Doug Coutts’ TV Preview: How to Murder Your Wife

TV Preview: How to Murder Your Wife | TV1, 8.30 Sunday


By Doug Coutts

When you’re putting together a telemovie about the sad case of a hen-pecked bloke who finally snaps and kills his wife before chopping her into six bits and burying her in the backyard, playing it for laughs is quite an unusual approach. But that’s what they’ve done with How to Murder Your Wife, and I don’t know if it works.

It looks and sounds a lot like an Underbelly, which is fair enough because both the writer and the director had a hand in the one set right here in NZ. But that was the seedy underside of international drug dealing, and Alf Denning – our wife murderer – is a dodgy little bugger who traps feral cats and gases them in his basement. (Not that that’s spelled out – I found it on the internet.) He doesn’t merit the level of glorification he’s given.

It’s nicely shot, and the performances are top-notch. But it’s a bit too glib for me, and once-over lightly – it’s always good to leave your viewers wanting more, but not more substance.

And just as the cleverest killers get caught out by the slightest slip – in Alf’s case it was not rubbing out the underlining in library books – it can happen to scriptwriters as well: I doubt very much if the term Wanga-vegas was in use back in 1977.

Still, if you’re not too presbyterian to angst over justice and retribution, or just a pedant, this quick flick through Wellington’s social mores in the 1970s is a reasonable enough way to kick off One’s Sunday Theatre season.

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:
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