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Sunday, May 15, 2005

Gormsby show 7 periods too long

I have to have a publishable version of it by midday Monday latest, so any comments are welcome.

If threatening children with anal rape and raving about "half-castes" and "gooks" is your average white middle-aged Wellingtonian man's vision of the future of New Zealand comedy then why has New Zealand On Air given them only a mere $1.1 million for their ground-breaking seven part "comedy" series?

To assign a comedy budget to the boys club to make Danny Mulheron's anti-PC wet dream "Seven Periods with Mr Gormsby" we must conclude it is at least in the realm of ideas one level of underworld above Melody Rules meets Te Tutu. But barely.

If only a different, slightly more criticial, Executive was at that meeting it might have gone something like this:

Could you give me that plot synopsis one more time, Danny, I'm not quite following you? I was up with you to the point where you said you had a grouchy fuckwit of a teacher at high school and you did a play about it and now it should be a seven part comedy show. I know you like this guy's taste for tirades and homophobic, mysogynistic rantings but who on Earth is this going to appeal to?

What was that, Tom Scott? Your audience is "down town sniffing glue, vomiting into gutters and ripping off cars," - is that what you said to the Herald? As in anyone who would watch this half hour prolapse of the art of television must be brain damaged to appreciate it? Glue-sniffing? What a very, (how should I put this charitably) 1980s outlook. You remember the '80s? It was when you were last culturally relevant. When you were at your peak of your talents. As opposed to now, 20 years later, when you think that the audience is going to warm to, that is to say you are expecting us to sympathise and associate with, a complete fuckwit?

Rather than any other character, you think we should be feeling for good old Mister Gormsby, played by the affable David McPhail? He isn't a loveable Basil Fawlty. Newsflash, Tom, Danny, Dave (Armstrong), the news is McPhail plays Muldoon so well (and his solo play was excellent) because he's a cunt. You see the problem is if liking Gormsby is crucial to whether people will watch it, and only cunts can relate to being a cunt, I'm not going to like the show at all am I? Because I'm not a cunt. There are not enough cunts in the country to make it viable. We will have a serious cunt shortage immediately. How many cunts have a peoplemeter in their house? Less, gentlemen, than you obviously think. Do you think that a play in the rarified stratosphere of the theatre is going to survive 10 seconds in the medium of television when your ultimate sight-gags are Gormsby marching Hohepa down a corridor as if he were in the army and Gormsby singing a union song outside the staff room. Oh, what killer material - where's the chequebook?

You know I laugh my tits off at Eating Media Lunch because it's funny. Serial Killers I smirked, Face Lift actually had it's moments last time around. EML gets quarter of a mil, and you want 1.1 million New Zealand dollars for a nostalga trip, fucking Chico and the man/Archie Bunker/Alf Garnett tutoring wayward Arnold and Willis troubled youth types in a Welcome back Mr Cotter Decile 2 school meets The Office type fucking abortion of a programme and it's all strung together with the most purile, almost infantile level of Tamihereisms and "cheeky" racist jibes. The only thing remotely funny about the show is you expect me to fund it. It's bad enough to be confused with part of National's election campaign. Is this what this is - double billing with the National party?

What was that you said in the Sunday Star-Times, because it bares repeating, David: "I'm also aware television is a large, slow-moving and ultimately dull-witted target. It's a bit like a rhinosaurus. It believes it is very nimble on its feet but, if it ever gets up a bit of speed, it can easily fall over because the brain is really quite small" Are you accusing me of having a small brain, David? Or is it that you have a small brain? Or is it Dave or Tom or maybe the ungrateful audiences that never understand your genius? Or the critics, who, of course, don't know anything about television? Are they the ones with small brains? It hasn't occured to you that your rhino was shot decades ago and it's tusk lopped off and now used as a plunger handle in Ian Fraser's personal toilet and it's feet used as ashtrays at the Museum of Broadcasting? Is the message not getting through?

