You are here:

Kiwi TV Classics

Selected by NZ On Screen team
28th May 2010

 Kiwi TV Classics

Kiwi TV Classics

 NZ On Screen team

Selected by NZ On Screen team


The solid gold hits

2010 represents half a century of seeing ourselves reflected on the telly. To celebrate, this collection brings together the solid gold hits, from The Governor to Gliding On to Gloss, from Country Calendar to Close to Home, from Shortland St to Selwyn Toogood, Billy T and Thingee. Pop culture writer Barney McDonald gets square eyes surveying the best of NZ On Screen.


Kiwi TV Classics

 40 Years of Country Calendar

Leading out the collection is NZ TV’s longest running show: the celebration all things rural since 1966, from high country musters to organic hops. This special surveys its first 40 years. Also on-site are the iconic spoofs where an unwary public had the wool pulled over their eyes.

 Town and Around: Wellington Highlights


Nightly magazine-style show Town and Around played on New Zealand screens during the second half of the 60s. This end-of-1968 special from the Wellington edition features the infamous hoax piece on a farmer who claims to put gumboots on his turkeys.

 Gallery - Post Office Go Slow

In this famous studio interview Brian Edwards turns conciliator in a long-running industrial dispute. With the clock ticking, Edwards forced an agreement between the Postmaster General and union rep to stop action and go back into mediation. This programme won Edwards a Feltex Award.

 Pukemanu - Pukemanu Welcomes You

Pioneering series Pukemanu was NZBC’s first continuing drama. Set in a North Island timber town its portrait of the town’s folk offered an archetypal screen image that Kiwis could relate to: rural, bi-cultural, boozy and blokey; viewers and reviewers praised its Swannie-clad authenticity.

 It's in the Bag - Dunedin (1974)

This travelling quiz show was a much-loved winner. Competitors had to answer three questions before they could select a bag and bargain for its contents. Host Selwyn Toogood's catchphrases — "by hokey!", and "what'll it be customers, the money or the bag?" — have become part of folklore.

 Spot On - The First Episode

Classic children’s TV show Spot On ran for 15 years from 1974. The show was formative for many careers both in front of and behind the camera (those who got their break include Ian Taylor, Danny Watson, and Phil Keoghan). This trippy first episode explores all things to do with lighthouses.

 Tangata Whenua - Waikato

Up to the broadcast of this important doco series, the TV landscape was pretty much European. Tangata Whenua was looked on as a “window into the Māori world”. Equally, it provided Māori, who had relocated into the urban areas, a re-engagement with their 'taha Māori'. This is the Waikato episode.

 Close to Home - Episode One

Pioneering soap opera Close To Home first screened in May 1975. For just over eight years (until August 1983) middle New Zealand found their mirror in the life and times of Wellington’s Hearte clan. At its peak in 1977 nearly one million viewers tuned in twice weekly to watch the series.

 Play School - presenter compilation

Play School was an iconic educational programme for pre-school children. Many presenters got their break on the show, but the toys, Big Ted, Little Ted, Jemima, Humpty and Manu, were the stars. The title sequence ("Here's a house ...") and music was an instantly recognisable call to action.

 Tonight - Robert Muldoon interview

This infamous battle of wills between young journalist Simon Walker and Prime Minister Robert Muldoon is a piece of legendary TV interviewing. Tyro (and future Royal-PR man) Walker has his facts at hand and is determined not to be put off in the face of Muldoon’s bulldog aggression.

 Nice One

Nice One has become a legend in NZ children's television: the show's signature theme tune ('Nice one Stu-y!') and Stu's thumbs-up salute became embedded in pop culture. Stu Dennison’s pony-tailed, cheeky schoolboy delighted children and infuriated adults with Stu’s irreverent antics.

 The Governor - The Reverend Traitor (Episode One)

This is the first episode from the six-part epic TV series. Grey's "Good Governor" persona was undercut with laudanum, lechery and land confiscation. NZ TV's first (and only) historical blockbuster was hugely controversial, provoking a parliamentary inquiry and "test match sized" audiences.

 Top Town - 1977 Final

This travelling TV game show pitted towns against each other in a series of physical challenges to make a Kiwi light-entertainment magic. This 1977 final is presented by Howard Morrison and Paddy O'Donnell, and features short shorts, jockettes, greasy poles, and beautiful scorer Theresa.

 Fair Go - 30 Years on Television

Consumer affairs show Fair Go is one of NZ TV's longest-running series. This episode - presented by current (and longest serving) host, Kevin Milne - looks back at 30 years and 860+ shows of Fair Go. It includes original host Brian Edward's 1977 debut, and plenty of retro flashbacks.

 A Week of It - Christmas Special

This is the final episode of pioneering political satire series A Week of It - "NZ's longest running comedy programme - discounting parliament". It features David McPhail famously impersonating Muldoon, Jon Gadsby as Dr Groper, an un-PC GP, and Jeez Wayne and the Gluepot Tavern lads.

 A Haunting We Will Go - Cellar Ghost

The immortal Count Homogenized - a vampire with a white afro and cape and a lust for milk - made his debut in this children’s show. In this early episode Homgenized (Shark in the Park actor Russell Smith) turns up at Major Toom’s haunted house on his unending quest for bovine liquid sustenance.

