COW TV (2006)

A screenshot from the 2006 Opening Titles which I shot. A parody version of the Fresh Prince opening.

A screenshot from the 2006 Opening Titles which I shot. A parody version of the Fresh Prince opening.

Continued from 2005 Part 3.

After the holiday break I’d decided with the full on events of 2005 combined with the extra Channel 9 work that I had to drop working on COW TV for 2006, but former ScarfieTV producer Nic Roland – now producer for the 2006 (and also later 2007) season – roped me and a few others into assisting wherever I could. To be fair it was very nice being asked to help out and I ended up enjoying getting to still work on projects I wanted to and assisting where I could with someone who actually respected people… and so one of the first things I helped on was shooting titles for the show for the year. Nic was also far more in tune with the style of how Cam and Matt were, plus he had friends who were students and still at the time had a very student like style to him. A big change over the previous year which made me think the show was in great hands.

As for the titles, the idea was to do a different TV theme parody every 4-6 weeks over the year, but we only shot one… a Fresh Prince parody one… which wasn’t bad at all. I’ve linked it below. Still I wish we’d gotten to do my “Moobie Cowser T.V.” idea at some point though. He was to be a master brewer at Speight’s from age 7 rather than a Doctor, and the idea of traipsing around the Speights brew floor in lab coats, and the chance to do freeze frame host introductions was so great – but sadly never done. The Fresh Prince one worked well, and we tied it into one of the presenters backgrounds really well and it still was a laugh.

Piling on top of Nic’s incoming requests was the fact I was still doing the other work. Be it news work, the sports show for a while, Southern Newsweek, internal commercials, any other productions, and trouble shooting and filling production gaps at Channel 9…. I had also gotten back together with my ex in the later part of 2005 which provided her to be unimpressed with me still spending such hours at COWTV for unpaid work. Then to top it all off I was also asked to help shoot Hamish Coleman-Ross’s content for his start up national student show which he had decided would be still called “Studentville” as per his plan a year earlier.

As I mentioned in 2005 Hamish had considered a regional broadcast show separate from COWTV before the year had begun, but now with some connections to the brand guys from Auckland who’d done the V deal with us for Queenstown and the Undie500 in 2005, Hamish was planning to go national with the same idea. Of course he didn’t have an agreement with any broadcaster in place, so his idea was to shoot pilot material and events from the first half of the year with the idea of convincing someone to pick it up to put on air later in the year once it was all edited together. I’ll cover Studentville in more detail another time.

I met with Luke and Keith from the station separately during late Jan and told them Hamish had asked me to help out shoot some Studentville program idea and that I was already reducing my work on COW TV and focusing on other Channel 9 content anyway so I didn’t see an issue if they didn’t. Both said it was okay, so I took it on face value. Hamish wasn’t yet in a position to pay me anyway, and aside from occasional events COW didn’t really pay either… so I figured it’s hard to have a real conflict anyway when no money is being exchanged.

As Orientation came, on the first day of shooting for Hamish… indeed at the end of shooting the first thing for Hamish on that day, I got a text message from Luke saying Keith had voiced issues with me shooting for Hamish, who he’d heard was in town. So as soon as I was clear of the shoot I walked across town to Channel 9 and ended up with a long discussion with Luke where I told him I’d already talked to both of them about this and that was their chance to voice concerns. They’d said it was okay, and so it was too late now. Retrospectively this was the beginning of the end of my time at “the nine” but this wasn’t apparent for a number of months.

While I shot some orientation stuff for Nic that didn’t clash with Hamish, including a Rodeo (my first and likely last I’ll ever attend), I found then Nic was playing an Orientation tour with his band which co-coincided with a need for me to be in Christchurch to help Hamish with his show. So I hitched a ride, via Cromwell to pick up Nic’s organ from his home there, and shot the pirate themed gig for Hamish at the Cantab Uni bar. It was a weird experience doing this, but aside from getting sick on the day we drove back, it proved to be fun. The organ returned to Dunedin and became a set piece for COW TV for the next couple of years as “The Organ Zone”, and was a great thing to go into and out of breaks with… and guests on the show, musical ones especially, really seemed to enjoy it.

