In 1985 Television New Zealand went all out to celebrate the 25th anniversary of local TV. Three specials marked the occasion. Two-parter 25 Years of Television was the most comprehensive: in part one, newsreader Dougal Stevenson chronicled the path from the one channel days of the 1960s, to a second channel in 1975 (TV3 didn't launch until 1989). A variety show (see musical excerpts below) — also called 25 Years of Television — featured performances by everyone from Dinah Lee to Ray Woolf. Lastly Network New Zealand went behind the scenes at TVNZ.
“It’s hard to imagine our way of life before the box turned up in our living rooms.” Newsreader Dougal Stevenson presents this condensed history of New Zealand television’s first 15 years: from 60s current affairs and commercials, to music shows and early attempts at drama. The first part of a two-part special, this charts the single channel days of the New Zealand Broadcasting Corporation from its birth in 1960 until puberty in 1975, when it was split into two separate channels. Includes recollections from many of NZ TV’s formative reporters and presenters.
To mark its first 25 years, TVNZ commissioned independent producer Ian Mackersey to chronicle a day in its life as the national broadcaster. Coverage is split between the often extreme lengths (and heights) gone to by technicians maintaining coverage, and the work of programme makers — including the casts and crews of McPhail and Gadsby and Country GP. The real drama is in the news studio during the 6.30 bulletin (with light relief from the switchboard) in this intriguing glance back at a pre-digital, two channel TV age during the infancy of computers.
No television special would be complete without a bloopers reel. 1985 marked the 25th anniversary of television in New Zealand, and one of the events celebrating it was a variety show at the Michael Fowler Centre. In this short excerpt, host Roger Gascoigne introduces a montage of humorous TV moments from across the years, some planned and others probably not — from turkeys in gumboots, Bill McCarthy’s exploding piano, and Relda Familton being judo-flipped, to Tom Bradley losing his script, and presenter Peter Sinclair disappearing in dry ice at the 1983 Feltex Awards.
Tom Sharplin was the face of rock'n'roll revival in 1970s and 80s New Zealand. In 1980 his group won Group of the Year, and soon after they featured in popular TV show Rock Around the Clock. Here, for the finale of a gala to celebrate 25 years of Kiwi television, he performs rock classic 'Rip it Up' (first made famous via Little Richard, and later inspiration for the name of the NZ music mag). "Shag it on down to the union hall" run the lyrics; Sharplin — with help from Ray Columbus, Ray Woolf and many more — swings his hips and rips, shakes, rocks and rolls up the Michael Fowler Centre.
As one of the performers on a live special celebrating 25 years of New Zealand television, Dinah Lee zips through short versions of two of her biggest hits: 'Don't You Know Yockomo' and 'Do the Blue Beat'. Both songs were originally part of a run of singles that made Lee an overnight star in late 1964. 'Yockomo' was released under her real name of Diane Jacobs, but after quickly selling out, the second printing saw her rechristened as Dinah Lee. This performance took place in 1985 — soon after she had begun making a mark in Australia as a competitive bodybuilder.
The 1974 Christchurch Commonwealth Games were a huge event for New Zealand, and for local television (they helped launch colour telly). The Games needed a song; young performer Steve Allen was commissioned to provide it, after winning a 1973 contest on music show Studio One. The catchy song became synonymous with the event, and a huge hit; later it was reprised to promote the 1990 Commonwealth Games. Here Allen performs the song at a 1985 gala celebrating 25 years of Kiwi television: belting out the "peace and love" message, backed by a large choir and orchestra.
During the 1960s, two young sisters from Auckland took New Zealand’s music charts by storm. The Chicks — Judy and Sue Donaldson — were 14 and 16 years old when they were first discovered by musician Peter Posa. The duo became famous for their matching outfits, stylish hairdos and catchy pop songs, and their popularity was bolstered by regular performances on hip television music show C'mon. In this short clip the sisters reunite to perform top 10 hit 'Timothy', at a 1985 variety special celebrating the first 25 years of television in New Zealand.
