After countless romances, breakups and revelations — plus the odd psycho and crashing helicopter — Shortland Street turns 25 this month. Made on the run, sold round the globe, the Kiwi soap opera juggernaut has provided a launchpad for dozens of Kiwi actors and behind the scenes talents. Alongside best of clips, the 20th anniversary episode in full, and favourite memories from the cast, Shortland star turned director Angela Bloomfield writes about how the show has changed here, while Mihi Murray backgrounds how it began — and how it reflects New Zealand.
Celebrating 25 years of Shortland Street on our screens, current cast members reflect on their favourite Ferndale storylines – from stalwart Michael Galvin to relative newcomer Tash Keddy. The Ferndale Strangler is a standout, plus there is mention of helicopter crashes, unexpected triplets and moments of comedy. Death, drugs, disease, disasters – and a little bit of devotion – that about covers it.
After 25 years on air, Shortland Street has clocked up its share of weddings and funerals. Here we spotlight one heartbreaking death, and four of the most memorable marriages: from the interruption of Kirsty and Lionel’s nuptials by a besotted Stuart, to the long in the making merger of Chris and Rachel. In-between, things were pretty in pink for Maia and Jay’s civil union and, in the ‘TV wedding of 2002’, Nick and Waverley finally got hitched. It only took three goes and a kidnapping. And arguably no Ferndale death has seen an outpouring of grief like that with Doctor Sarah Potts' passing.
The first episode of Shortland Street starts with a pregnant woman being rushed to the clinic after an accident. Only the doctors are all missing. Visiting Doctor Hone Ropata (Temuera Morrison), who is soon to join the Shortland Street team, makes the call to deliver the baby. Head nurse Carrie Burton (Lisa Crittenden) disagrees, and proceeds to mention that Doctor Ropata is no longer in Guatemala. This first episode of the five night a week soap screened on 25 May 1992. It would go on to become New Zealand's longest running TV drama (but not our first soap — that was Close to Home).
In these short clips from our ScreenTalk interviews, Shortland Street actors talk about the show. - Michael Galvin on doing a rap - Martin Henderson on fast-paced TV - Robyn Malcolm on "the slut in the cardy" - Tem Morrison on medical terms - John Leigh on his exit - Danielle Cormack on leaving first - Antony Starr on acting under pressure - Angela Bloomfield on her first day - Craig Parker on forgetting ego - Shane Cortese on his dark role - Theresa Healey on playing "sassy" - Ido Drent on memorising fast - Stephanie Tauevihi on ravaging Blair Strang - Dean O'Gorman on relaxing on TV - Amanda Billing on farewelling her character - Mark Ferguson on playing his own brother - Stelios Yiakmis on stumbling into the set - Elizabeth McRae on being warned away - Rob Magasiva on nerves - Nancy Brunning on her first six months - Peter Elliott on thugs and idiots - Paul Gittins on advice - Blair Strang on sleeping with his sister - Geraldine Brophy on her role - Joel Tobeck on wheelchair jokes
There’s nothing like a shock exit to keep the momentum of a long-running soap going. Shortland Street is up there with the best, as evidenced in this Spotlight. Crashing, burning, falling (...or not?), explosive endings, and getting choked up over a serial killer. Five of Ferndale's most shocking – you can see them all here.
Since a spectacular truck crash just before the Christmas 1995 episode, the Shortland Street team have often pulled out the stops at Christmas time, and other special anniversaries. The 90 minute 20th anniversary special — which won acclaim in May 2012 — was no exception. Aside from Chris Warner being arrested for murder in his hospital bed, a dramatic helicopter crash injures Nurse Nicole Miller, a P addict is loose in the building, a heart has gone missing, and at least six former Shortlanders return. A fashion parade of old costumes from the clinic provides some light relief.
New Zealand music has an important place on Shortland Street, including guest performances by some of Aotearoa’s finest musicians (see this AudioCulture piece). But things really come into their own when the cast get behind the mic. This Spotlight includes a rap that Michael Galvin would rather forget, a pre-explosive singalong to ‘Anchor Me’, the first single out of Ferndale (Keeping Up the Love Thing’) and the most recent, ‘Time of the Year’. Plus we can’t overlook the original theme song sung by Tina Cross, heard here under Highlights from the First 15 years.
