Lucy Lawless cameo in 'Bro Town
AUSXIP Lucy Lawless Files - Articles - 2004 Magazines
25 September - 1 October 2004
The Simpsons of the South Pacific
Brief mention of Lucy in the upcoming 'bro Town animated series:
"And then there are the inevitable celebrity cameos, ranging from All Blacks to the Prime Minister and warrior princess Lucy Lawless (who gives a lecture on condom use). "
by Matt Nippert
TV3's new animated adult show is truly a labour of love.
In heaven, God wears a lava-lava. He's an Islander with a chiselled chest and beard. His only begotten son sulks in his room listening to angst rock over Easter. Descending to Morningside, Auckland, a posse of Polynesians cracks jokes about poos, wees and farts. At the Broadcasting Standards Authority (BSA), the race between complaints about -blasphemy and scatology on new local show bro'Town is going to be close-run.
Aside from its depiction of the almighty – probably the most inventive take on the divine since a giggling, mute Alanis Morissette played God in Dogma – bro'Town has made history: it's the first adult animated series produced in New Zealand. The reasons for this are twofold, relating to money and cultural cringe.
"It's expensive," says producer Elizabeth Mitchell (the first six episodes cost $2m), "and there's this complete 'New Zealanders can't do comedy' myth." Considering the infamously unfunny Melody Rules, the myth is not without foundation. The funniest local product of recent times, Eating Media Lunch, isn't even officially described as a comedy (apparently it's a show about "media commentary", but who does Jeremy Wells think he's kidding?).
Following the adventures of five Polynesian lads, whose inspiration is the improv comedy outfit the Naked Samoans, bro'Town tackles classic themes in Kiwi culture: rugby, religion, race and game shows. It has been a long time in the making. So long in fact that Mitchell says, "If I had known it would take three years, I probably would never have tried." Naked Samoan Oscar Kightley, who describes the show as "The Simpsons mating with South Park in the South Pacific", is also feeling the three-year production process.
"We'd write really tight scripts," says Kightley of the first stage of the marathon production process, "and then go crazy in the studio," improvising new dialogue on the fly. The revised script is voiced, and then a 30-strong team of animators hand-draws the 24 frames required per second of final footage.
The next stage in the production process produces strange bedfellows, thanks to globalisation. Call centres are routinely farmed out to Third World countries, and in the world of
cartoons, Simpsons animation is contracted out to South Korea. "Korea's pretty expensive," says Mitchell. Instead, bro'Town drawings are sent to India for inking and colouring. The issue is obviously a touchy one, as New Zealand On Air funding can't be spent abroad. Mitchell says the Indian component of the budget, "around 10 percent", is provided by TV3, a private investor and ubiquitous product placement.
The last process to be completed is editing, where the finished product is polished and the soundtrack added. Keeping with the Pacific flavour of the show, Nesian Mystik provided the title song and incidental music. The mammoth process means that 108 people are listed in the credits.
And then there are the inevitable celebrity cameos, ranging from All Blacks to the Prime Minister and warrior princess Lucy Lawless (who gives a lecture on condom use). TV3 backing means that station stalwarts get the inside running. "I'd love to have TVNZ celebrities," says Mitchell, but after receiving backing and resourcing from CanWest, she believes that the TV3 tie-in "is fair enough". A TVNZ production probably wouldn't feature TV3's effervescent newsreader John Campbell, who, says Kightley, "had to be asked to be more like John Campbell". The result? Every third word is "Maaaarvellous". Even better is Carol Hirschfeld, in pitch-perfect six o'clock newsspeak, saying "dumb-ass P-heads".
The expense of animated adult productions has sounded a death knell overseas. A poor first season of ratings often makes broadcasters nervous, leading to premature axing, regardless of quality. In the US, The Family Guy lasted three years before getting the chop, despite generating a cult following. Once released on DVD, the title quickly became its channel's biggest seller. So the show has re-entered production, after four years in television wilderness.
Despite the edgy humour, Mitchell says bro'Town is unlikely to face a similarly shaky future. Network executives here "loved" the show enough to provide funding for a second season, thus giving a chance for the programme to get an audience beyond cult.
And as for those soon-to-be flat-out telephonists at the BSA? Mitchell has probably got sketches of David Lane from the Society for the Promotion of Community Standards tucked away in a drawer somewhere, saying of complainants, "We'll just parody them in the next series."
bro'Town, TV3, Wednesday, 8.00pm.
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