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.
This retrospective special culls highlights from 40 seasons of the longest running show on NZ television. Farming, forestry and fishing are all on the roster, but this edition is as much about observing people and the land and changes over four decades. There is footage of high country musters, helicopter deer capture, floods and blizzards, as well as radio-controlled dogs and mice farmers. Longtime Country Calendar reporters like John Gordon share their memories, and the show catches up with some of the personalities that have featured in the series.
Nightly magazine-style show Town and Around played on New Zealand screens during the second half of the 60s. Hosted by Peter Read, this end-of-1968 special from the Wellington edition showcases highlights from over 500 items that year. The concentration is on lighter material, most famously a hoax piece on a farmer who puts gumboots on his turkeys. In another piece reporter John Shrapnell discovers that locked cars in the city tend to be the exception. Also featured: an interview with entertainer Rolf Harris, and an impromptu Kiwi street-Hamlet.
In this famous edition of current affairs show Gallery interviewer Brian Edwards turns conciliator in a long-running industrial dispute. Post Office workers had imposed a go-slow after wage negotiations broke down. Producer Des Monaghan managed to get the Postmaster General Mr McCready and Mr Reddish of the Post Office union into the studio together. In the interview’s final minutes Edwards forced an agreement between the two men to stop union action and go back into mediation. This programme won Edwards a Feltex Award for ‘Best Performance as Frontman’.
Pioneering series Pukemanu (the NZBC’s first continuing drama) was 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. This first episode sees a culture clash as a motorcycle gang (including a young Bruno Lawrence) comes to town and causes trouble, running Ray (Geoff Murphy) off the road; and stranded townie Diana (Ginette McDonald) falls in love with a local axeman while hunting.
It's in the Bag was a travelling television quiz show, fronted by Selwyn Toogood. Competitors were selected from the audience and had to answer three questions before they could select a bag and bargain for its contents. Toogood's catchphrases, such as, "by hokey!" and, "what'll it be customers, the money or the bag?", have become part of folklore. This 1st June, 1974 episode was telecast from Dunedin's Mayfair Theatre; a Frigidaire ("jet-o-matic") Home Laundry and Pye hi-fi system are on offer amongst the booby prizes. Heather Eggleton is the glam bag lady.
This first episode of this much-loved kids series explores all things to do with lighthouses. It begins with a visit to Nugget Point; then things get eclectic. Earnest informational TV is interspersed with psychedelic graphics, cartoons, a sea shanty ("I want to marry a lighthouse keeper"), and funky lighthouse-themed songs. We meet Don (a lighthouse stamp collector); uncover the mysteries of how a ship fits into a bottle; and the three young presenters deconstruct their attempts at painting lighthouses, including a fine abstract effort from Ray. Classic.
Tangata Whenua was a groundbreaking six part documentary series. Barry Barclay directed and historian Michael King was writer, interviewer and narrator. Each episode (remarkably screening in primetime on Sunday nights in 1974) chronicled a different iwi and included interviews with kaumatua — a first for NZ screens. This episode looks at the people of Waikato, and focuses on the Kingitanga (King Movement), illustrating why a movement formed in the Waikato in the 19th century to halt land sales and promote Māori authority has contemporary relevance.
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 co-created by Michael Noonan and Tony Isaac. This first episode sees the family gathering for Grandfather’s 78th birthday. Vivian (Ilona Rodgers) moans to Tom (John Bach): “you’ve drunk all my cooking sherry”, then tenderises the beef with the empty bottle.
Play School (1972 - 1990) was an iconic educational show for pre-school children. The opening sequence — "Here's a house ..." — and the toys (Big Ted, Little Ted, Jemima, Humpty, Manu) were the stars. This compilation reel of various presenters features two excerpts from 1980: Barry Dorking and Jacqui Hay (future National MP), and Dorking solo; one from 1982: actor Rawiri (Whale Rider) Paratene with Winsome Dacker; and two from 1987: Eilish Wahren with Kerry McCammon, and Russell (Count Homgenized) Smith and actress Theresa (Shortland St) Healey.
Like many other current affairs shows in the 70s, Tonight had a fairly brief existence, but it provided the forum for this infamous May 1976 battle of wills between journalist Simon Walker and Prime Minister Robert Muldoon. Walker interrogates Muldoon about his assertions regarding the Soviet naval presence in the Pacific, and NZ vulnerability to Russian nuclear attack. Muldoon grows increasingly annoyed and bullish at being asked questions that are not on his sheet: "I will not have some smart alec interviewer changing the rules half way through."
Nice One has become a legend in New Zealand children's TV: with the show's signature theme tune ('Nice one Stu-y!') and Stu's thumbs-up salute, totemic for kids of the era. On the show, host Stu Dennison played a cheeky pony-tailed schoolboy who delighted children and infuriated adults with his irreverent antics. Dennison developed the persona in live segments on Ready to Roll, before transporting him to his own after-school programme, filmed at Avalon Studios for TV One. Nice One also featured cooking (with Alison Holst), craft, singing and plenty of humour.