Arguably one of the most heartbreaking deaths in Shortland Street history was that of Doctor Sarah Potts (Amanda Billing) in August 2014; it spawned online tribute pages and widespread grief from fans. Potts’ struggles with multiple sclerosis on the show had helped spread awareness of the condition, but it was research on a superbug cure that spelt the end of her decade on the show (she had contracted the bug from a contaminated syringe). These excerpts include her tearful farewell to partner TK Samuels (Ben Mitchell) and their daughter Tillie (Leila Eketone).
This Shortland Street episode ended the 1995 season with a missing baby, a Christmas turkey and a bizarre accident. After being set up by conniving nurse Carla Leach (Elisabeth Easther), a drunken driver aims his Mac truck directly for the hospital's reception. Amongst the injured, Kirsty wakes up with a case of memory loss, while Carmen suffers unexpected after-effects, soon after swearing everlasting devotion to Guy Warner. Meanwhile Nick potentially faces prosecution, after accidentally leaving his girlfriend's one-year-old child at the supermarket.
For much of the 90s, hospital cafe manager Lionel Skeggins (John Leigh) was Shortland Street’s beloved nice guy. He fell in and out of love with Kirsty (their true soap romance included amnesia and a plane crash) before making this exit in March 1999. Lionel had been married to Mackenzie Choat (Ingrid Park) for just a week before learning of her dodgy past; he was fleeing her at the beach when he encountered a wave. His demise made 2016 NZ Herald and Stuff lists of the show’s memorable deaths, but the body was never recovered. Is Lionel the Street’s ultimate missing person?
Shortland Street is a fast-paced serial drama set in an eponymous inner city Auckland hospital. A South Pacific Pictures production, the iconic show is based around the births, deaths and marriages of the staff, family and patients. Screening five days a week on TV2 it is New Zealand’s longest running drama. Characters and lines from the show have entered the culture, most famously, "you're not in Guatemala now, Dr Ropata!". This 2007 promo, set to the theme song, collects together highlights from the first 15 years of the show.
Possibly the longest-brewing wedding on Kiwi television was that of Shortland Street’s Chris Warner (Michael Galvin) and Rachel McKenna (Angela Bloomfield), in February 2014. Between them the couple had overcome stalkers, alcoholism, car crashes, bombs, brain damage, and a total of six prior marriages…but on this occasion there are no last minute objections to interrupt proceedings, just a firm answer to the decades long 'will they, won’t they?' question for the show’s golden couple. Only Grace (Lynette Forday), who is carrying Chris's baby, doesn’t look like she feels the love…
On Valentine's Day 2006 Shortland Street featured its first civil union, between lesbians Jay Copeland (Jaime Passier-Armstong) and Maia Jeffries (Anna Jullienne). The ceremony was aptly flush with pink decor and took place in Parnell’s Rose Gardens. Alas it was picketed by Serenity Church protestors and the union later ended — after Jay had an affair … with a man! In 1994 Shortland Street had earlier broken mainstream ground for the LGBT community with a lesbian kiss, between Dr Meredith Fleming (Stephanie Wilkin) and nurse Annie Flynn (Rebecca Hobbs).
Trapped in a storage locker, without her appendix, nurse Alice Piper (Toni Potter) turns the tables on her captor, psycho Joey Henderson (Johnny Barker). When Doctor Craig Valentine encounters Henderson, he finds himself caught between anger and duty. Finally marking the end of the Ferndale Strangler's reign, this March 2008 Shortland Street episode climaxed an eight-month long plotline, which saw five members of the cast go down. Earlier a trio of leaked videos, each revealing a different killer (none of them Joey) upped the suspense as to the strangler's identity.
Over a two year stint from 2003, the devious Dominic 'Dominator' Thompson (Shane Cortese) did plenty to earn his place in the pantheon of Kiwi soap opera super villains. When his affair with a 16-year-old was revealed, he resorted to drugging his wife, two murders, framing others, and feigning insanity to cover it up. In December 2004, on the cusp of finally being sprung, the show’s evil bad boy lured his rival Chris Warner (Michael Galvin) to a remote barn and prepared to incinerate them both. But as the spectacular second clip reveals, it can be unwise to play with fire ...
Produced by South Pacific Pictures for TV2, serial drama Shortland St has screened five nights a week since its inception in 1992. It has won awards, sold internationally and become a part of our national landscape and pop culture. A who's who of New Zealand acting talent, writers, directors and producers have worked on the soap.