Screw MTV — I want my Shortland Street

December 17, 2008

Dear Shortland Street Producers:

My name is John and I absolutely love your show. Yes, I know I’m Canadian and I was raised on the best TV programs U.S. network money can buy (and then cancel in midseason, the heartless bastards). But, truth be told, neither the likes of Friends nor Jerry Seinfeld ever turned my crank the way Shortland Street does.

I first became addicted to the show when Viking Woman and I lived in the Cook Islands. You didn’t need a clock to know it was 8 p.m. on a weekday. You could tell by the lack of traffic on the road or, in Viking Woman’s case, the fact that patients and fellow nurses were all huddled together in the TV room. You just knew Shorty Street was on.

I fed that hunger during the three years we lived in Gisborne, following each character, each plot arc, each nuance, immersing myself in the Prime Directive: No one is allowed to be happy.

Which was fine with me. If your viewing public is leading a crap life on this double-decker speck in the South Pacific, then why wouldn’t a nighttime soap reflect that same misery?

When my tenure at the Calgary Herald ended and Viking Woman and I were casting about for a new home that was maybe not -30 C and required that your car be plugged in overnight lest it freeze into an ice cube with wheels, one thing proved pivotable to our decision to return to New Zealand.

Shortland Street? Good guess. Nicely done, you.

(Well, Shortland Street and feijoas, plus the fact O’Ryans potato chips, having been eaten into extinction in North America, still thrive in the Land of the Long White Cloud. And, yes, I do thank Jesus every single night.)

Funny thing is, despite the high ratings I read about in the newspapers, I haven’t encountered a single Kiwi who will admit to watching Shorty Street. Coronation Street? Oh by God yes! Just like my mother and her mother before that. Rugby? It’s a freakin’ religion, mate!

But SS? Stink to that!

But I know they’re out there, my fellow Shorty Street lovers. Well, maybe not exactly out, but certainly in a closet somewhere, faces lit by glowing plasma, secretly revelling in the adventures of all those naughty, naughty nurses and doctors.

It’s become a way of life at our house. A routine. A sacrament. A holy calling. A pilgrimmage, if you will.

You do not want to be pimping Jehovah at our door between 7-7:30 p.m., Monday to Friday. You do not want to be ringing to say we won the lottery. You do not want to be running down the street, hair on fire, screaming that the world is ending.

We will ignore you. Until 7:31 that is, and then we’ll see what all that Apocalypse bother is about.

But this is all a bit of a round-about, long-winded route to get to the heart of the matter, to arrive at the point this letter is supposed to be making.

You see, I realize it’s summer and all, and vast numbers of Kiwis are in the back yard or at the bach or the beach, singeing their eyebrows whilst barbecuing mutton sausages and kumara.

They’re sitting on the grass, swatting mossies and drinking Tui and Lion Red and shit like that, laughing and swapping lies and making plans for the weekend.

They are not inside, not in the lounge, not in front of the TV. So that affords you, Most Glorious and Wonderful Producers, a chance to take the show off the air for a month. To give the cast and crew a well-deserved break. To use the time to work on new and wonderful story lines. To get away and enjoy the fine weather with the rest of your countrymen.

But I have one, teensy, little question for you: WHAT THE HELL AM I SUPPOSED TO DO?

You see, I don’t own a barbecue. I don’t drink beer. I don’t have friends. And I have no plans for the holidays because as an unemployed, er, freelance journalist, every freakin’ day is a holiday. The hard part about doing nothing is you don’t know when to take a break.

I understand you shut down production every year at this time but that doesn’t make going cold turkey any easier. I start to twitch; I don’t sleep very well; I weep at inopportune moments. I tend to assume the fetal position, which is not a good look when you’re driving.

So, yeah, with tomorrow being the final episode of 2008, I’m pretty much begging you to stop torturing me like this. Please make this the final time you take such an extended break. Otherwise, I can’t be held responsible for my actions. Otherwise I may have to resort to drastic measures.

Like watching Coronation Street, for instance. And we all know they play that show’s theme music in Hell. Every day. For all time. 

Begging you to save me from eternal damnation, I remain 

Sincerely yours


P.S.: I know it’s been seven years since the character of Minnie Crozier left the show, but she was the reason I became hooked on SS in the first place. What with her short skirts and bunny tops and all. So if you could somehow see the way to bring Minnie back, I’d be the happiest viewer in the known universe. Well, at least the Napier part of it anyway.


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