There’s been plenty of time for TV watching in 2020, and as a practiced couch potato and author, I’ve been happy for the opportunity to combine my two favorite pursuits by writing this review of my favorite show, the 1pm Daily Update on TV One. Disappointed as I was by the cancellation of Matt Le Blanc in Episodes by the same station, I still had the 1 pm Daily Update to look forward to each afternoon. Starring Jacinda Ardern and Dr. Ashley Bloomfield, the first series came to a satisfying end earlier this year, and I had no idea the production company was planning a second series.

Imagine my outrage when that first episode of season two aired after 9 pm the other night, with little prior warning. I missed the first fifteen minutes, which is a vital scene-setter to any drama. Then I found I didn’t have any popcorn in the house so the rest of the show wasn’t as enjoyable as it could have been. The 1 pm Update is inspiring fodder, but this season the dialogue has been lacking, showing repetitive hints of last season’s script. In particular, the less-talented extras who are cast as journalists seem to display sub-standard intelligence, asking for clarification of matters a five-year-old should understand. The writers need to up their game and similarly need to sharpen up their plot points. I fear otherwise the series might have a saggy middle which goes on and on for weeks on end. The production crew is doing as good a job as they can given their limited sets and the lack of New Zealand’s stunning scenery as a backdrop to this epic. The camera work and lighting are proficient, but why don’t makeup and wardrobe jazz up the leads a little? It’s not like we have a shortage of over-the-top fashion designers in this country and surely this TV show is a great place to showcase their work.

The star of the show is stellar. It’s not an exaggeration to say Jacinda Ardern was born to play the lead. She has the looks and likability of Sandra Bullock and the talent of Meryl Streep, demonstrating her range in every episode. From her kindness and flashes of nuanced emotion to her steel and determination in dealing with the press pack, to her occasional ad-libbing (‘the Easter bunny is an essential worker’ was the best line in the first series) I have no doubt she will be nominated for an Oscar. For my part, she will get my Academy vote, and I’m hopeful many other Kiwis feel the same way. I’m looking forward to the screening of the Academy Awards in a way I never have before.

Dr. Ashley Bloomfield is, like Hugh Grant, a somewhat unlikely hero, but has nonetheless won the hearts of women—and many men—throughout the country. Don’t you feel like ruffling that oh-so-casual spiky cut which seems completely and attractively devoid of hair gel? In Season 2 we see Bloomfield delivering his lines with more confidence, and although in the first season we loved his hesitancy, it’s now his time to shine. My guess is his next gig will be in a Marvel blockbuster and I’m looking forward to seeing him flying across the galaxy in red tights and a chest-hugging top to destroy the baddie (more about Crusher Collins later).

More importantly, how will Bloomfield’s relationship with Jacinda develop? Their on-screen chemistry is undeniable and I can’t help but wonder if it will spill over into real life. I usually prefer TV shows with a little more heat. I don’t need gratuitous sex and nudity, and I think an Ardern and Bloomfield pairing (imagine Bullock and Grant) makes this improbable. However, a little lip-locking never goes amiss and I keep hoping it will happen in this series. Maybe it’s unlikely given social distancing, the fact our two main characters aren’t Tin Star-like renegades, and Crusher Collins and the press pack would call for the censors to cancel the star’s contracts on morality grounds if there was a hint of tongue.

More likely than romance, the combat between Crusher Collins and Ardern is sure to dominate this season. It doesn’t matter how safe Collins wardrobe and makeup are—you can see the fangs come out when she talks about Ardern. I can’t help but think Crusher would be better cast in ‘Diaries of a Vampire’. Ardern is so good she needs a more worthy opponent than Collins but no one else in the acting world was available to take the part with the exception of a few comedians who would have been less annoying than Collins and have had better lines. My vote would have gone to Melanie Bracewell but the problem is she looks too much like Ardern which would have made the romance storyline a little confusing for our hero.

I started watching the overseas shows before I switched to the New Zealand show. I usually enjoy international productions, but the casting in the lead roles in the UK and the US was unbelievable. Johnson and Trump could be identical twins separated at birth, not only for their looks but for their intelligence and ethics as well. I guess Trump has a semi-excuse in that he was a D-grade reality TV show actor. Hopefully the Americans—and the British—will come to their senses and vote these buffoons off their respective shows.

One of the downsides of lockdown is that we can’t sit around at work discussing the previous day’s episode. But the show’s so entertaining that discussions take place in social media, on phone and Messenger calls, and in Zoom meetings and it’s inspired a number of lockdown romances (one of which I’m currently writing). The author of the original novel on which the shows are based (was it Stephen King or Dean Koontz?) is apparently receiving no royalties, as the novel wasn’t as carefully copyrighted as it could have been. I’m being more careful on that front.

I’m going to finish this review with some pressing questions. Will there be a happily ever after for Jacinda and Ashley, or a less satisfying happily for now? If the latter, I suspect there may be a third season of the show. I’d prefer TV One screened another season of Episodes with the hunky and sexually active Matt Le Blanc instead. He has no issues with nudity and is happy to put it about.

Will there be an ongoing role for the bit-part actress Crusher Collins over the next few weeks? Or is she already starting to annoy the New Zealand viewers with her Trump-like tactics in making it clear she thinks the current star is second-rate? If she remains in the role of antagonist, will Jacinda Ardern be the victor in the ensuing Valkyrie-Ogre battle?

What I want to know most of all is whether this season will be the satisfying redemption story I’m craving?

Will the all-important and talented extras—the collective Team of 5 Million—follow the stage manager’s directions and stay indoors? Will the young ones forgo their parties and social lives in order to protect the more vulnerable? Will conspiracy theorists (and eventually anti-vaxxers) get over themselves and get a social conscience, for the good of all the rest of the Team of 5 Million? Or will they protest their civil rights, arm themselves like it’s Armageddon, and storm the Beehive?

I hope the Team of 5 Million participates to the wonderful extent they did in season one. Because as much as I love this show, I want to see it canceled as soon as possible.

But at the moment it’s still airing, so I’ve added popcorn to my online grocery order.

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Enjoy getting to know Tessa, a regular girl with small problems and dreams of making it big in Hollywood. The LA Lights series combines romance, action, and adventure, served up with fabulous friends, hot heroes, and delightful dogs.  Sign up now and receive this welcome gift when you subscribe to my newsletter.

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