Chad White, Wants To Visit New Zealand, Where’s Old Zealand?
New Zealand seems like a place where you could get away with pretty much anything. Everybody appears to be laid back, without a care in the world. And don’t get me started on those dreamy accents. If I met a girl with that New Zealand accent, I’m pretty sure I would swoon. I’m sure she would catch me. In many ways, she would’ve stuck her neck out for me. This practice of literally sticking your neck out is called “short poppy” in New Zealand.
Rhys Darby and his wife stuck their necks out in order to produce the Netflix Original Series Short Poppies. They did a really good job with it too (listen to him talk about it on the Nerdist Podcast). It follows a reporter, played by real life New Zealander reporter David Farrier, as he talks to out-of-the-ordinary people from the fictional town “The Bay.” The catch is that each of the characters is played by Darby himself. Over the course of eight episodes, we are introduced to characters like amateur conservationist Ron Taylor and 63 year old Mary Ledbetter.
Each episode deals with the trials of one character as they lead Farrier through their daily lives. We get to see every facet of life in New Zealand whether it be a local lawyer showing off his old school muscle car or following a ufologist on his journey to prove that there is extraterrestrial life (that particular episode had an unexpected ending). These eccentric characters are the type of people that want to do big things but are limited to their surroundings.
Besides Darby, the supporting actors do a fine job of dealing with the costumed main characters. My favorites are the police officer and secretary whose relationship we get to see blossom from a crush to dating over the course of the season. But it’s handled in an off-putting way with a pregnancy. This is possibly the most uneven of Short Poppies’ first season but it has small payoffs. For one, we don’t get an overload of Darby’s characters. And it is nice to see how the two of them effect Darby’s storyline. Then there’s the great cameos which include Stephen Merchant, Bear Grylls and Karl Urban. All of them were a delight to see in roles that fit them nicely. Episodes also have some of Darby’s characters interact with each other. These moments are often brief and far between but it’s cheeky to see two characters talk to one another. Remember when Eddie Murphy used to do this well? That’s how It felt watching this.
As a cohesive whole, that is watched back to back, Short Poppies was a great little diversion from common comedies that currently oversaturate the airwaves. It’s not the best thing to watch but it is short and has its own charming world. Problems like uneven characters and a needless storyline are what keep this New Zealand native on a short leash. But Short Poppies’ has its moments with intertwining character arcs that finish in a pretty funny way. And it’s also only eight episodes so you don’t really lose anything by watching the show.
Season Grade: B