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Naked Samoans’ toon ‘bro’ is a go with Kiwis

Adult-skewed skein compared to 'Simpsons'

AUCKLAND — After years of low to average ratings for Kiwi comedies, CanWest Mediaworks TV3 in New Zealand has found its biggest hit with “bro’Town,”the country’s first adult-skewed animated primetime series.

Written and voiced by comedy theater group the Naked Samoans — Oscar Kightley, Dave Fane, Shimpal Lelisi and Mario Gaoa — “bro’Town” chronicles the misadventures of five teenagers growing up in Auckland.

Like the Naked Samoans’ sell-out theater shows, the skein satirizes the boys’ Pacific Island heritage and describes what is like to grow up as a minority in Auckland, the largest Polynesian city in the world.

Chief executive Rick Friesen is ecstatic with the firstrun of six episodes for “bro’Town,” which has drawn up to 70% of the 15-29 audience and around 35% of the wider TV3 target, ages 18-39.

Producers have listed the series with Irish sales agent Monster and say they are getting wide interest for the skein that is billed as “The Simpsons” of the South Pacific.

TV3 commissioned just the six half-hour episodes, and the long production time for animation means there is a long wait for the next run.

“But we’re confident the first series will work as a repeat in primetime,” Friesen says.

“Bro’Town” is produced by Firehorse Films’ Liz Mitchell, a former promotions exec at TV3 who says she was goaded into production by a visiting scout from Nickelodeon.

Even she admits to being shocked by the upbeat reaction to “bro’Town.”

By the standards of Kiwi budgets, its NZ$400,000 ($277,000) per half hour is high.

But, in a first for the genre, the toon found 10% of its budget from product placement of youth-oriented brands including Vodafone and Puma.

Government fund New Zealand on Air provided 60% of the budget.

The taxpayer investment in a show with heavy product placement has raised eyebrows in the local industry. But the web and the funder say they have been careful to ensure it is not intrusive.

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