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The future of television, we’ve been hearing for ages now,

is online. Recently, TVNZ took a further step in this direction when it
announced the arrival of a whole swag of new shows which will bypass broadcast
TV and go straight to its TVNZ OnDemand streaming service.

The new shows, mostly from the UK, look good - some may even
be quality. They look like the kinds of things that ought to be on TV but are
perhaps seen as just a bit too niche. Cucumber and Banana, for example, are a
pair of dramas directed by Queer as Folk’s Russell T. Davies - the former a
humorous study of life as a middle-aged gay man, the latter a series of
vignettes from the wider LGBT community.

Already available are both seasons of 1/1/M, a Bafta-winning
BBC comedy set in the offices of the BBC itself, where Hugh Bonneville (Downton
Abbey) finds himself appointed to the corporation’s vague-sounding new position
of “head of values”.

Seems like the kind of thing I’d be into, so off I surfed to
check it out. But on the way down the A-Z list I got distracted by another
intriguing title, one which didn’t feature in the email TVNZ sent out.

The fact that this title was intriguing to me at all
probably speaks volumes about what a complete moron I am.

The title was Man Vs Fly.

Each episode of Man Vs Fly sees someone from a different
occupation enter something called the Fly Dome: a white padded cell with one
glass wall, sort of like a squash court. A single fly is then released into the
enclosure, and contestants have one minute to kill it with the weapon of their

The whole sorry scene is presented like a parody of the
serious tone instantly familiar to anyone who has ever watched a televised
sporting event. There are pre-match profiles of both the man and the fly, and the
action is described by a pair of deadbeat, idiotic commentators: one Englishman
and one Australian.

The first episode I watched was listed as Diver And Fish. A
man in a wet-suit, snorkel and flippers, armed with a dead sea bass, versus a
12-day-old fly called The Right Reverend His Grace Matthew Skidwell.

“I don’t like his footwork,” the Australian commentator
noted right away as the diver stomped clumsily around the FlyDome in his
flippers. “I don’t like it at all.”

More troubling than his footwork, the diver appeared to be
having trouble seeing the fly at all through his goggles.

Finally, the fly settled on the glass, giving him a clear
shot. He swung the sea bass but somehow the fly buzzed free. “Too close and too
slow,” the Aussie commentator complained. “The fly saw that coming and he
sucked him into the move . . . I like this fly a lot.”

Next swing he dropped the fish cold. “This is just a farce .
. .This fly seems to be mocking him.” The klaxon sounded to signal the end of
the bout, and the fly emerged victorious. “You don’t get to be 12 days old
without learning a trick or two.”

At an average episode length of 3 and a half minutes, Man Vs
Fly is the very definition of “snackable content”. Immediately, I gobbled up
another piece.

In this one, darts legend Bobby George took to the Fly Dome
armed with a fistful of tungsten. He was confined to a square in the centre of
the box and from there had to hit the fly with one of his darts.

“It ain’t gonna settle,” he kept muttering as he shuffled
around in circles. “He’s saying the fly’s not going to settle - it will mate,”
reassured the commentator.

“They always do.” With his fourth throw, somehow, the “King
of Bling” Bobby George nailed it. The throw was so quick and precise that the
camera didn’t even get a clear shot.

Already there are 17 episodes available, with the promise of
three more to be added every Friday. There’s one with a cyclist where the fly
is inexplicably “off his guts” on LSD, illustrated by some tripped-out
psychedelic point-of-view shots.

There’s one with a burlesque dancer, which is probably not
safe for work.

There’s a dwarf, a dominatrix, a Buddhist monk.

If, like me, you find yourself too cynical for WWE but too
squeamish for MMA, then Man Vs Fly could be the fight sport for you.

It’s an extremely simple - and staggeringly stupid - idea,
executed surprisingly well.

Possibly, it’s the future of television.

Man Vs Fly is available to view via TVNZOnDemand.

Calum Henderson for Otago Daily Times, 15th Dec 2015