 On the Mat: 17 March 1981

Cult pro-wrestling show On the Mat saw larger-than-life characters like King Curtis, Samoan Joe, Aussie Larry O'Day, and Rick Martel battle for ring supremacy. Promoter Steve Rickard described the technical in-the-ring aspects and Ernie Leonard, and later Barry Holland, added colour.

 Goodnight Kiwi

For a generation of kids Goodnight Kiwi - a short animation that bade viewers goodnight - became a much-loved symbol of staying up well past your bedtime. Viewers never questioned why our nocturnal national icon was going to bed at night, or sharing a bed with a cat.

 Gliding On - No Smoke Without Fire

In an age before Rogernomics, well before The Office, there was the afternoon tea fund, Golden Kiwi, and four o’clock closing: welcome to the early 80s world of the New Zealand Public Service. Roger Hall-penned Gliding On was the first locally-made sitcom to become a bona-fide classic.

 After School - Māorimind (Episode)

Host of weekday kids' programme Olly Ohlson was the first Māori presenter to anchor his own children's show, and his catchphrase (with accompanying sign language) “Keep cool till after school” is fondly remembered by those of a certain age. This episode sees a game of te reo-test Maorimind.

 Landmarks - A Land Apart

Presented by Swannie-wearing geography professor Kenneth B Cumberland, award-winning series Landmarks looked at New Zealand history through the landscape, and at man “coming to terms” with it. In this episode NZ's "last, lonely, remote" geography is framed as a stimulus for ingenuity.

 A Dog's Show - 1981 Final

Man. Dog. Sheep. This was an unlikely formula for Kiwi TV gold. In each trial a farmer, armed with an array of whistles and commands, instructed a sheepdog to wrangle a flock of recalcitrant sheep. This episode is from the same year as the Springbok Tour, but the only riots here are ovine.

 Telethon - 1981 show

Telethon was a 24-hour live celeb-pocked community TV spectacular aimed at securing donations from viewers for a charitable cause. This selection covers highlights from the 1981 Wellington Telethon (for International Year of the Disabled). "Thank you very much for your kind donation!"

 Hudson and Halls - Episode Seven (1982)

They came, they battered, they bickered. Hudson and Halls were as famous for their on-screen spats as they were for their recipes. The duo (“are we gay - well we're certainly merry”) turned cooking into comedy. This episode comes soon after their 1981 Feltex Entertainer of the Year award.

 McPhail and Gadsby - Best of Series Five

This “best of” culls highlights from the fifth series of the David McPhail and Jon Gadsby-led sketch show. It includes “pronouncing things proper with Jim Knox;” “This Is Your Life with Robert Muldoon”; an impersonation of TV presenter Karen Hay; and a Goodnight Kiwi take-off.

 The Best of The Billy T James Collection

Billy T’s unique brand of humour is captured here at its affable, non-PC best in this compilation of skits from his 80s TV shows. There’s Te News (in iconic black singlet and yellow towel), the first contact skits, Turangi Vice, and the ad spoofs (Pixie Caramel, Lands For Bags).

 Gloss - Episode One

Yuppies, shoulder-pads and methode champenoise abound in this cult 80s "glitter-soap" that mixed the Redfern family with a high-fashion magazine. Kiwis wanted to see themselves as less bottom of the world and more "here we come and we are sailing" and Gloss was just what the era demanded.

 Holmes - The First Episode

The very first Holmes show. In this famous interview, Paul Holmes asks American yachtsman Dennis Conner to apologise for cheating in the America's Cup. Conner storms out, making headlines the next day and giving the new show a priceless ratings boost. It was a style that made Holmes famous.

 What Now? - Christmas Special

This long-running show for primary school-aged children has screened live to air on weekend mornings since 1981, and is a Kiwi kids' TV institution. This Christmas Special sees Simon Barnett, Jason 'The Ace' Gunn, and Cath McPherson larking it up with guests (including Sniff the Dog).

 Shortland Street - First Episode

This iconic serial drama (NZ TV’s longest running) is based around the births, deaths and marriages of the staff and patients of Shortland Street Hospital. Characters and lines from the show have entered the culture, most famously, “you’re not in Guatemala now, Dr Ropata!”, featured in this episode.

 The Son of a Gunn Show - Thingee's Eye Pop

Thingee's eye popping out is one of the most famous moments on NZ TV. The ocular incident occurred during filming of The Son of a Gunn Show. A one-eyed Thingee and unflappable host Jason Gunn continue the scene regardless. Thingee retired from screens when he returned to his home planet.

“... the glue that bound us together as a modest nation”

“... the glue that bound us together as a modest nation”

Barney McDonald channel surfs 50 years of Kiwi TV, looking at the shows as notches on both a personal and national growth chart. Read More >

Reading the News

Reading the News

Compiled especially by NZ On Screen this is a showcase of early newsreaders, from Bill Toft's BBC plum to Richard and Judy. Watch >

The early years

The early years

This doco sees Dougal Stevenson revisit TV’s first 15 years - from its 1960 NZBC birth to double channel-spawning puberty in 1975. Watch >

Beyond a Joke

Beyond a Joke

This doco surveys Kiwi TV humour and features dollops of classic comedy moments from over the years: from Fred Dagg, to Funny Business. Watch >

Roger Horrocks: A History of TV

Roger Horrocks: A History of TV

A precis of the screen-scape: from black and white beginnings, and public service vs commercial debates, to the internet. Read More >


This collection would not be possible without the ongoing help of TVNZ and the TVNZ Archive. Many thanks to our colleagues at both these organisations.