm every night, and on Prime from 5.30-6.30pm. The thing I find strange is that the second half of the news is invariably just about sport - so I just skip that bit. We aren't all addicted to soaps - I actually mostly watch US dramas. And lastly, you should enjoy all the good shows on at the mo - the season is hot now and will go rapidly downhill after this season!

Merrin (from NZ)

Anonymous said...

Boobs flopping around! Woo!