Easter TV Preview: Hyundai Country Calendar

Hyundai Country Calendar: TV1, 7.00 Saturday

A PERSONAL VIEW By Doug Coutts

A PERSONAL VIEW
By Doug Coutts

It’s back. Just as it’s done every year from 1967*, Country Calendar returns for another series of in-depth looks at people out there in the world – strictly speaking New Zealand – getting their hands and gumboots dirty so the rest of us don’t have to.

Still, it’s good to know where the wool for your merino potholders comes from and watching sheep heading in single file up a ramp like lambs to the slaughter keeps us carnivores honest. (It probably pisses the vegans right off, so that’s a bonus.)

Country Calendar is not just about sheep. Cows get a look in, as do turkeys (but not in gumboots, that was a different show) and ducks, then there’s tractors and top-dressers and hippies and Queen St farmers – anything or anyone to do with agri, horti, aqua, silvi, api, vini or indeed any culture gets their half hour of fame.

And good thing too – Country Calendar has steadfastly stayed where television is increasingly reluctant to go and told real stories about real people that are really interesting. True, there have been lapses – particularly when the network, or the sponsor, decided it would be a good idea to have a pre-presenter pre-present the show before the show got around to presenting itself. Thankfully those days – like the National Bank sponsor – are long gone.

It’s a simple format that’s lasted well. And so have the staff – the first episode in this series is voiced by Frank Torley, who first appeared on the show in 1975, and directed by Howard Taylor, who’s of similar vintage – pinot, if I recall correctly.

There are young people involved as well, which means there’s a chance Country Calendar will be around for a long while yet.

This first episode deals with a family of cheese makers, so determinedly hands-on that they even grow their own cows. Half the milk goes to Fonterra while the rest gets taken down the road to the cheesery, where nothing gets in the whey of churning out good gouda. (They don’t really churn it out – but there is a lot of stirring.)

Nothing gets in the way of the story-telling either, which is a bit of a rarity these days. In fact I’d go so far as to say Country Calendar and the 90-second interview on Lotto’s Winning Wheel are the only times we get to see real New Zealanders on the telly who aren’t in danger of being voted off.

As we say in the rural sector – well done Country Calendar, and keep it up.

* Yes, I know CC started in 1966, but it wasn’t until 1967 that it returned for another year.  Jeepers …


Doug Coutts has had a career in and around television for close to 40 years.  He spent 13 years as a floor manager at Avalon Studios before going freelance and never earning as much again. His writing has spanned TV genres — from Shortland Street dialoguery and quiz shows to documentaries and comedy — while a lengthy stint as TV reviewer in the Auckland Star earned him two mentions in Metro magazine’s Hot List and an angry letter from Jon Gadsby. You can read more of Doug (the satirist) at: Weakly Whirled News.

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