In the 1960s Mr Lee Grant topped the Kiwi music charts, and won a trail of screaming fans. He left to pursue an acting and singing career in England (including a close encounter with a propeller, in 007 film A View to a Kill). In this Michael Fowler Centre gala celebrating 25 years of television downunder, he returns to contribute an energetic cover of Spencer Davis Group classic 'Gimme Some Lovin'' (which was originally composed in less than an hour). Chicks Judy and Sue Donaldson — regular fixtures with Grant on 60s music show C'mon — join the fun in C'mon-style costumes.
"Is it a fantasy or is it something more?" For this televised Michael Fowler Centre gala celebrating 25 years of television in New Zealand, singer Tina Cross performs song 'Nothing But Dreams'. Cross won the inaugural South Pacific Song Quest in 1979 as a 20-year-old, singing the Carl Doy-composed song. It became her fourth single that year. By 1985 Cross was singer for new wave duo Koo De Tah and had an Australian Top 10 hit with 'Too Young for Promises'. Screen trivia: Cross would later provide the vocals for the Shortland Street theme song.
“Do you love me Pinocchio, tell me lies and your nose will grow”. This musical riff on love, trust and honesty was a hit for singer Maria Dallas in 1970. Originally there were no plans for it to be released as a single; it became hugely popular after Dallas performed it on music talent show Studio One. Here she revisits the song 15 years later, as part of a 1985 variety show at Wellington’s Michael Fowler Centre. The concert was a celebration of the first 25 years of television in New Zealand, including the musical artists who had made their mark on screen over the years.
Longtime country music collaborators Brendan Dugan and Jodi Vaughan covered American singer Townes Van Zandt's ‘If I Needed You’ on a 1982 single. Here they perform the song for a 1985 variety show celebrating the 25th anniversary of television in New Zealand. Vaughan shows no signs of vocal chord surgery she had undergone months earlier. The duo had recently decided to go it alone after success on — and Dugan's high profile departure from — TV show That’s Country. Dugan was named Entertainer of the Year by the NZ Entertainment Operators’ Association in 1985.
By the mid 1980s, performer Ray Woolf had been a pop star, Play School presenter, Entertainer of the Year winner, presented his own TV show, and promoted Bic lighters in an ad campaign with Howard Morrison. Here, accompanied by dancers, he performs an abbreviated version of the Paul McCartney penned classic 'Penny Lane' (a rare Beatles single not to top the British charts). The song's nostalgic "blue suburban skies" are transplanted from Liverpool to Wellington’s Michael Fowler Centre, as part of a variety show celebrating 25 years of television in New Zealand.
As part of a 25 Years of Television in New Zealand concert, Kiwi country music great John Grenell returns to his 1964 single ‘Streets of Laredo’. The classic cowboy song has inspired cover versions, parodies and reinventions over more than a century. Grenell dedicates this 1985 performance to “the late and the great Mr Tex Morton” — the Kiwi showman and country music star had passed away two years earlier. Grenell himself was taking an extended layoff from recording; three years later he released album Silver, followed by his beloved version of 'Welcome to Our World'.
In the 1980s country and western music was a big part of the Kiwi music landscape, and arguably its best-loved star was Patsy Riggir. 'Beautiful Lady', from 1983 album Are You Lonely, was a song she wrote herself (unusual in a genre then heavy on covers). It won Most Popular Song at the 1983 NZ Music Awards, where Riggir was named Composer of the Year, and was a finalist in the APRA Silver Scroll Awards. This performance is from a 1985 variety gala celebrating 25 years of television in New Zealand. The following year Riggir would front six-part TV series Patsy Riggir Country.
'L'Amour est l'Enfant de la Liberte' became a major 70s smash after it won television talent quest Studio One. Composed by Shade Smith, and sung by his twin brother Gerard, it topped the charts for six weeks in 1971, and became a fixture on Kiwi radio and TV. Sales of over 30,000 copies made it one of the biggest selling local songs of the era. Here, the band revisit freedom’s love child 14 years after birth, with a short rendition for a variety show at Wellington's Michael Fowler Centre. The show was made to mark 25 years of television in New Zealand.