The Governor was a television epic that examined the life of Governor George Grey in six thematic parts. Grey's "Good Governor" persona was undercut with laudanum, lechery and land confiscation. NZ televison's first historical blockbuster was hugely controversial, provoking a parliamentary inquiry and "test match sized" audiences. It won a 1978 Feltex Award for Best Drama. In ‘Episode One: The Reverend Traitor', Grey arrives to colonial troubles: flag-pole chopping Hōne Heke, missionary Henry Williams, and rebellious Te Rauparaha.
This long-running travelling TV game show pitted towns against each other in a series of physical challenges. Leveraging nostalgia for a fast-fading time when NZ's population (and identity) resided in rural hub towns, Top Town was Kiwi light-entertainment gold. This 1977 final, presented by Howard Morrison and radio host Paddy O'Donnell, features short shorts, jockettes, greasy poles, 'balloon baloney', and beautiful scorer Theresa. A large crowd at Okara Park watch Timaru, Greymouth, Waihi and Woodville compete for civic bragging rights in the sun.
Popular consumer affairs show Fair Go is one of New Zealand TV's longest-running series. This episode — presented by its longest serving host, Kevin Milne — looks back at 30 years and 860+ shows of Fair Go. Amidst regular Fair Go stories, there is a flashback to the 1977 debut of original host Brian Edwards; retro segments on soapbox rights in Christchurch Square, blocked gutters, and neighbours at war; a 1982 spoof on the struggle to open screw tops on soft drink bottles; and a 1980 survey of NZ's most untrustworthy occupations (lawyers, car dealers). Contact Fair Go here.
This final episode of pioneering political satire series A Week of It ("NZ's longest running comedy programme - discounting parliament") features a three wise men parody (lost without a Shell road map); pirate Radio Hauraki; and a parliament-themed Cinderella Christmas pantomine (with McPhail/Muldoon as the stepmother). Jon Gadsby appears as Dr Groper, an un-PC GP; and God is a guest (for the first time on TV) at a Fendalton Anglican church. Comedian Dudley Moore appears in the 'best of' credits reel alongside Jeez Wayne and the Gluepot Tavern lads.
Programmes featuring the immortal Count Homogenized are among the most-requested by visitors to NZ On Screen. Homogenized - a vampire with a white afro and cape and a lust for milk - made his debut in this children's show, ultimately going on to star in his own series. In this early episode the Count turns up at Major Toom's haunted house on his unending search for bovine liquid sustenance, and befriends Toom over some wine. Shark in the Park actor Russell Smith's mischievous Count has lodged itself in the hearts of many Kiwis of a certain vintage.
This episode of the legendary professional wrestling series screened in March 1981. Barry Holland and the late Steve Rickard host (Ernie Leonard has moved behind the scenes into a producer role). Rickard welcomes locals and viewers from Kenya, Hong Kong and Malaysia. On the Mat mainstay Mark Lewin features prominently, appearing in tag action before reminiscing about a fiery battle with King Curtis in Japan. Things don't improve as he's attacked by the Voodoo-crazed Big Mullumba. The main event sees local star Johnny Garcia and Samoan Joe battling it out.
Before 24-hr TV, there was Goodnight Kiwi, a short animation from Sam Harvey that bade viewers goodnight once the day's broadcasting ended. Each night the plucky Kiwi shut up shop at the TV station, put out the milk, and caught the lift up to sleep in a satellite dish with The Cat. For a generation of kids, Goodnight Kiwi 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. The tune is an arrangement of a Māori lullaby, 'Hine e Hine'.
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. Gliding On (1981 - 1985) was the first locally-made sitcom to become a bona-fide classic. Inspired by Roger Hall's hit play Glide Time, the award-winning series satirised a paper-pushing working life familiar to many Kiwis. This episode features Beryl's non-smoking campaign, Jim's efforts to kick the habit, office sexual innuendo and a much-debated fire drill. "Morning Jim!"
Host of weekday kids' programme After School, 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 remembered by a generation of Kiwi kids. The show also broke ground in its use of te reo Māori on screen. This episode sees a game of Maorimind (a te reo test based on Mastermind) and the building of a road-sign for the longest place name in New Zealand - a 85-letter te reo gobstopper that Olly rolls out with aplomb: Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateatu... etc.
Classic sci-fi TV series Under the Mountain follows the adventures of ginger twins with psychic powers — Rachel and Theo — as they battle the alien Wilberforces. Adapted from the Maurice Gee novel, the series left its slimy imprint on a generation of NZ kids, haunted by the Wilberforces, who transmogrified into giant slugs slithering underneath Auckland’s volcanoes. This first episode goes from a flashback when the twins, lost in bush, first meet the mysterious Mr Jones; to present-day Takapuna when they encounter the evil Wilberforces.
Presented by Kenneth Cumberland, 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 narrative of "triumph over the elements" finds its flagbearer in the DIY story of jetboat inventor Bill Hamilton. Cumberland is donnish but game in pursuit of telling landmarks: exposing seashells alongside the Napier-Taupō highway (700m above sea-level) like a down-under Darwin, or in a gas-mask on an erupting White Island.
