Culture

An Ode To ‘New Zealand Today’, The Most Chaotic Travel Show On Earth

New Zealand Today: An Ode To The Most Chaotic Travel Show

Most travel shows like to uncover the world’s most inspiring natural and man-made wonders — Our greatest cultural attractions that defy belief. That’s… fine, I guess, but the best travel show ever made is definitely the unhinged, chaotic New Zealand Today.

Hosted by comedian Guy Williams, New Zealand Today investigates the most interesting, confusing and hilarious stories from across the Tasman.

You won’t learn about Milford Sound, glow worm caves or see anyone bungy jump on this show — instead, you’ll explore lesser-known towns and meet everyday Kiwis who made headlines for truly bizarre reasons.

One early episode sees Guy travel to the North Island to find out why there are two Countdown (their version of Woolworths, go off New Zealand) stores next to each other.

“I travel to Napier to view one of this country’s most fascinating natural phenomenons… two Countdown supermarkets directly across the road from each other,” Guy says, moments before his producer gets a phone call asking them to leave the premises. Is it a conspiracy? A government cover-up? It’s definitely not, but Guy speaks to locals on the street and interviews the Mayor anyway.

It should be obvious by now, but New Zealand Today is a comedy, and should be taken with a grain of salt. But it’s still a hilarious insight into the weird and wonderful side of everyday life in New Zealand.

It only gets more chaotic from there. In a recent episode, Guy uncovers the true story behind one of the country’s most popular viral videos, “Karen wants her $20 back”.

The best thing about New Zealand Today is how Guy treats these bizarre stories with unconditional respect. He turns this cursed viral video into an online sensation. If there’s one thing the show achieves, it’s making the rest of us wonder what the hell is going on across the ditch, and can we come too?

When travellers say they want the “real” experience of a country, they almost always mean they’re going to local cafes, craft breweries and museums. But the show uncovers the stories that are the real “real” experience of New Zealand.

Like the time Guy travelled to Taihape to find out if Adele ever visited. Or visited the 7D cinema in New Lynn (one of the dimensions is “bubbles”). He even got to the bottom of a years-long rivalry between two restaurants with identical names next door to each other in Mount Albert.

Recently, the show’s gotten more ambitious, and the segments have gotten even more unhinged. In October 2019, Guy travelled to Auckland to attend New Zealand’s first-ever flat earth convention. He meets a local who believes humans “photosynthesise through our eyes” and someone who compares the flat earth to a pizza.

New Zealand Today just really, truly loves New Zealand, even at its weirdest — As Mark Darcy told Bridget Jones, “I like you very much, just as you are.”

It helps that Guy is a hilarious comedian and affable interviewer. Even when he’s interviewing flat earthers, he never never takes the piss, and he seems to build a fantastic rapport with everyone.

An episode that started about a house in Marton that’s been for sale for 10 years quickly devolved into Guy being taken for the “best chicken and chips in New Zealand” by two loveable, cartoonish locals. A year later, Guy regrouped with the boys to lift a curse on the town.

Unfortunately, New Zealand Today was cancelled after its first full season (and after its original run as a segment on the satirical news show Jono and Ben). This is a travesty, but thankfully you can still watch it all on YouTube.

If you want to see the real New Zealand, with a good dose of comedy and flawlessly executed skits, you should binge it all ASAP. As you laugh, just remember — the Kiwi accent is apparently the sexiest in the world. Which just makes “Karen wants her $20 back” even better tbh.

(Lead image: New Zealand Today / YouTube)