For a few more months I continued to help where I could and balance my work at the 9 and what I did for Hamish. I would make it to some studio shows still for COW when I could, the experience of them never stopped being a laugh, but as the year went on they were often few and far between. Certainly often when I turned up I helped setup and taught new crew, but often stopped working on the shows instead just sitting in and watching and being a problem solver for Nic – especially after Wayne left his Operations role at the station early in the year as well.

I probably would have made more but the demands from my (ex)girlfriend to not spend so many hours at Channel 9 and spend more evenings at home was often the brunt as well as to me cutting back on hours at COW. Usually I’d have only arrived home at between 7 and 7.30 from after the news shift, and I’d be leaving to walk back down to at around 9pm the three nights of the week the show was on. This annoyed her a lot, especially as COW wasn’t exactly giving me extra pay as I mentioned, but I probably should have just gone.

Nic had great presenters and crew. Jez had continued on which was great for the show especially, and without Sarah around he could get back to making original content once more and did so wherever he could. Tim Couch, Caroline Hornibrook, and Alice McKinlay joined Jez and they fit together even more perfectly than the presenters the year before because they all got on well. Nic also had talented friends who could play music, and were awesome on screen talent. There was sometimes more technical or logistical issues that he would ask someone like Jez or I to try help on. One of the big issues was Walk of Shame shoots, because getting presenters and crew together was tough and Nic didn’t even really like the segment all that much anyway. He’d done one right at the start of the year which just didn’t come together very well, and ended up asking me to help out.

While my first choice was Ivan due to his very dry quips when I’d done them with him in 2004, who just wasn’t free anymore to help due to his work. We ended up calling in Joe Hackshaw to help out because of his similar dry quip style. Joe and I ended up doing a few of them over the year… trying to get as much content as we could over a weekend so that a few episodes could be edited and we’d only have to do another shoot every 4-6 weeks on average. Based on his return via the Walk of Shame, Joe was added to the roster of presenters and often still did music and sports stories as well as taking on the Night and Day News segment for the year.

Somewhere near the start of the year Nic had also reversed some footage of the Rodeo I shot for some reason to fill airtime, and this along with a couple of other bits of footage started a new segment that lasted for a while – Stuff In Reverse. Based on the positive response to such a simple idea, the sales team managed to get this sponsored by Yilmaz Turkish Pizza place and this meant there was pizzas for the presenters and crew on Friday nights (replacing the Pizza Hutt from the previous year – a much decent upgrade, as Yilmaz was awesome), and also for the whole of Channel 9 every week for the Friday lunch meeting. So that was a nice surprise for the year.

As the year itself went on, other issues got in the way for me however. March through June seemed busy enough… I’d shot and pitched a pilot for the station that struggled to get proper funding… and I wasn’t entirely happy with the outcome at the time. I was off shooting stuff for Hamish which included a week in Wellington for University Games in April, and often he’d return to Dunedin for us to shoot local events like the Hyde Street Keg Party and I’d be at the same event and see the COW guys off doing their thing… and these sorts of things took a while to get used to. Some weeks I’d get a lot of work, including shooting material for the Southern Attraction information/advertising loop or helping shoot or edit other material for clients… then others I’d have a couple of news shifts and that was all at the station.

On top of that my relationship wasn’t finally not being strained at the time as I’d been reducing the time at the 9 where I could, but it was getting obvious with it that there was a move back to Wellington on the cards at the end of the year and I needed to work for more money than Channel 9 could give me to pay for the move. After the pay issues in 2005 at times, where I’d work more hours than Luke could afford to pay me, nothing had changed in my hours to fix this – and once we got further into the 2006 year, if anything I was working less overall for Channel 9 with the loss of sponsors and shows…. which wasn’t helping the pay I was already getting. Instead of being shortchanged on working 47 hours but being paid 40… Luke was sometimes struggling to give me more than 20 paid hours at times. By August I started looking for other work, and ended up at NZ Post the next month… the shifts were in the afternoon to evening which cut out my ability to work on the News and so after close to two and half years or so of doing the show I told Luke I couldn’t do it any longer.

