A Thousand Apologies TV Series


NameA Thousand Apologies
Director(s)Roseanne Liang, Angeline Loo, Zia Mandviwalla, Sarina Pearson
Shuchi Kothari, Sarina Pearson, Phillip Smith
Type of TextScript


A Thousand Apologies is a comedy series that originally screened on TV3, over six half-hour episodes, in 2008. Addressing the diversity of the Asian experience through sketch humour, it was the first pan-Asian scripted network TV series produced in Aotearoa.

Devised and co-produced by Shuchi Kothari and Sarina Pearson, of Indian and Japanese-Canadian descent respectively, A Thousand Apologies was the result of a collaboration between graduate Asian student filmmakers and the two producers, both of whom are film lecturers at the University of Auckland. Pearson had previously produced three short films written by Kothari: Fleeting Beauty (2004), Coffee & Allah and Clean Linen (both 2007). In addition to Pearson, episodes were directed by Chinese New Zealand filmmakers Roseanne Liang and Angeline Loo, and Indian-born, Middle-East-raised Zia Mandviwalla.

In an interview for The Press, Kothari described the process of pitching the idea of a series that not only confronted but lampooned “the stereotyped roles assigned to Asians on New Zealand television.” After workshopping hundreds of sketch concepts, a demo was created and shown to TV3’s commissioning editor, Caterina de Nave, who greenlit the series. In partnership with production company Great Southern Film & Television, filming took place over six weeks in 2008, and included 143 sketches with 288 characters in 60 locations.

The makers’ press release for the launch of A Thousand Apologies states:

Without the straitjacket of political correctness, we’ve drawn upon our everyday experiences to explore what it’s like to be among the country’s fastest growing minority group...The time has come for Asians to stand up and be laughed with.

The series debuted on September 5th, 2018, screening weekly at 9.30pm on Fridays — a prime time programming slot. Fittingly, the pilot episode opens with a parody of a boardroom meeting between four Pākehā executives complaining about cultural diversity on TV.

Indicative of the series’ fast-paced format, the pilot moves through multiple sketches, many running less than a minute in length. Situations explored include assimilation (an Asian immigrant orders a ‘Super Kiwi’ smoothie made of Marmite, fish and chips, L&P and other quintessential New Zealand foods, developing a thick Kiwi accent as soon as he consumes the drink), pronunciation (an ironic sketch in which a Pākehā teacher announces all of her Asian students’ names perfectly in a roll call, but struggles to say the name of the one Pākehā student, ‘Jim Williams’), generalisation (more than one skit plays on the relationship between Japan and whaling), and encounters with casual racism.

There are also recurring scenes portraying an Indian family and their culturally specific, yet broadly relatable dynamics. Discussing the reception of A Thousand Apologies in 2019, Kothari pointed out that “despite the difference in our experiences, there are times when [a] bunch of us hyphenated kiwis share an instant wink and nudge in our collective understanding of a particular phenomenon.” Through the language of comedy, the series was able to speak to many minorities in Aotearoa. “Although pan-Asian in content, the Lebanese and Brazilian communities loved it,” she noted. “Certain moments of exclusion or certain moments of embarrassment or humiliation or familial obligations and pressures connect with many immigrant cultures.”

Although a landmark moment for Asian screen representation, A Thousand Apologies did not immediately open the door for more Asian stories, by more Asian creatives, in mainstream media. As the first pan-Asian scripted network TV series in Aotearoa, its legacy highlights the lack of similar opportunities for Asian creatives in the ensuing years. More recently, it has helped action a response by the Asian creative community, with the formation of the Pan-Asian Screen Collective in 2018 — whose co-founders include Shuchi Kothari and Roseanne Liang.


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Last updated: 29 February 2024 Suggest an Edit