Simon Prast and Peter Elliott — Ilona Rodgers — Geeling Ng — Lisa Chappell — Danielle Cormack — Craig Parker …
These are not just a roll call of names from Gloss, they are actors who also figured in other iconic projects of the 80s. Simon, Craig and Peter played roles in TVNZ’s seminal TV treatment of the Erebus disaster.
This was the era when actors, writers and directors were inspired by the brilliant Edge of Darkness directed by New Zealander Martin Campbell, the godfather of the HBO fare we consume so voraciously today.
And what about Roger Donaldson’s one-two combo with Bruno in the classic Smash Palace, the TVNZ serialisation of Maurice Gee’s kid-spooking Under the Mountain, Murray Ball’s laconic Footrot Flats made into anthem by Dave Dobbyn and Herbs … in the US the decade's TV banner show was arguably Miami Vice; Billy T found the Kiwi version in Turangi in his beloved sketch comedy show.
These pieces of NZ screen culture define our memories of that era and still pack a punch today.
And on into the future: Spartacus (Craig Parker), Wentworth (Danielle Cormack), McLeod’s Daughters (Lisa Chappell) … the Gloss cast have continued to make great shows.
We all look back and thank Janice Finn who had the balls and the vision to push Gloss through, changing the face of TV in NZ in the process. And Rosemary McLeod who created smart characters who used words of more than two syllables on prime-time TV. New Zealand audiences liked it! Wit, sly humour, exchanges that took some thinking about. Simon told me the other day he had never heard the word “arriviste” before he read it in Rosemary’s script for Episode One.
There are those we wish had stuck around to make more great film and TV: Robert Bruce our marvellous agent, and Kevin Smith who left his mark on a couple of decades of New Zealand on Screen.
Great people, great TV and great laughs between people who are still mates today.
And what were we all doing on a Sunday before shooting began again for another week? A Dog's Show was our sheepish late arvo version of a screen saver (only in NZ!), and later we were gelling our curls, pushing up our sleeves to that trendy half-mast, drinking yet another bottle of Yalumba bubbly and watching an 80s Kiwi icon: Karyn Hay on Radio with Pictures of course!
"Oh it's the gilt on the gingerbread, the icing on the cake..."
So sang the late much-lamented Beaver in the theme song to a show that defined a decade (and changed my life along the way).
In an age of conspicuous consumption, Gloss aimed to show a completely new, aspirational side to a nation more used to seeing itself in cardigans than shoulderpads (and that's just the men!). We quaffed champagne, wore mullets (would that I still had those cascading curls) and battled each other for power and money. On Gloss, we didn't backstab, we frontstabbed.
Some of the country's best writers, led by the show's creator and visionary producer Janice Finn, fashioned barbs and bitchery the likes of which we'd never before heard. "... such a sweet seduction — Gloss ..."
And so it was.. The network set out to make stars and for a while, we were legends in our own lunchboxes (as some wag said). For many of us, Miranda, Peter, Lisa, Geeling, Kevin, Danielle, Craig, this was our first big break on television. To work alongside seasoned pros like Ilona, Kerry, Yvonne and Davina was such privilege. Some are no longer with us, but they live on in our collective memory.
Who could forget Kerry as Magda ("Women with short legs shouldn't wear hats"). Or Yvonne's steely matriarch Olivia?
One of my favourite lines was from the episode in which Caro and Brad's baby had been kidnapped and the family met to discuss what to do. Alistair was up in arms. Maxine or Rex, I can't remember now, quipped "What are you going to do, throw your sunglasses at them?" Hilarity! But that's what Gloss, and the late 80's were all about: wearing your sunglasses at night. Rolling up your suit sleeves as a fashion statement.
One viewer complained it looked like I had just done the dishes. As if! We didn't do dishes on Gloss. Except perhaps Olivia's loyal if secretive maid.
Back then, we worked hard and played hard. I remember introducing myself to Felicity Ferret at Le Bom one night. She later reported in Metro that she had been accosted by "a small ginger person". Still more hilarity! On another night, two finance company wide-boys who had just bought a Mercedes each on their credit cards tried to convince me to invest what they presumed was my huge TV salary in the stock market. I didn't. Which was just lucky because Wall Street crashed a week later.
Ah yes: 1987. Over half-a-lifetime ago now. But Gloss lives on: a celebration of a simpler time. We are all grown up now, cast, fans, the country. I look back on those times as golden days and a career highlight. To be remembered for it is an honour. So here's to the "monuments and mirror glass" of Gloss and the shiny, shouldered-padded decade that was the 1980s. I wouldn't have missed it for the world.