Two of the best New Zealand comedies of recent years have been Educators and Wellington Paranormal, and there’s more than a bit of crossover between the two shows.
Thomas Sainsbury plays hapless relief teacher Rudy Beard in Educators, screening at SBS On Demand, and the equally hapless Constable Parker in the COPS-like mockumentary Wellington Paranormal, which begins its fourth season next Wednesday on SBS VICELAND.
Meanwhile, Jackie van Beek, who stars as cruel guidance counsellor Robyn Duffy in the Educators, has directed several episodes of Wellington Paranormal.
It’s fair to say things are pretty close-knit in the Kiwi comedy world.
Educators is about as dark as it gets when it comes to sitcoms.
The first two seasons – both now available at SBS On Demand – are written by Jonny Brugh, van Beek and director Jesse Griffin but are largely unscripted.
The events take place in a Kiwi secondary school where the students are awful and the teachers are even worse.
Leading the way on the foulmouthed staff is the morally reprehensible Robyn, played to cynical perfection by van Beek, who takes great delight in crushing the students’ dreams and aspirations…when she’s not screaming at her ex-husband on the phone.
During one career advice meeting, she asks drama student and aspiring rapper Maria (Ana Scotney) where she sees herself in 10 years.
“I’m looking out and I see New York and a film set,” comes the optimistic reply.
“You’re not seeing a film set,” says Robyn dismissively. “Do you know what I see? Freezing works. The meat industry. So we’re going to take you out of drama [class].”
Nearly as bad is the drama teacher, Judy Mokopouwhare (Kura Forrester), who’s dead-keen on staging Equus as the next school play, despite everyone’s uneasiness about the huge amount of nudity in the production.
There’s sleazy staff member John Harrison (Cohen Holloway), who’s keen to coach the girls’ football team just so he can chat up a few single mums after training sessions.
He’s egged on by short-tempered PE teacher Vinnie Thompson (Rick Donald), who bullies his students when he’s not trying to score drugs.
School principal Jarred Needham (Jonny Brugh) is the classic weaselly leader who’s not afraid to pass the buck and run out of the room at the first sign of conflict.
Finally, there’s Rudy, who may not be an actual teacher. His name might not actually be Rudy either.
To put it bluntly, the faculty are incompetent and spiteful. They can’t stand the students and the only people they hate more are the parents, who seem to be constantly coming in to make complaints.
In particular, there’s 46-year-old divorcee Robert (Paul Glover), who claims he wants to enrol as a student so he can spend more time with his daughter without his ex-wife knowing about it.
A nonchalant Jarred lets him come back, not even bothering with a background check.
“I think it’s going to be entertaining,” says a bemused Vinnie as Robyn escorts Robert to the classroom. “But does he have a daughter here? We just sorta went with that.”
Educators paints a fairly bleak picture of the profession, but van Beek hopes that real educators won’t hate the series.
“It’s certainly not a naturalistic portrayal of teachers,” she explains to the New Zealand Herald. “We’ve used a lot of poetic licence. I’m sure teachers will have a good sense of humour and laugh along with it.”
If they don’t, then the entire cast and crew may find themselves in after-school detention for life.
A mysterious bird-woman is wreaking havoc throughout the city in the first episode of season four of Wellington Paranormal.
It appears that the monster is breaking into people’s homes and stealing lots of shiny things to build a nest on top of a wind turbine.
However, when the powerful creature nicks the ‘W’ from the giant ‘Wellington’ sign, the police have had enough.
It’s up to officers Minogue (Mike Minogue) and O’Leary (Karen O’Leary) – with the assistance of vengeful bird expert Beverly Hatupatu (Waitahi Aniwaniwa) – to bring the feathery culprit to justice.
Each episode of Wellington Paranormal has fun showing the interactions between the no-nonsense police and the otherworldly creatures they encounter on a nightly basis.
However, the series really excels in the smaller moments, particularly the deadpan exchanges between dumb O’Leary and dumber Minogue, such as the scene in the first ep when the cops arrive at a flat where a disturbance is taking place.
“Open up!” yells O’Leary.
“Aw, thanks, O’Leary,” says Minogue. “I’ve been thinking a lot about my childhood lately…”
A slightly embarrassed O’Leary replies, “I meant the guy behind the door.”
Fans of the dynamic duo should enjoy them while they can as creators Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi have stated the series may not be back for a fifth season.
Thankfully for lovers of Kiwi comedy, Educators is here to pick up the slack.
Both seasons of Educators are available to stream now at SBS On Demand.
All fours seasons are streaming now at SBS On Demand. Start at the beginning.