Before X Factor there was New Faces, before Masterchef ... Graham Kerr, before Country Calendar there was ... er, Country Calendar. This collection picks the screen gems from the decade that gave Kiwi pop culture, "miniskirts, teenagers — and television." Peter Sinclair, Sandy Edmonds, Howard Morrison, and Ray Columbus star. Do your mod's nod and C'mon!
C’mon brought the hits of the day into New Zealand living rooms for three years in a tightly scripted, black and white frenzy of special effects, pop art sets, go-go girls and choreographed musicians while host Pete Sinclair kept the pace cracking with breathless hipster charm. Most of the stars of the day appeared at one time or another but sadly only two episodes have survived. As the 60s finished C’mon fell victim to the fragmenting of the music world and the arrival of darker music that the show could no longer turn into family friendly viewing.
Not exactly a music video, more a prototype. This promo film clip for the Kiwi classic was taken from the band's appearance on the Aussie TV show Bandstand in 1964. It's black and white and very basic, but the band has zoot suits; high slung guitars, as was the way of the time; and all the right moves. A very young-looking Ray Columbus has the beginnings of a Beatles hair-do, and is forever captured in time doing the legendary 'mod's nod'. This was the first time a film clip of a band performing was used for promo purposes in NZ.
In this episode, New Zealand's first celebrity chef abandons his usual format to answer queries from his studio audience about food and cooking. Topics covered by the soon to be world famous Graham Kerr include how to stop scrambled eggs drying out (add cream), battering oysters (never) and when to make Christmas cake (at least six months in advance). The show is a fascinating preserve of mid-60s cuisine – from crumbed cutlets and bolognese to the Galloping Gourmet's curious ‘Long White Cloud’ dessert. Kerr, of course, is as witty, charming and urbane as ever.
Town and Around was a nightly magazine show, covering everything from current affairs and studio interviews to slapstick to stunts; including a notorious spoof on a farmer who shod his turkeys in gumboots. A popular and wide-ranging regional series, it ran for five years from 1965, and was the training ground for a generation of industry professionals (Brian Edwards, David McPhail, and Des Monaghan amongst many others). Town and Around was made prior to a national network link, and editions came out of Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin.
“The big ALL FUN show for the whole family to enjoy!” said the ads for this musical comedy, which was one of only two New Zealand features made in the 1960s. Moving from Sydney to a Rotorua music festival, the plot follows the romance between a lively drummer (Gary Wallace) and Judy (Carmen Duncan), and the hurdles they face to stay true. This is only an excuse for a melange of madcap, pep-filled musical fun. Made by John O’Shea’s Pacific Films, the movie features performers Howard Morrison, Kiri Te Kanawa and Lew Pryme, plus distinctive graphics by artist Pat Hanly.
This best of special culls history and 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. 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 figures like John Gordon and Tony Trotter share their memories, and the show sets out to catch up again with some of the colourful New Zealanders that have featured on screen.
DJ Neville (“Cham the Man”) Chamberlain hosts this episode from the first series of the NZBC’s nationwide search for stars. Judges Nick Karavias and Jim McNaught and guest Allison (“Queen of Pop”) Durbin preside over entries in the original song competition (all sung by Yolande Gibson); and the New Faces segment features vocal trio The Shevelles, a saxaphone quartet and 16-year-old country singer Brendan Dugan (the eventual winner of the series). A film clip of Wellington band The Avengers’ classic ‘Love Hate Revenge’ shows as the judges convene.
One of Wellington’s leading 60s bands present a dark and troubling tale of revenge via voodoo doll. The clip — made for the Studio One TV show, a regular Avengers' gig — incongruously takes its cues from music video precursors like early Beatles films and The Monkees TV series (where the default position was zany and madcap). It was shot around Oriental Bay, with one fleeting pre-Te Papa harbour vista — but the focus is mainly on the band’s antics. The Avengers gamely enter into the spirit of it all, although four on a motor scooter looks decidedly dodgy.
Songs by New Zealand artists were rare in the charts in the early 1960s; it would be April 1967 before a New Zealand act made it to the top, when The La De Das had a number one hit with ‘Hey Baby’. With television being a new arrival in the decade, on screen footage was also rare — but in this Spotlight we've rounded up six of the 10 local number one hits of the 60s. Mr Lee Grant was a dominant force (appearing twice here), Shane spent six weeks at number one with ‘Saint Paul’, and the chart toppers also include a clip of John Rowles' first number one, ‘M’Lady’.
