What happens when a low-level rock star packs it in and enters middle age? Apparently he moves to a tiny remote town in New Zealand called Piha and starts a community radio station. Or at least that’s what Terry Huffer does in a new web series called High Road. Played by English-born Kiwi actor Mark Mitchinson, Huffer is your typical burnt-out rocker. After his old band breaks up, and a messy divorce from his wife, he escapes to a remote settlement outside Auckland. His bumbling attempts to run a radio station are documented here in beautifully shot and wonderfully well-paced style.
Created, appropriately enough, by former rock bassist Justin Harwood, the show is best described as a comedy drama, not being 100% focussed on the laughs. This is hardly a damning indictment though as every aspect of High Road is a joy to watch. The gorgeous landscapes of New Zealand’s north island are as much a character here as Terry Huffer. The supporting cast including a friendly broadcasting inspector, Huffer’s ex-wife and the woman he’s been stalking (played with sweary aplomb by Danielle Mason from Black Sheep) all provide sterling performances. The soundtrack of solid-gold classic rock carries the pace along nicely, as well as being great to listen to in general.
If this show suffers from any weaknesses, it’s a certain lack of direction, as the storylines seem to wander around without really going anywhere. Given the directionlessness* of Huffer himself’s life, it would seem to to be a purposeful reflection on middle-age and uncertainty, rather than a flaw in storytelling. This show is what would happen if the Cohen brothers went to New Zealand and fell in love with classic rock. In fact Mitchinson’s performance is similar to a hairier version of The Dude himself, which is no bad thing at all.
The meandering plot makes a great deal of sense in the context of the slow beach life Piha itself seems to encourage. What High Road does exceptionally well is present a sense of place. For a web series this show has a comforting slowness about it which helps engender the naturalistic atmosphere which in turn makes the characters seem fleshed out – in a word this show is very human. The humour is gentle, often bittersweet, but always enjoyable. The lines just seem like the things people say to each other and sound very natural. You won’t be splitting your sides laughing at High Road, but it’s wonderful to watch nonetheless.
Summing up, what we’ve got here is a well-written, fantastically directed show with great acting, natural, honest humour, a rocking soundtrack and a gorgeous backdrop, what’s not to like? Go and check out High Road here and tell us what you think below, I’m guessing you won’t be disappointed.
*Is that a word? It is now!