Why do you think it will be on at 9:35pm on a Friday that you know is a graveyard slot? If we could bump this car wreck to 4am SKY Channel 153 between Christian light-rock radio No. 3 and Contemporary Czech Jazz radio and not be in breach of our contract we would. The whole idea is that we don't want anyone to watch this sort of "Charter"-type crap to start with so it doesn't damage our brand. You can't take a dump on a plate and expect us to serve it as a mains. You are the reasons people have concluded our entire comic output is shite. If A K Grant was here I would say the same thing to him too. Don't you guys need him for quorum?

TVNZ's publicity material describes it as an "unrepentant politically incorrect, roller-coaster romp about an extraordinarily eccentric secondary-school teacher." Where do I start? "A repellent, polemical and dated, embarrasing sleepwalk about a cunt who happens to be a teacher." Have I missed anything? No. Good.

The fact that with a traffic cop moustache McPhail looks like the Minister in charge of anti-bullying, the caning corporal, David Benson-Pope is sheer luck. At least Benson-Pope's psychotic facial tics are visually interesting. Gormsby has no laugh track, no ironic or comic music, no visual comedy, no jokes, no timing and no amusing dialogue or amusing predicaments and you say it is a comedy. What I'm seeing is the shit version of something - but it isn't comedy. It's drama isn't it? This thing fails on so many levels that even it's chosen genré is wrong.

It's as if you saw the sharp end of Bro Town as setting a new benchmark in our minds that you could use as a handy excuse to let forth your political bile and create a new free-fire zone of racial epithets and gratuitous pruriency. The problem is that you are what we call in the business, white. Your timing is totally out of sync, you can't pull it off. This is the same sort of niggling hang-ups and obsessions of a frustrated older, white middle class that were displayed in Spin doctors and Serial killers and we cringed. The rest of us have accepted Maoris, Pacific Islanders and Asians are human beings. I know that you have small brains, but if you can't learn new tricks your shows, each and every one of them, are going to be scheduled where the harm will be minimised.

Now get out of my office.


At 18/5/05 9:38 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you had ANY IDEA about how challenging it is to get any NZ TV project off the ground; let alone comedy, which is the hardest, I think you would pull your neck in. You want safe, P.C humour? Get the fuck out of Aotearoa, you just show your age with this unfair critique of a good show. Watch the whole series before you bag it.

At 19/5/05 12:58 am, Blogger t selwyn said...

What masochistic half-wit would watch one nano-second of that shit again let alone the whole loathsome series? It's going to be a lot more "challenging" for new, real talent to pitch a sit-com now that 7 Periods has vomited in that nest. If you think anti-PC equates to humour, think again - I would settle for humour of any description. As Gormsby might rant: You're whining like a little faggot who thinks everyone who participates is a winner and deserves a medal - well you're a loser, you don't get a medal, you don't deserve a medal, and your blubbing like a pathetic sook-a-bubba only serves to show the rest of the class how bloody precious you are.

At 23/5/05 3:38 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh please get a life we as Maori do not need you defending our backyard. Go and defend some else's 'Seven periodswith Mr Gormsby' quite obviously gives all characters and personalities are roasting. It appears that you are far more racist than the creators of Gormsby, strangely enough one of the writers also writes for 'Bro Town' so go figure and while your at it do your homework.Notice how the white teacher got it in the neck this week.

At 23/5/05 8:04 pm, Blogger t selwyn said...

"We as Maori"! - Don't presume to speak for those for whom you do not hold a mandate, especially if you have so little mana that you post anonymously. You belittle yourself e hoa.

Having had the unique displeasure of disregarding my own injuncture (albeit with the most commendable intentions of fairness) and suffered through a further excruciating quarter of an hour of Gormsby last week I can now pronounce emphatically and conclusively that Seven Periods with Mr Gormsby is worse than Melody Rules, and therefore, the worst New Zealand comedy programme ever to have screened on television. I say that not as a television reviewer of more than a decade, I do not say that as a viewer since the era of colour, I do not say that as a programme researcher, I do not say that as a writer of satire, I do not even say that as a New Zealander; I say it as a human being with a functioning brain.

