[This was a workshopped, but ultimately discarded, standfirst for my story Can Julie Christie save TV3? Given my opportunities to write satire are so few, I'm publishing it here to prevent it being lost forever to the cutting-room floor.]
PREVIOUSLY ON THE BLOCK: TELEVISION NETWORK
Our plucky duo Mark Weldon and Julie Christie have been tasked with doing up a pre-loved broadcast network. Their project had fetched a record price a decade ago, but that same record price saw the previous owners overstretched. Maintenance languished, and soon enough mortgagee sale signs were pitched in the front yard with the banks offering the property at half the price they were owed.
“Would suit risk-taker prepared to roll up sleeves,” the advertisements said. Step up Weldon and Christie, on behalf of new owners who showed up to the fire sale to play the most lucrative game on the box. Their possible reward for months of toil? A slice of any excess – potentially tens of millions of dollars - if an auction at the series’ conclusion exceeds reserve.
With the stakes so high it doesn’t take long before drama began to intrude into reality. The picturesque public Home & Away park running along the rear of the property – an underappreciated selling point, it turns out – is unexpectedly bulldozed in episode two and becomes a never-ending construction site.
More heartache comes in episode four when a conversion of the property’s turn-of-the-century Campbell library into a Jacuzzi generates picketing from neighbours who complain that the structure deserved Historic Places Trust protection. Efforts to deal with protesters – first by calling the cops, then by inviting them to dinner – only inflames the situation, and by the time the mob drifts away to Radio New Zealand the rose garden has been trampled to mud.
As the season has ticked by, the plans of Weldon and Christie have taken clear shape. Despite tut-tutting from sidelines observers they may have gone over-budget and out-of-fashion, the Mediaworks team go all-in on a hunch potential buyers will love their realist style. A bold decision to knock down interior walls separating the breakfast bar and toilet in order to highlight a controversial work by modern artist Paul Henry can’t help but divide viewers further.