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Christina Marie Moses
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High production values, and even higher expectations, were the prime audience lure to this dreadful follow-up to South Pacific Pictures/TVNZ's high rating soap, "Shortland Street".
"City Life" is a classic example of "programming by numbers", a series that was calculated to hit the Gen-X target audience square on the head, rate through the roof, and make sack loads of cash for all concerned. It came as no surprise to anyone, except the show's creators, when it bombed on New Zealand screens. Shot on film- the first NZ serial to do so- enhanced by the latest in TV gimmickry (the camera lurched drunkenly back and forth during shots), "City Life" was long on "gloss" (excuse the pun), and short on substance. It's storylines strived to attain the quirkiness of "Twin Peaks" or "The Kingdom", but couldn't escape the fact that the programme was little more than a "Melrose Place" clone.
The intended 20-something urban audience stayed away in droves, but the show acquired quite a following in rural South Island (New Zealand). However, "City Life" was inescapably a ratings disaster. It quickly disappeared from it's initial timeslot, but slouched back- though much later in the week.
Whether or not the show was a failure depends upon who you ask. Critics and audiences loathed it, but it sold tolerably well overseas (where it was probably better appreciated), and secured a number of awards domestically, including Best Drama Series.
"City Life"'s demise not only killed the New Zealand fascination with home grown soaps, (Shortland Street, Homeward Bound, The Fernleaf Family, Topless Women), it caused considerable damage to NZ TV drama. From then on, when thrifty TV execs heard pitches for drama series', they would picture the expensive corpse of "City Life", and shake their heads in fear.
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