The statement holds true but is no longer, as they say in court, the whole truth. TVNZ has also screened the remainder of the series and it’s clear that the show won’t be returning.
“We’re in an environment where we’re under tremendous pressure,” Hawkins said, “under the microscope at every stage.”
She was talking about the quality of the work, not the network’s decision to conclude the run quickly, which hadn’t happened at that point. With audiences fragmenting and channels and platforms multiplying, the amount of NZ content is an ever-decreasing percentage of what’s available to viewers.
Local shows compete for eyeballs with international shows and their international budgets. Hawkins cites Top of the Lake, at US$1.5 – 2.5 million per hour depending on what source seems most credible. At the recent SPADA Conference, Scandinavian academic Eva Novrup Redvall talked about the well-travelled Scandi-noir shows, which she said were budgeted at about US$1.1 million per episode. Dirty Laundry’s $6,754,650 is less than $520,000 an hour – less than US$370,000 an hour – or a third of what was spent on shows such as The Killing and Borgen.
Tripling the budget for a show isn’t a guarantee of anything except that you’ll spend three times as much money, and there’s no real argument about the quality of the output from NZ. Sure, there are less helicopter, crane or drone shots than you’ll find in the average US show, the casts and explosions are usually smaller, the seasons shorter, but the content, the stories, the storytelling, the craft, is there.