The early 2000’s was a wild west landscape especially in the world of New Zealand telly, we had the birth of the singing talent quests in 1999 with Popstars forcing us to salvage the remaining parts of our psyche with Truebliss becoming a household name and in the process creating the cultural behemoths of ‘Idol’, ‘Got Talent’ and ‘X factor’ (Yes Kiwi’s we can lay claim to this shit heap of modern society). Even in children’s programming we saw some pretty crazy goings on with kids having the choice between a talking CGI penguin or a giant bumble bee voiced by Jason Gunn so the crew must’ve had some solid access to psychedelics, however the suits seemed to still be out on smoko with what was going to be easily one of the most deranged shows to ever hit the screens of Aotearoa but by god was it needed.
The fever dream of a bunch of pissed up bogans from Dunedin ‘Back of The Y Masterpiece Television’ was and still is possibly one of the most hilariously terrible pieces of Kiwiana gold to ever be shown in public. The show was broadcast towards the tail end of 2001 with solely 7 episodes produced in its original incarnation, created by Chris Stapp and Matt Heath BOY would bring in a new era of television with balls to the wall enthusiasm and punk attitudes towards not only the content but the way in which they created this work of pure art.
It all began with Stapp and Heath purely dicking around making short films for their friends and also local film competitions such as Mothra’s which allowed these two budding creatives the chance to show off their stuff and get absolutely rat-arsed in the process with the winning films at Mothra’s being awarded beer in lieu of trophies (classic!). Therefore it was only natural for these Southerners to make the all too familiar jump for any broadcaster or production talent to move to the big smoke of Auckland in the hopes of chasing that sweet TV dream. Well it just so happened these two hit the jackpot after gaining a spot on a public access station Triangle TV, Stapp and Heath managed to capture the attention of Graeme Hill who at the time was producing a music show and managed to secure them some airtime with shorts being interlaced during the show which would bring them to eventually getting their own slot on TV2.
However with bugger all money and NZ On Air (The NZ funding agency for arts) wanting absolutely nothing to do with these lot, the BOY crew resorted to mostly self funding these passion projects from the smell of an oily rag aside from a tasty cash injection from the New Zealand energy drink company ‘V’ (Legends). It is extremely hard to chronicle the rest of the BOY history during this period well because sometimes the best gems are often hidden but what ensued was 7 episodes of absolutely insane stunts, jokes and gags revolving around wanking, farts, poo and drugs with a sprinkling of beautifully crafted parodies to popular films and tv shows. Some of the more stand out aspects of the show included Randy Campbell extreme stuntman who eventually became a beloved character on the UK show ‘Balls of Steel’ , the extraordinary Vaseline Warriors which was heavily inspired by ‘Mad Max’ and who could forget Bottlestore Galactica which follows space pilots Steineken and Heinlager saving the universe from the lack of cold ones.
Following on from it’s success on NZ TV Back of The Y seemed to have really found a solid niche audience who appreciated this new brand of shock comedy with punk sensibilities but as with all good things it came to an end with TVNZ refusing to greenlight a second season despite it’s cult following and popularity. After trying to shop their series over in LA which ended up resulting in a BOY Hollywood special these two Scarfies were back to square one or so they thought when a couple of Poms ended up getting their colonial hands on a VHS copy.. Yes VHS copy suddenly Stapp and Heath found themselves seated in front of MTV UK with BOY being broadcast across the motherland. Although this venture was short lived these two man children who started making crappy shorts for mates just for a laugh had managed to succeed in making their dream production. According to my research it did appear that the crew managed to also produce another 2 seasons however due to my goldfish memory I only sadly saw 1 episode of these releases which was purely the making of episode which to this day I cannot for the life of me find any trace of it online and solely remember it from catching it on C4 the now defunct MTVesque New Zealand music channel. Also many people may remember the small theatrically released film the ‘Devil Dared Me To’ which also features the character Randy Campbell in all his glory.
Back of the Y to me is more than just a cult comedy tv show it’s an inspiration and also solid proof that hard work, persistence and passion does truly pay off. Even with the flame sadly extinguished on this ode to Bogan culture it’s heartwarming to see that the team behind this production have gone on to great things within their own right. Recently Chris Stapp worked on the ‘Ash Vs Evil Dead’ TV series with the majority of his work revolving around stunts and coordination, whilst Matt Heath can now be heard on the Radio Hauraki breakfast show alongside Jeremy Wells in addition to the ACC (Alternative Cricket Commentary) whilst still keeping his toes dipped into video production with his motion graphics company Vinewood Animation Studios alongside Phil Borough (Spanners in BOY) in which more recently they both produced the animated show ‘Welcome to Cardboard City’ which features Ian Stones Roses Fucking Brown. Now if you’re yet to check out ‘Back of The Y’ I would advise to proceed with caution and an open mind but I will assure that you’ll be in for a treat.