Roger Gascoigne owns the most talked about wink in the history of New Zealand television. Gascoigne's work in continuity, music and quiz shows (on everything from Ready to Roll to Telethon) saw him snare two Feltex Awards and a legion of fans. In the 80s he went on to co-host regional magazine show Today Tonight.
Some write in and say they couldn't get to sleep because I didn't wink and they felt something was wrong! Roger Gascoigne in the New Zealand Women's Weekly, 15 May 1978
This is the opening episode of the Prime TV series celebrating 50 years of New Zealand television: from an opening night puppet show in Auckland in 1960, through to Outrageous Fortune five decades later. It traverses the medium's development and its major turning points (including the rise of programme-making and news, networking, colour and the arrival of TV3, Prime, NZ on Air, Sky and Māori Television) and interviews key players. The changing nature of the NZ living room — always with the telly in pride of place as modern hearth — is a story within a story.
This segment of Wellington's regional news show Today Tonight covers the airport arrival of rock band Kiss and their 1980 ‘Unmasked’ tour gig. Presented by Roger Gascoigne, the item shows playful pre-show sound bites from Simmons, Stanley et al in full make-up; and Kiss-struck schoolboy Scott Loveday has won a competition to meet the band. Gene ‘The Demon’ Simmons might have been made for loving you baby, but the "hottest rock show on earth" (tickets $12.50) battles against wind and rain at Athletic Park. The park is now the site of a retirement village.
TV1 celebrated Christmas by throwing most of its big names into this 1977 comedy/variety show. Ringleaders Roger Gascoigne and Nice One Stu's Stu Dennison are joined by a cavalcade of newsreaders hiding under Santa beards. Among the loopy 70s oddities on show: Brian Edwards in school uniform, channelling The Goons; Selwyn Toogood doing an It's in the Bag sketch that would nowadays likely be deemed too un-PC to make it to air; plus racehorse expert Glyn Tucker talking reindeer races. Madcap band Mother Goose also appear.
This iconic travelling TV game show pitted teams representing New Zealand towns against each other in a series of colourful physical challenges. Top Town was run over a series of weekly heats, staged in different towns on local sports fields. It leveraged nostalgia for a fast-fading time when NZ's population (and identity) resided in rural hub towns. The series was light-hearted light-entertainment gold, but the battle for civic bragging rights was serious stuff and it screened for 14 years from 1976 until 1990.
Good Day was launched in March 1978 to succeed Today at One with producer Tony Hiles promising "an entertaining magazine programme with the magazine aspect spread over the whole week". The Avalon based show, which ran for two years, aired at 1pm on weekdays and featured regular reports and human interest stories from around the regions, studio interviews, book and film reviews, and consumer, arts and gardening segments. Political journalist Simon Walker was an early staffer while Dylan Taite contributed reports from Auckland.
Wellington's Today Tonight began, along with other regional news shows in Auckland, Christchurch and Dunedin, after the amalgamation of TV One and SPTV in 1980. Its catchment was diverse, covering the wider Wellington area, Taranaki, Hawkes Bay, the Wairarapa and extending to Nelson, Marlborough and the West Coast in the South Island. Presenters over the years included Roger Gascoigne, Leighton Smith, Mike Bodnar and Mark Leishman. The regional news shows bowed out in Auckland and Wellington in 1989, having yielded to the Holmes era.
Pioneering soap opera Close To Home first screened in May 1975. For just over eight years 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 (who had initially only agreed to make the show on the condition they would get to make The Governor). The popular family saga carved a regular niche for local drama on screen, and the output demands were foundational in developing industry talent.
In the early 80s Ready to Roll was NZ’s premier TV pop show. It emerged in the pre-music video boom mid-70s hosted by Roger Gascoigne (and later Stu Dennison) with bands and dancers live in the studio. By the early 80s it was a seamless video clip Top 20 countdown — introduced by the Commodores pumping ‘Machine Gun’ — and appointment Saturday evening viewing for music fans (and a regular in the week’s Top 10 rating shows). It then evolved into a brand, spawning a number of RTR offshoots (Mega-Mix, Sounz and New Releases), before disappearing in the mid-90s.
Peppermint Twist’s pastel-tinted portrait of 60s puberty floated onto NZ screens in 1987 and despite winning a solid teen following, only screened for one series. Set amongst a group of teens in small town Roseville (in reality the outdoors set originally used for Country GP), the show’s stylised look and sound had few Kiwi precedents - though its links to US TV perennial Happy Days are clear. Peppermint made liberal, and increasingly confident use of period music, with each episode named after a pop song of the day.
Telethon was a 24-hour live television spectacular aimed at securing donations from viewers for a charitable cause. The first, in 1975, launched the second channel (TV2) and raised over half a million dollars for St John's Ambulance. By 1981 Telethon had hit the $5 million mark. Along with willing local celebrities, volunteers and a receptive public, it attracted overseas stars: Basil Brush, Entertainment Tonight's Leeza Gibbons and Coronation Street's Christopher Quinton (who famously got together after the 1988 show). "Thank you very much for your kind donation!"