Melody Rules

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Melody Rules
Created by Geoff Houtman
Mihera Paterson
Developed by Geoff Steven[1]
Written by Kathryn Burnett
David Geary
Directed by Michael Robinson
Starring Belinda Todd
Susan Brady
Alan Brough
Alistair Douglas
Jodie Rimmer
Elliott O'Donnell
Iain Chapman
Country of origin New Zealand
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 2
No. of episodes 44
Executive producer(s) Geoff Steven
Producer(s) Ross Jennings
Location(s) Auckland, New Zealand
Running time 22 minutes
Production company(s) Ross Jennings Productions[2]
Distributor TV3 Network Services
Original channel TV3
Picture format 576i 4:3 (SDTV)
Original run 1993 – 1995[3]

Melody Rules was a New Zealand sitcom created by Geoff Houtman and Mihera Paterson for TV3. It featured former Nightline host Belinda Todd as Melody, a hard-working solo mother surrounded by a gaggle of eccentric friends and family. The series was structured in a similar manner to an American sitcom, containing elements such as a laugh track and vaudeville-esque humour.

Although it ran for two seasons, consisting of 44 episodes in total, it was neither a critical nor commercial success. It is now widely regarded in New Zealand as one of the worst sitcoms of all time.


Melody Rules centered on Melody Robbins (Belinda Todd, then best known for her role as co-host of TV3's late news programme Nightline), a conscientious and mild-mannered travel agent attempting to rein in her wayward siblings. She is aided and abetted by Fiona (Susan Brady), her ditzy air hostess best friend; Brendan (Alan Brough), her hapless co-worker; and Neville (Alistair Douglas), her nosey, filthy, and unkempt neighbor with the catchphrase "Ya decent?".

Todd had little acting experience and was known more for her sexy, outrageous on-screen persona.


Melody Rules was fledgling broadcaster TV3's first attempt at a sitcom, and it was hoped the show would form one of a number of flagship productions for the station. They received $1,262,990 funding from NZ on Air for production.

TV3 hired the services of an American television writer, who held a number of workshops in New Zealand where he taught hopeful writers the craft of writing an American-style sitcom. Working with his ideas and formulas, Melody Rules was the end result.

List of episodes[edit]

  • In the # column:
    • The first number refers to the order it aired during the entire series.
    • The second number refers to the episode number within its season.

Season 1: 1993–1994[edit]

# Title Directed by Written by NZ air date Production
1–1 "Going, Going...Goner[4]" Michael Robinson Kathryn Burnett & David Geary August 1993 1[4]
While her mother is overseas, sensible careerwoman Melody returns to her family home to adopt and care for her teenage siblings. Melody maintains an open mind and upbeat attitude during her first days of living in the family house; in the neighbourhood, she meets many of their colorful neighbours, including a filthy neighbour who uses the catchphrase "Ya decent?" and teenage neighbour Crayfish.
Guest star: Robert Harte[2][4]

Season 2: 1994–1995[edit]

# Title Directed by Written by NZ air date Production
2A–26A "Inside Job[5]" Michael Robinson Kathryn Burnett & David Geary 1994 26A[5]
10–35 "We Are Family[6]" Michael Robinson Kathryn Burnett & David Geary 1994 35[6]
20–40 "The Devil You Know[7]" Michael Robinson Kathryn Burnett & David Geary 1995 40[7]

Reception, legacy, and achievements[edit]

Critical reception[edit]

Critical reception for Melody Rules was poor, and it is considered in New Zealand to be one of the worst sitcoms of all time. It has also become part of the lexicon within the Kiwi television industry to describe an unsuccessful sitcom; for example, "That show will be the next Melody Rules." The series has been labelled as "cringeworthy"[8] and "atrocious"[9] by The New Zealand Herald, one of New Zealand television's "disasters" by Scoop,[10] and "awful" by the Waikato Times.[11]

Alan Brough[12] and Belinda Todd[8][13] both regret starring in the series; Todd compared it to Macbeth in terms of "bad luck", and described it as "absolutely ghastly."[13] Brough described working on the series as "such a horrendous experience", adding "I was so embarrassed by it, I had to go overseas."[12] Both Brough and Todd claim the series was substantial in convincing them to leave New Zealand and move to Australia and the United States, respectively.[8][12] The series has developed a "certain cult status" for its perceived low quality.[13] Despite this, Brough and Jodie Rimmer went on to lead fruitful acting careers, while Elliott O'Donnell is now known as Askew, a successful graffiti artist.

The failure of Melody Rules is often attributed to poor comedy writing, low budget production, miscast actors, and cultural incompatibility between the American-style sitcom and the distinct television comedy that New Zealanders traditionally prefer. In the years since Melody Rules, there have been no further American-style sitcoms produced in New Zealand.


The series received abysmal ratings. After being pulled from TV3's primetime scheduling due to poor ratings, it was placed in an early-morning graveyard slot and "stripped" at two episodes per screening.


  1. ^ "BFI – Film & TV Database – MELODY RULES (1994)". BFI Film & TV Database. 2010-06-17. Retrieved 2010-06-17. 
  2. ^ a b "Robert Harte: Details". Kathyrn Rawlings & Associates. 2009-08-12. Retrieved 2010-06-17. 
  3. ^ Lang, Sarah (23 November 2009). "3's company". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 23 October 2011. 
  4. ^ a b c "MELODY RULES: "GOING, GOING ... GONER" . EPISODE 1". New Zealand Film Archive. 2008-06-14. Retrieved 2010-05-14. 
  5. ^ a b "MELODY RULES: "INSIDE JOB". EPISODE 26A". New Zealand Film Archive. 2000. Retrieved 2010-09-10. 
  6. ^ a b "MELODY RULES: "WE ARE FAMILY" EPISODE 35". New Zealand Film Archive. 2008-06-14. Retrieved 2010-09-10. 
  7. ^ a b "MELODY RULES: "THE DEVIL YOU KNOW" EPISODE 40". New Zealand Film Archive. 2008-06-14. Retrieved 2010-09-10. 
  8. ^ a b c Lang, Sarah (2009-11-23). "3's company, Page 4". The New Zealand Herald (APN News & Media). Retrieved 2010-03-09. 
  9. ^ NZ Herald Staff (2008-08-07). "Shooting stars across the Ditch". The New Zealand Herald (APN News & Media). Retrieved 2010-05-14. 
  10. ^ Rennie, Philip (2000-04-10). "On The Right: Quotas A Fancy Word For Censorship". Scoop. Retrieved 2010-05-14. 
  11. ^ Waikato Times Staff (2009-03-03). "TV exec canned for jibe". Waikato Times. Retrieved 2010-05-14. 
  12. ^ a b c Lallo, Michael (2007-02-15). "Captain Alan takes his time, Page 2". The Age (Fairfax Media). Retrieved 2010-03-09. 
  13. ^ a b c Nightline 20th Anniversary Special (2010). Graham, Mark (executive producer). MediaWorks New Zealand and TV3.

External links[edit]