800 Words is categorised as ‘comedy drama’- it’s neither funny enough nor dramatic enough. ‘Lightweight drama’ might be a better description, undemanding entertainment but not unmissable.
After the death of his wife, successful journalist George Turner (Erik Thomson) relocates his teenage daughter Shay (Melina Vidler) and son Arlo (Benson Jack Anthony) from Sydney to Weld, a small town in New Zealand.
What looked like a haven turns out to be a hell but the charms of Weld eventually start to win his family over.
The random title comes from the regular column that George writes. For reasons unknown he must always hit an 800 word count exactly - no more, no less. Luckily we aren’t subjected to all 800 words, just some platitudes at the beginning and end of each episode, nuggets of clichéd wisdom such as: 'Tomorrow. The new day, as life carries on. A wave with...limitless possibilities enriched, we hope, with many special occasions...yet to come'.
Admittedly the show becomes better in its later episodes as the series progresses away from George’s soul searching and focuses more on the dynamics of the town.
It would really work a lot better as a soap, as the female characters have little better to do than lust after George (a total of five women simultaneously have their eyes on him!) and George is probably the least interesting character. It’s not Thomson’s fault - he plays it at the light innocuous level of daytime TV.
800 Words is not going to rival Neighbours or Home and Away in the daytime TV stakes, although the series ends on an emotional cliffhanger (there are indeed three series) which should be enough incentive for fans of daytime TV to watch on. Personally, I’m not wild about Weld.