PHOTO: Rich Listers
According to STUFF some say reality television is dead, and yet, like the villain in an 80s action film, it refuses to go quietly.
Take Rich Listers for example, a show that wants to be New Zealand’s Selling Sunset or Mega Mansion Hunters; a show that, despite the country battling spiralling costs of living, wants us to care about the fortunes of eight real estate agents (including Paula Bennett) chasing that big sale and the title of Real Estate Agent of the Year. Talk about bold.
Just so you know exactly what you’re in for, we open on an orange Lamborghini. The car belongs to Auckland real estate superstar Diego Traglia, a man who sold 300 properties in one year and was voted the No 1 agent in the country on RateMyAgent.co.nz. Yes, that’s a real thing.
Traglia’s entire goal as an agent is to earn more than the prime minister, because by his own assessment he is “smarter than the prime minister, probably”.
We’re then treated to lots of glossy views of Auckland high rises as Traglia makes his way to The Pacifica.
Again, the 80s Wall Street thriller vibes are strong. I’m half expecting Corbin Bernsen to pop up and throw a manila folder full of legal documents at the screen.
The Pacifica is New Zealand’s tallest block of flats. It’s flash as, but the building’s design reminds me of something less than flash. I just can’t quite put my finger on what it is …
Traglia is there to meet his Obi-Wan, the Kiwi real estate industry’s newest star, Paula Bennett. He’s showing Bennett the penthouse, which he is hoping she will help him sell to one of her very wealthy pals.
The flat is an empty concrete shell – again with the 80s action movie vibes – but Traglia reckons it’s worth $36 million to $42m in actual money – cash, not bitcoin – on account of the panoramic views of Auckland.
To be fair, the views are good, but who are these people who can drop a bomb that size on the Auckland real estate market, and how do you become pals with them?
We snap away to Wellington for a while, to tour a house by the Pauatahanui Inlet that looks like a stack of black boxes and has a stripper pole in the downstairs leisure space. It’s being sold by Karl Matakatea, who’s only been in this business for three years.
Then it’s back up to Remuera to meet young Holly Cassidy and her nana, Cheryl Whiting, a 30-year veteran of the real estate war zone that is Tāmaki Makaurau. These two are teaming up to take on the city. They look at another stack of black boxes, this time with a pool but no pole.
We’re whisked back across town to The Pacifica, where Bennett and Traglia are making the clearly scripted “bants” sound exactly like clearly scripted “bants”.
Bennett’s dress is sublime, and she’s got a lot of energy, but there is something deeply uncomfortable about watching the former minister for social development, who presided over the biggest selloff of social housing since its inception and under whose government people wound up living in cars because the cost of housing became so wildly inflated they didn’t have much choice, flouncing around a $43m Auckland flat, talking about private chefs and all her mega-rich international pals who might want to snap up property in New Zealand.
I mean, call me crazy, but does this show seem a little … I dunno … ill timed? Maybe even tone deaf?
Do we really want to watch a bunch of rich people playing silly buggers with multimillion-dollar houses when the housing crisis still remains unresolved and there are families of five living in a single motel room in Rotorua?
It leads me to believe the show was really made for overseas markets, much like the shows it emulates, which are all about selling a mega-rich fantasy and not really reflecting the reality of the country (or the falling housing market) they’re made in.
That’s compounded by the fact Bennett has to introduce herself to the viewers.
“I used to work in politics,” she says at one point, like we could ever have forgotten. “I’ve worked with the smoothest of the smooth and heard a lot of BS in my time, and might have even spread some myself.”
Finally, we meet Dave McCartney. McCartney is reality TV gold and seemingly here to force-feed controversy into the show. Within seconds of appearing on screen he has manufactured a feud with Traglia that is so preposterous, it actually makes him seem like the underdog.
“What is it that makes Diego so good,” McCartney’s wife, Dominique, asks. “It’s that extreme fade,” McCartney says, talking about Taglia’s haircut. “No one gets a haircut like that without being confident.”
By the time Traglia and McCartney finally meet, up in The Pacifica’s cavernous penthouse, it’s a ringer for that moment in Die Hard when John McClane (Bruce Willis) finally confronts Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman), only instead of the bad guy getting thrown off up on the 97th floor of Nakatomi Plaza, it’s our sense of credulity that’s sent hurtling out into the TV abyss.
Rich Listers airs Wednesday nights on Bravo.
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