Giving "all characters and personalities a roasting" does not equate to humour. Gormsby was not roasted at all and his irrelevant lines about "coons" and "bungas" made the abortion sub-plot seem almost tactful. That show could not be more unfunny had it been set in a medical experimentation unit in a concentration camp where Gormsby could let fly with anti-semitic invective to your delight. If the Jews, Gypsies and Slavs all get a "roasting" does that make it humourous?

My "homework" reveals that three white middle-aged Wellingtonian men are responsible for the Gormsby debacle - and it is with them that blame must primarily rest. I make those observations by way of an explanation not exoneration. The executives that approved it and scheduled it are as much victims as perpetrators. If a Bro Town writer was on board then more shame on them - they're going to have to leave it off their CV.

When the Gormsby character launches into a tirade about brown people or "lezzies" for the umpteenth time do you find that funny? Do you find humiliating a teacher about her abortion an amusing situation? Do you find the parading around of a condom for quarter of an hour amusing? I credit even school children with the ability to distinguish between humour and whatever order of cultural abortion Gormsby represents.

Gormsby is an ideological witch hunt of the past, prosecuted in the most virrulent and terse manner by incompetents. It's agenda is not humour it is political. That is the foremost reason it fails.

At 24/5/05 2:50 pm, Anonymous Grace said...

Well I guess everyone is a critic,and each and every one is entitled to their own opinion, and yes one of those Pakeha writers is a writer for Bro' Town I'm sure Dave Fane and Oscar would stand quite strongly beside their friend and his ability to write good dialogue as I do.
Interestlingly enough the ratings show that 'Seven Periods with Mr Gormsby' is doing remarkably well especially amongst Teachers hmmm. I guess the failure comes in the lack of ability to laugh, admittedly it is only toilet school humour, but what the hell after a hard week at work its nice to be able to laugh, and as for Melody Rules oh please no [even I can be opinionated on this one]
Maybe just maybe you are a minority , but kei te pai, each to their own. I guess the power lies in the viewer turning off the TV or changing the channel, a simple gesture that requires no rhetoric diatribe of a "idealogical witch hunt of the past".
E hoa, ehara taku mana te kaupapa kei te tautohetohe nei”. Kaore au i te whakatake i te tängata engäri kei a koe ou whakaaro na reira noho mai ra I runga i te humarie.

At 25/5/05 12:46 am, Blogger t selwyn said...

Thanks to colonial oppression and a poor online translator I cannot adequately translate your comment into English except that my initial interpretation was that I was talking out of something one sits upon! Surely not?

You make an interesting point about the script writer. But I would go further and say that it is just that sort of tight comradeship that prevents necessary criticism within the peer group. As far as it translates on the screen it is beyond abysmal. The alchemists might have thought they had created gold in their laboratory but in broad daylight it is nothing but lead.

I'm concerned that this failure will impact on other projects coming through the pipeline and the networks and NZOA will become highly averse to risk-taking in the comedy field because of Gormsby. McPhail is actually a fine actor in his own right and I mean no direct criticism of him - or the others for that matter, however mediocre their performances may have been given the material. It is Mulheron, Scott and Armstrong that are responsible. I think a stand-down period, or exclusion, may be in order.

At 31/5/05 4:14 pm, Anonymous Grace said...

Surely not is the operative!
Kei te pai, my Maori statement was purely; "My friend my mana is not under debate here, I just have no need to rubbish people, instead I wish you and your opinions well, all the best".

At 2/6/05 7:36 am, Blogger STC said...

Fucking Brilliant post!

