Doug Coutts’ Exclusive Preview of Gloriavale: Life and Death

TV Preview: Gloriavale: Life and Death | TV2, 8.30 Sunday


By Doug Coutts

Gloriavale: Life and Death is a follow-up of last year’s intriguing look at the West Coast religious community of the same name, except they don’t put the Life and Death tag on the sign at the gate.

ScreenScribe has been fortunate to get the only advance preview copy of this one in the country.

As most people will already know, the 600 or so members of the group are convinced that God is going to pop along any day now and cart them off to Heaven and think this is a Good Thing.

That’s the first thing that sets them apart from the rest of us. The second is that while they’re waiting for the next bus departing This Mortal Coil, they all wear the same clothes – a retro Amish-in-blue look for the women and Serco prison farm too-short trousers for the men.

And after that, they’re just like everyone else. They work hard, and play… well, maybe they don’t play. It’s a serious business, after all, waiting for the rapture. But underneath it all – and you can bet there’s some hefty lower-layer garmentry involved – these are ordinary folk trying to get through life by following a certain set of rules. That the rules don’t make a lot of sense to people on the outside is something they don’t appear to be too worried about.

Don’t appear to be… it’s highly probable the old guys running the community have trotted out the most telegenic clan members who can also best articulate the mission statement. But that doesn’t really matter – the beauty of this documentary is it presents the facts and we viewers get to make up our own minds.

It’s an old-fashioned idea – this lack of editorialising or obvious attitude. TV networks the world over seem to think we need guidance and pointers, or even Rottweilers like a Hosking or a Henry, to work out what’s going on. Gloriavale 2 doesn’t tell you what to think, but shows you there is much to think about.

Everyone is quite fervent – in fact some are actually called Fervent – in their belief this is the only way to live and the next best thing to dying.

We see people on the brink of death, and others quite close to giving birth, something they’re obviously quite good at. “How many great-grandchildren do we have?” the ailing Steady asks his wife. “56, dear.”

It’s all been respectfully and sensitively captured –the pictures are wonderful, as you’d expect when You Know Who’s in charge of the lighting. You could be looking at a video brochure for a 5-star holiday camp, one offering an almost too-good-to-be-true loyalty rewards scheme.

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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