Wow. This show is so cool, genuinely hilarious, brave and brilliant.
bro'Town manages to superbly mix the laugh requirements of a sit-com with affectionate truths about living in 21st Century Aotearoa. It deals with difficult subjects: particularly racism, but also dodgy parenting, poverty, drugs, sexuality, God ... the works! Characters include a poor Māori who does badly at school, a racist South African and a drunken Pacific Islander fixated on porn.
bro'Town grew out of a stage play first produced by comedy ensemble the Naked Samoans in 1998. Producer Elizabeth Mitchell spent three years raising the finance to make the first series, which must have been huge considering each episode took up to six months to make, consisted of 16,000 drawings and used three animation studios (including one in Hyderabad, India).
Each of the Naked Samoans has his own character (Shimpal Lelisi is Valea, Mario Gaoa voices Sione, Oscar Kightley speaks for Vale) - except for Dave Fane, who does heaps (Jeff da Maori, Mack, Pepelo Pepelo and others).
bro'Town rated through the roof after premiering on TV3 in 2004; it went on to win Best Comedy at the NZ Screen Awards three years in a row. The show sold around the world and lasted five seasons. As a measure of its popularity, bro'Town attracted Simpsons-esque cameo appearances from Prime Ministers, Xena, newsreaders, sports stars (animated as themselves) ... even Prince Charles popped up in Morningside.
Popular with young and old, the series has inspired spin-off products, including a stage show, lunch boxes, T-shirts, boxer shorts and fan-clubs. Lines from the show have even entered the Kiwi vernacular, such as Jeff da Maori's catch-phrase: "not even ow".
bro'Town, with its sophisticated production values and Poly-saturated brazenness, represented a moving on from the comedy of Billy T James and the gentle provincialism of Footroot Flats. It mirrors a New Zealand more than able to laugh at itself and its flaws.
It warms my heart that the Naked Samoans and Firehorse Films were able to make this show in the risk-averse world of television broadcasting. They have never compromised or stopped having fun; and they have not shied away from applying their abundance of comic genius to difficult material. If one day we celebrate our artists the same way we celebrate our sports heroes, these guys will get a parade down Queen Street.