Islands of the Gulf was (narrowly) New Zealand’s first locally made TV documentary series — written, presented and produced by the country’s first female producer, Shirley Maddock. Intended as a one-off programme about the islands of the Hauraki Gulf, it ran to five half-hour episodes examining everyday life in the area, at a time when Kiwi faces were still a novelty on screen. Aviation legend Fred Ladd provided aerial footage. Maddock’s tie-in book was extensively reprinted and, in 1983, she revisited the area in a documentary for TVNZ. in 2018 Maddock's daughter presented an updated series.
Sitting in the Rain is a New Zealand pop landmark. One of the earliest music promo clips, filmed for television in 1967 by the NZBC, it is a cover version by a local band that became better known than the original (by UK blues stalwart John Mayall). The Underdogs were a powerful electric blues combo, but with 'Sitting in the Rain' they knew that less is more; the film clip, used to fill TV scheduling gaps, is similarly unfussy. Like a surly, underground Monkees, the anarchic Underdogs don't hide the fact that the performance is mimed.
Early teleplay The Evening Paper had the same rigid (theatre or radio-derived) format as other early TV dramas of the 60s, but it did something never before seen on local screens. Written by playwright Bruce Mason, the drama dared to expose a stifling NZ suburban existence. Jaded visiting Pom, Phillip; snivelling Winsome and her domineering mother Elfrida, and passive father Ernest, proved too much for viewers, who decried the drama as inaccurate and "unfair"; in other words, The Evening Paper gave Kiwis their first on-screen dose of cultural cringe.
A Girl to Watch Music By was a six-part series, with each episode showcasing a popular female singer or singing act. Among those featured were recent chart-topper Allison Durbin, perennial Pat McMinn, Yolande Gibson, Eliza Keil from the Keil Isles, and The Chicks. Hosted by Ray Columbus — by 1969, already well on the way to becoming a television veteran — the series also featured a fondly remembered sketch where Columbus played puppet to a much taller Max Cryer. The show's title was likely a variation on 60s instrumental hit 'Music to Watch Girls By'.
In 1969 Kiwi music legend John Rowles was in his early 20s, and flush with UK success: appearing on Top of the Pops and celebrating a single – ‘If I Only Had Time’ – which got to number three in the British charts. This fly on the wall documentary records his homecoming tour, complete with cigars, turtlenecks, rehearsals, press interviews, dancing, hongi and a civic reception in Kawerau (where he’d been fired from a mill job five years before, for arriving late). Rowles launches single ‘M’Lady’, soon to top the NZ charts, and reflects on how he's changed since leaving Kawerau.
This popular series was an early NZBC "pictorial magazine" show that explored "New Zealand’s backyard". Synonymous with producer Conon Fraser, the it was a staple of Sunday night 60s TV. Subjects ranged from Chatham Islands lobster fisheries, to Central Otago frost fires, to Miss New Zealand contestants. The show was praised in a 1968 NZ TV Weekly review as breaking new ground in relying more on imagery and interviewees' reflective voice-overs than (then usual) omniscient narration: "one of the few pure Television productions to have originated within the NZBC."
This 1967 documentary tells the story of 734 Polish children who were adopted by New Zealand in 1944 as WWII refugees. Moving interviews, filmed 20 years later, document their harrowing exodus from Poland: via Siberian labour camps, malnutrition and death, to being greeted by PM Peter Fraser on arrival in NZ. From traumatic beginnings the film chronicles new lives (as builders, doctors, educators, and mothers) and ends with a family beach picnic. Made for television, this was one of the last productions directed by pioneering woman filmmaker Kathleen O'Brien.
Launched in October 1964, Compass was the first local programme to provide regular coverage of politically sensitive topics. Alongside the job of reporting on the news from a NZ perspective, Compass was the first to file comprehensive news reports from overseas. The controversial banning of a programme on the changeover to decimal currency became a flashpoint in 1966. This led to the high profile resignation of producer Gordon Bick. Compass can now be seen as the forerunner to Close Up, Foreign Correspondent and more recently Sunday.