If you’re looking for a new show to binge watch, search no further than the Australia/New Zealand import 800 Words. With Season 1 and Season 2 Pt.1 and Pt.2 available on DVD from Acorn Media and Season 3 Pt 1 now showing on Acorn TV there’s plenty to lose yourself in.
The premise is pretty straightforward. Upon the sudden death of his wife George Turner (Erik Thomson) ups and moves his two teenage children, son Arlo (Benson Jack Anthony) and daughter Shay (Melina Vidler), from their home in Sidney Australia to the small town of Weld on the coast of New Zealand. Not only has he moved his family to another country, the difference between small town Weld and big city Sidney might as well make it another world.
For as they quickly discover, there are no secrets in Weld. Not only does everybody pretty much know everybody else, they also know everything about them. Much of the first few episodes deals with the Turner family adjusting to their new circumstances and the people of Weld adjusting to them.
The show’s title is derived from a newspaper column George writes which is exactly 800 words long. Each episode neatly dovetails with the theme of the column he’s working on. This device allows the show’s writers to utilize both George as narrator to set the stage for an episode’s action and a kind of running commentary to help keep us on track as to any underlining theme.
The nice thing about George’s written pondering is it doesn’t give anything away as to what’s going to happen, its merely an unobtrusive means of keeping us abreast of everything Weld and Turner. All of which can take a great deal of explaining and commentary before understanding can be achieved.
Over the course of the three seasons viewers come to appreciate the inhabitants of Weld more and more. First of all the show’s creators do a wonderful job of allowing the characters to evolve slowly as the seasons pass. While you might think you’re able to pigeon hole a character, give them time. You’ll be surprised at how they change and the remarkable hidden depths which end up being revealed.
Another good thing about this series is it never follows the predictable patterns other shows seem to take. Don’t try to guess at what will happen next – either from episode to episode or series to series – because you’ll invariably guess wrong. This lends a beautiful feeling of reality to the proceedings as the show is as unpredictable as life, but a heck of a lot more fun.
If you’ve watched any productions from either New Zealand or Australia in the last fifteen years, (including the Lord of the Rings trilogy and various television shows) you will recognize a great many of the actors who appear in the show. Each of them, from the leads to the secondary characters, are all wonderful. In fact you’d be hard pressed to find an actor’s performance that is less than complete.
If all this sounds too good to be true, well, there is one drawback. You’ll have to watch it a couple of times in order to hear all the lines you miss from laughing too hard. Oh, and both ‘Season 1’ and ‘Season 2 (Pt. 2)’ – especially the latter – are to be concluded in the following season. So if you’re going to watch the shows make sure you are able to watch all of them.
I don’t know when 800 Words: Season 3 Pt.2 will be released but I know I’m already anticipating enjoying it. In the meantime, I can think of no better way of spending hot summer nights than watching all three seasons of 800 Words, over and over again. Just be careful it doesn’t fill you with an unquenchable desire to pick up sticks and move to New Zealand.
(Article originally published at Blogcritics.org as DVD Review: 800 Words Seasons 1,2 &3)
Richard Marcus is the author of two commissioned works published by Ulysses Press, editor in the books section of Blogcritics.org and contributor at Qantara.de. He has been writing since 2005 and his work has appeared in publications all over the world including the German edition of Rolling Stone Magazine.