At 18/6/05 10:58 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Mr Selwyn,

As someone with a predominant Anglo-Saxon name, I am sure you are aware of the injustices done by your White ancestors to indigenous peoples. I am wondering how you may be offended by the word "coon" when that applies to African-Americans, which I am assuming from your photo you are not. As someone with ancestry that Gormsby mocks, I personally was not offended by Gormsby. I found it to be a brilliant relief from the 'shoved down your throat' PC rubbish that students suffer from today. Having went to a school like that depicted in the show (With a Polynesian majority)
Most Maoris that I spoke to also found this show to be humourous. Now you may claim that I do not speak for all Maoris, such as your previous posts to another user. Since you seem to think you are, I will leave that position to you.
I would also like to point out that having watched all the shows, the 'racist colonial' Gormsby actually respected and cared for the students far better than the guidance counsellor Steve (who apparently is Maori?)
I am also wondering that if it is so racist, why did the non European students chose to appear on it? Perhaps they are simple New Zealanders who aren't afraid to laugh at themselves.
I would suggest you investigate issues carefully before you make such judgements. Those sort of ideas belong to Facists.

At 19/6/05 1:55 am, Blogger t selwyn said...

Dear Anon.

Why make your own assumptions about me to be relevant here? My critique of Gormsby is quite seperate from who I may, or may not be - so what is the point of a string of personally presumptious non sequiturs?

"I am wondering how you may be offended by the word "coon" when that applies to African-Americans" - Do I really need to reply to statements like that? I think you have pretty much said it all.

I have found that many white people over 50 years old think Gormsby is great, and feedback from under 50 year olds that it is terrible. Does something have to suit your ideology to be funny?

"Why did the non European students chose to appear on it?" - I heard that some did think the whole thing was such crap they walked away from it. So perhaps the people who did participate are "simple New Zealanders" as you put it. One does not have to have investigated anything to make such judgements, and since making them they have been vindicated. How is it fascist to make the observation that Gormsby is not funny?

At 16/8/07 5:34 am, Anonymous Fraser May said...

To the Seditious Mr. Selwyn:

I believe that 'Seven Periods' is fully one of the funniest comedies that I have ever seen. Your terrible review shows your grasp of satire to be sorely lacking, as the show is social satire not 'nostalgia' as you misappropriate it to be. Perhaps you think that writing insults and swearing constitutes satire, this is clearly not the case.

If you look at the situations presented in 'Seven Periods' you will find that the show is carefully orchestrated to show that honesty is the best course. It seems to me from your review you have only watched 15 minutes of this show on a night when you weren't in the best of moods.

You don't even mention the quality performances made by the actors in this series. Jason Hoyte plays a brilliant sleazy guidance counselor, the archetype for the hypocrite. Tandi Wright puts in a marvellous showing too, but if such performances are beneath your notice, and you are focused on McPhail's brilliant enunciation and the hilarious wit of Scott, Mulheron, and Armstrong, you have a long way to go to comprehend even this simple humour.

There is an established literary history to 'Seven Periods', a literary tradition beginning with Rudyard Kipling's 'Stalky & Co.', a series of stories also misunderstood by critics as 'the voice of the hooligan', yet in truth lampooning the state and school system of England.

You have demonstrated your lack of understanding of quality satire in this blog, and while you are entitled to your opinion, I beseech you to please think about the media you so nastily drag through the dirt before you blacken its name with crass words such as 'C*nt', and put a little more effort into understanding things such as comic technique and

Please do not plague us with such unresearched libel. If you are to write reviews, learn the topic you are writing about first, rather than aggressively spouting the first thing that comes into your mind. You'd have to be a fool to be offended by Gormsby, either that, or perhaps Steve's character has revealed a little too much of yourself for your liking.

I am sorry if you find offense in this reply, and if there's anything you'd care to discuss about 'seven periods', I would be delighted.

Fraser May (ZorinAlvien@gmail.com)

At 28/3/10 12:45 am, Anonymous Julian from Sydney said...

The lads that wrote Gormsby are better writers than you are. What a pitiful article. You like rattling off the c-word and claim you're not one. Let me assure you that, after reading your article, I can assure you that you are.

At 28/3/10 8:31 am, Blogger Bomber said...

I don't know Julian, it was a pretty funny review


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