Ironically the same day I went to do this in person, he was going to call me about coming into work on a new show they were making, Dunedin Diary – with Dougal Stevenson that would air before the news once a week. I relented briefly – told NZ Post I had a prior one off commitment and would be late, and ended up helping setup and shoot the first episode in late September or early October. It was one of the last things I did for the station as far as paid studio work went officially.

I technically didn’t end my employ there until the very start of December, still helping with the occasional shoot, edit, or weekend sporting event OB not impacted by my NZPost hours. The day I came into say I was off it was ironically Marlies, who was the afternoon/evening presentation director, last day and so was also due to be finishing that evening. They had a big gift all sorted for her, and so when I came in at such short notice they had to scramble together a card for me. Mighty embarrassing for me, and silly that I left it that late to say I was off. It was just part of the disconnect I felt with the station in my final few months… but I still feel fairly bad about it to this day.

As I said at the start of this entry, Nic continued on with COW TV for the following 2007 season and from all accounts the two years he did was exceptionally great in total. Luke was pleased with the effort he put it and from comments I’ve heard since, I guess he wishes Nic could have stuck around for at least one more given how it went after. The replacement after Nic, who had also come from ScarfieTV from when Nic had left that did most of his work outside of the studio, outside of the office, and it changed the direction of the show and from some unconfirmed accounts it pissed off the sponsors a lot. I wasn’t there to see it, but the attitude and separation also impacted on the sponsoring so much that it may have been this that changed the future of the show too a few years later.

While I’d managed to make that museum video piece out of the first six years, COW TV didn’t last to repeat that six years later. At the start of 2011, after 11 seasons… there was no new sponsor to replace Speights, who’d finally decided not to renew their brand ownership. As much as they tried to sell it at Channel 9, it was considered like poison to the brand for anyone else to touch it… the association was too strong, and so the show was later replaced with one called Scarfie Land. Ironically the format of the show was almost a return to how COW TV began; 1 episode, pre-produced, running 30 minutes once a week. Callum Macdonald, who I worked with often through 2004 and 05, later returned to full time work at Channel 9 after I left Dunedin, and aside from being a general production worker like I had, he worked on the first few seasons of Scarfie Land before he left Channel 9 for England last year.

When I’ve been back to Dunedin like I did a year ago (holy hell, it’s been a year now since I last went back!?!) I’ve caught up and talked to Luke about the show and now it’s been gone for a little while I get the feeling it’s changed the dynamic around the station quite a bit. For good and bad I guess… having to look after the place he doesn’t have to worry about crazy unpaid youth running around the halls, drinking beer, and making a mess… but at the same time there just isn’t as many younger people running around, making creative stuff, and training for future work. Maybe regardless of how the show ended up, this might have happened anyway… less direct TV watching, more creative online video and social media especially… TV alone, not just Regional TV, is facing an interesting future. In 2005 Jez had interviewed CowTV’s creator Clark Gayford at the music awards and he seemed shocked the show was still going then. The fact then it went on for other 5 seasons after that might have surprised anyone. But sadly, it’s obvious COW TV was never going to last forever.

It’s been well over 10 years since I started on COW TV, and almost 8 since I left it behind. It however has for some reason never left my mind as an experience, just simply because it was just mostly fun. I don’t know if I didn’t annoy people or step on toes, but I hope I helped make some good laughs even though we were never really sure if anyone was always watching. The people I worked with on the various years of the show, all the ones I still know of have done so amazingly well in the past 10 or so years – most are still working in media, the strike rate is so much higher than my film school numbers. Channel 9’s down and dirty, make it work, fix the problem, just get onto it ethos and the studio show’s freedom with only technical restraints bred such well skilled people they just naturally seem to do better than others. It’s nice to see that as a legacy, and hopefully be considered part of it. And really I was glad to be a part of the show. As the tagline for the show was in 2002, summed it up so well – it was such an experience, it really was “more than just good friends.”

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