City Life

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TVNZ (ended 1998)

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City Life

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City Life is perhaps best described as Melrose Place down under. This truly remarkable New Zealand series lasted only one season (but what a season!) and it still has a very small but dedicated following. Many so-called soaps from Australia and New Zealand are in fact just dull and realistic dramas - not at all larger than life. City Life, however, is one of the few exceptions and it is by far the best soap produced in New Zealand. The basic story focuses around a fancy apartment building called The Pile. A hunky doctor by the name of Damon South (guest star Kevin Smith) is the owner of the building and he lives in the penthouse apartment. All his ten tenants are also his very best friends. This lively gang of hopeful twentysomethings are: Ryan Waters (Charles Mesure), a friendly, gay bartender at the gang's frequent hang-out bar The Lava Lounge; Stephanie Cox (Laurie Foel), an ice-cold blonde who perceives herself as a serious TV journalist even though she's only the hostess of a children's TV show; Bronwyn Kellett (Lisa Chappell), a rich and sexy good-girls that wouldn't harm a fly; Aaron Kellett (Jack Campbell), Bronwyn's drug-dealing playboy brother who's her exact opposite; Gideon Miller (John Freeman), financial whiz and super stud who's a master with one-night stands; Hugh Campbell (Peter Muller), a talented photographer with bad luck when it comes to women; Kristen Wood (Katrina Browne), a high- spirited, unemployed redhead who loves computers and proudly calls herself a slacker; Wiki Taylor (Michelle Huirama), a beautiful Maori who struggles to become a successful actress; Josh Gribble (Oliver Driver), a tall, stand-up comedian with a hopeless crush on Kristen; and finally Angela Kostapas (Claudia Black), a devoted friend and a talented lawyer who dreams of becoming a partner in her law firm. In the very first episode, all the friends are gathered for Damon's bachelor party. He is to marry the beautiful Rebekah Tennant (guest star Miranda Harcourt) but none of the others can stand Rebekah, who's a really viscous girl. However, Damon and Rebekah never make it to the altar as Damon is accidentally run over and killed by a car driven by Angela. In a video testament, he lives the building to all his friends but Rebekah makes waves by announcing that she has claim to the building as she carries Damon's unborn baby. A fight over the building has developed and that's just one of the many battles our ten friends have to fight. In addition, they have to deal with drugs, pregnancies, death, emotions, blackmail, psychos and strained family conditions. The fact that all the characters live in the same building, reminds everyone of Melrose Place but the similarities end there. But whereas Melrose Place is a crazy, unrealistic, over-the-top, sensational TV show, City Life is a much more sophisticated and realistic show. It has intrigues and suspense. It has appealing and believable characters but it's not hysterical. Somehow, City Life manages to find just the right balance between soap hysteria and down to earth realism. I've never seen any other soap accomplish this and that, I guess, is what makes this show so unique. Nearly all the storylines are both original well-conceived. The dialogue is sharp, funny and very well-written. The actors deliver these lines convincingly and with strength. City Life easily switches between intrigues, humor, suspense and chilling drama. The look and feel is very hip and trendy. Congratulations on a job well done to the creators, John Barnett and Rachel Lang. City Life debuted on TV on July 15, 1996, on the New Zealand network channel TV2 at 7:30 p.m. It was aimed at a generation-X audience of twentysomethings. However, City Life was off to a rough start and had fairly moderate ratings. Later, ratings dropped further. Somewhere in mid-season, TV2 decided to move the show to Tuesdays at 9:30 p.m. The reason for showing it this late at night was allegedly that it was "too naughty". Perhaps that was the problem. Compared to other New Zealand series, City Life really was too naughty. The viewers simply weren't ready for it at the time. Many a series take at least a year to grow popular but City Life never got the chance. It was canceled after it's first season of 26 episodes. Critics had hated it, audiences stayed away. Yet, City Life has enjoyed a considerably larger success abroad. Especially in Europe, where it has been successfully re-run several times and received several awards, including Best Drama Series. But at least the performances by the actors were appreciated in New Zealand as well, and Oliver Driver won the 1997 Best Actor award at the New Zealand Film & Television Awards for his role as Josh. More episodes of City Life will probably never get made, but the series will forever remain in the hearts of us who loved it. If you haven't seen it yet and ever get the chance to watch this buried treasure on TV, then do so! You won't be disappointed. As for the rest of us, we'll just have to settle with watching the stars of City Life appear in other projects. They were all quite unknown at the time they played in City Life but many have come a long way since: Claudia Black is on Farscape, Charles Mesure is on Street Legal, and Lisa Chappell is on McLeod's Daughters. Be sure to look out for the others too.moreless
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