Sunday, January 01, 2012

Surprise television

Our New Year’s Eve was surprisingly sedate: Homemade burgers on the barbecue, some drinks—and a long wait for midnight. Turns out, most of us were a bit dubious about the effort, but most of us persevered.

I don’t think I’ve ever missed a New Year’s Eve midnight since I was a kid and was first allowed to stay up. This year, our young nieces were being allowed to stay up and ring in the New Year, so it seemed especially important to make it all the way to midnight.

Most years, we’ve watched something local on television, usually something bad, in the lead-up to midnight. However, we were surprised to find that there was nothing on.

I must admit a bias: I grew up with a New Year’s Eve countdown on television as far back as I can remember, right up until I left the US. I know that they’re still being televised.

So imagine my surprise at the spotty track record of television in New Zealand: Some years nothing, other years really bad entertainment programmes. This year was a nothing year—in oh, so many ways…

Here’s a rundown of the free-to-air channels:

TV One, our most-watched free-to-air channel, showed a Dave Dobbyn fundraising concert held after a flood ravaged a town in 2005. After that, they showed the 1989 James Bond film, Licence to Kill. Yes, seriously.

TV2 showed Hairspray followed by Dreamgirls.

TV3 had the 3,869,485th showing of Apollo 13.

Prime is basically just Sky TV’s overflow channel, and really has no original programming (unless you count the news, which is part Australia’s Sky News, so I don’t). I don’t remember what was on Maori TV, but it didn’t sound relevant.

Sky TV’s pay channels were no better. The closest was some sort of video countdown on “MTV Classic” (so-named because it actually shows music videos; funny idea, that…), but we found it loud and unwatchable as well as automated.

So, we watched the last 1½ episodes in the Glee marathon on Sky’s “Vibe” channel (which shows reruns of shows that have already been on free-to-air channels). Then, we switched over to the TV One Dave Dobbyn concert for the last song. As the final credits rolled, our clocks already showed midnight, as did the Sky decoder.

A big “10” popped up on the screen, followed by the other numbers in order until “1” (and it seemed slightly faster than 10 seconds to me…). Then, the screen went black, with Licence to Kill starting immediately afterward. We turned the TV off.

Now obviously this isn’t a big drama, and if we’d bothered to check in advance, we’d have known there was nothing on and we could have organised our own countdown. It’s just that it was such a surprise—well, first, that there was really nothing on relating to New Year’s Eve, and second, that what they did have on was so lame. Live and learn, I guess.

We were all in bed by 12:19, hearing the sounds of other people’s parties nearby. By that point, I know I really didn’t care about that.

And that was our New Year’s Eve.


d said...

Ours was really quiet too - we had left-over Indian takeout, and when we (also) found that there were no NYE programs, we watched DVDs of Scrubs.

Right before midnight, Darren searched for something NYE related on TV, and found a countdown, followed by fireworks (in Auckland?) which were impossible to see as there was cloud cover wherever they were filming.

Roger Owen Green said...

I stayed up for e first time in YEARS as did my wife and, for the first time, my daughter.

Happy New Year!

Arthur Schenck said...

d: I wonder if you had TV3? TV One did something similar last year, which was why we were so surprised they did nothing (to speak of) this year.

Roger: It seems it was a first New Year's Eve for several kids this year!

Jason in DC said...

I actually went to a party for the first time in a long time. It's strange that more wasn't on TV in New Zealand. The US makes such a big deal out of it. All three networks have programs. Even CNN has a countdown program.

Arthur Schenck said...

I suppose that, technically speaking, we had a party, even if it was a very small one.

I'm pretty sure that this was the worst year for NYE television in New Zealand that I can remember since I've lived here. And I have no idea why they all failed so miserably this year.

We probably had international alternatives—CNN International and BBC World usually observe the change in each time zone. But that's just not the same as something local, with a countdown eagerly embraced by the broadcast.

Maybe we'll try radio next year (okay, I'm just being sarcastic there).