Man. Dog. Sheep. This was an unlikely formula for Kiwi TV gold; A Dog's Show was familiar as a homespun in its long-running Sunday night slot. The showfeatured sheepdog trials from around the country, with commentary provided by a sagacious, bearded John Gordon. In the final from a 1981 series, three farmers wield sticks and whistles and put their dogs through their paces to wrangle the "sticky sheep". It's 1981, but the only riots here are ovine. Trivia: the opening tune is a version of the song 'Flowers on the Wall', also used in the film Pulp Fiction.
Telethon was a widely popular 24-hour live television spectacular aimed at securing donations from viewers for a charitable cause. The feel-good vibe of Telethon was infectious, appealing to both adults, kids (who were allowed to stay up in front of the telly) and willing celebs. This selection covers highlights from the 1981 Wellington Telethon (for International Year of the Disabled). Bob Parker, Selwyn Toogood, Ian Johnstone and host Peter Sinclair get goofy amongst smurfs, bagpipes, and talking belly-buttons. "Thank you very much for your kind donation!"
They came, they battered, they bickered. Peter Hudson and David Halls were as famous for their on-screen spats as they were for their recipes. The couple ("are we gay - well we're certainly merry") turned cooking into comedy. Coming soon after winning 1981 Feltex Entertainer of the Year, this episode shows viewers how to make crepes with cream chicken and vegetable filling. There's microwaves, roasted nuts and dollops of innuendo. Guests are English jazz clarinetist Acker Bilk, and poet and TV personality Pam Ayres, who performs some ribald rhymes.
After turning “Jeez Wayne” into a national catchphrase with their hit series A Week of It, comedy duo David McPhail and Jon Gadsby continued their TV dream run with the sketch comedy show McPhail and Gadsby. This 1983 'Best of' featured highlights from series five including: 'pronouncing things proper with Jim Knox'; 'This Is Your Life with Robert Muldoon' (featuring McPhail’s infamous caricature of the then PM); Lin Waldegrave’s popular impersonation of music show host Karyn Hay; and a Goodnight Kiwi take-off in 'Goodnight from the Beehive'.
Billy T’s unique brand of humour is captured here at its affable, non-PC best in this compilation of skits from his popular 80s TV shows. There’s Te News (“... someone pinched all the toilet seats out of the Kaikohe Police Station ... now the cops have got nothing to go on!”) with Billy in iconic black singlet and yellow towel; a bro’s guide to home improvement; the first contact skits, and Turangi Vice. No target is sacred (God, The IRA) and there are classic spoofs of Pixie Caramel’s “last requests” and Lands For Bags’ “where’d you get your bag” ads.
Yuppies, shoulder-pads, sports cars and méthode champenoise abound in this cult 'glamour soap'. Gloss was NZ's answer to US soap Dynasty, with the Carrington oil scions replaced by the wealthy Redferns and their Auckland magazine empire. The series epitomised 80s excess, and became something of a guilty viewing pleasure. In this Rosemary McLeod-penned pilot, a 'Remuera Revisited' plot unfolds as Brad Redfern's plans to have a quiet wedding get waylaid by ex-wife Maxine. Schoolgirl Chelsea wags, listens to her Sony Walkman and gets an unorthodox haircut.
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 ratings boost. The NZ Herald described this interview as "an aggressive, overly-mannered encounter interview rather than a thoughtful interrogation, a ratings-generating event rather than a genuine, tenacious journalistic grilling." It was a style that made Holmes famous.
What Now? is a long-running entertainment show for primary school-aged children. Live to air on weekend mornings since 1981, it is a Kiwi kids' TV institution. This Christmas Special sees presenters Simon Barnett, Jason 'The Ace' Gunn, and Cath McPherson larking it up with guests (Cath's Scottish Uncle Bob, Constable Keith and Sniff the Dog, The Wizard of Christchurch, the NZ 'Young Guns' cricket team) and in oddball summer and Christmas tales. Eddie and Fifi do decorative DIY. Check out the stone-wash denim and Barnett's frosted tips and lycra shorts.
This iconic serial drama is based around the births, deaths and marriages of the staff and patients of Shortland Street Hospital. A South Pacific Pictures production, it screens five nights a week on TV2. The show has screened internationally, and is by far New Zealand's longest running TV drama (though not the first ‘soap’ — that honour goes to Close to Home, which played twice a week from 1975 - 1983). Characters and lines from Shortland Street have entered the culture, most famously “you’re not in Guatemala now, Dr Ropata!”, which features in this first episode.
Thingee's eye popping out is one of the most famous moments on New Zealand television, as an unflappable Jason Gunn continues hosting duties despite his co-presenter being newly one-eyed. The ocular incident occurred during filming of the The Son of a Gunn Show; it didn’t screen live but as part of a bloopers episode. Thingee was a puppet who debuted on After School, and appeared in several children's shows, including What Now?. Thingee was retired from NZ TV when he returned to his home planet. (Alan Henderson is rumoured to be the person behind the puppet.)