It started with grunge and ended with Spice Girls; Di died, Clinton didn't inhale and the All Blacks were poisoned. On screen, Ice TV and Havoc were for the kids and a grown-up Kiwi cinema delivered a powerful triple punch. Tua's linguistic jab proved just as memorable, Tem got a geography lesson and Thingee's eye popped and reverberated around our living rooms.
Ice TV was a popular 90s TV3 youth show hosted by Jon Bridges, Nathan Rarere and Petra Bagust. This 1998 'best of' sees a 20/20 satire (a world's biggest bonsai trees scam); Petra meets Meatloaf, Jon meets US brothers boy band Hanson, visits a 'storm-namer', and they both go on Outward Bound; Nathan road tests Elvis's diet (peanut butter and bacon in bread, deep fried); and the trio go to the zoo and gym to discover why humans are the "sexiest primates alive". Includes the show's trademark sign-off where L&P bottles were subjected to various stresses.
Irreverent 90s youth show Havoc launched the TV careers of hosts Mikey Havoc and Jeremy ‘Newsboy’ Wells (the pair worked together at radio station 95bFM). This first episode played on MTV (then run by TVNZ). Guests are Shortland Street actor Angela Bloomfield, Metro editor Bill Ralston and musician Darcy Clay. Amongst pop culture montages, videos and archive (future MP Lockwood Smith hosts kids’ knowledge test The W Three Show), Newsboy meets Hustler magazine centrefold Kimberly. The show is date-stamped by Spice Girls, drum’n’bass, Sodastream and Wells’ gelled hair.
Once Were Warriors opened the eyes of cinemagoers around the globe to an unexamined aspect of modern New Zealand life. Director Lee Tamahori's hard-hitting depiction of domestic and gang violence amongst an urban Māori whānau was adapted from the best-selling Alan Duff novel. The film provided career-defining roles for Temuera Morrison and Rena Owen as Jake the Muss and Beth Heke. It remains NZ's most watched local release in terms of bums on seats. Among a trio of backgrounders, Riwia Brown writes about adapting Duff's book for the screen.
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 team, makes the call to deliver the baby. Head nurse Carrie Burton (Lisa Crittenden) disagrees, and proceeds to mention that Dr 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).
Wheel of Fortune is a game show that involves the solving of Hangman-style posers. Contestants spin the wheel to accrue prizes, guess vowels or consonants that may be in the answer, and earn the right to roll again. The 90s Kiwi edition was hosted by Phillip Leishman and Lana Coc-Kroft. In this 10 October 1992 celebrity episode the contestants were actor Andy Anderson, Fair Go reporter Rosalie Nelson, and Barcelona Olympic bronze medalist boxer (and future World Heavyweight title challenger) David Tua, who infamously requested the letter O, "for Awesome".
From John Grenell’s ‘Welcome to Our World’ at the start of the decade, to ‘Tonight’ by pop stars TrueBliss at the end, the 1990s saw television influencing the charts. New Zealand had its own music channels, and local acts got plenty of airtime. Hip-hop emerged; 1994 saw the first local hip-hop number one with 3 the Hard Way's ‘Hip Hop Holiday’(a feat they'd repeat in 2003), DLT and Che Fu’s ‘Chains’ spent five weeks at the top in 1996. Rock and dance also made a mark. After spending just three weeks at number one in NZ, OMC’s earworm ‘How Bizarre’ became a monster hit worldwide.
Ada (Holly Hunter) has been mute since she was six. She travels from Scotland with her daughter (Anna Paquin) and her grand piano to colonial New Zealand, for an arranged marriage. When her husband, a stoic settler (Sam Neill) sells the piano to Baines (Harvey Keitel), Ada and Baines come to a secret agreement. She can win her piano back key by key by playing for him, as he acts out his desire for her. An especially big hit in Europe, Jane Campion's Oscar-winning tale of sexual emancipation in the bush is the only NZ film to have won the top award at the Cannes Film Festival.
Heartland was a long-running series where, in each episode, affable presenter Gary McCormick explored a Kiwi community. Location and local legend are relayed as McCormick (or occasionally Annie Whittle, Maggie Barry, or Kerre McIvor) interacts with the natives, most famously, tiger slipper-shod Chloe of Wainuiomata. The popular, award-winning series, was inspired by a collaboration — Raglan by the Sea — between McCormick and director Bruce Morrison; it connected mostly-urban Kiwis with faraway corners of the country, and a homely sense of shared identity.
Hosted by Maggie Barry, with ‘bug man’ Ruud Kleinpaste, Bill Ward, Jack Hobbs and Professor John Walker, the popular TV One gardening series Maggie's Garden Show (originally Palmers Garden Show) ran from 1991 to 2003. The Ellerslie Flower Show was a highlight of the production year and the subject of an annual special. This programme features the annual Ellerslie show in 2000. Barry and the team check out the outdoor gardens section, floral design, garden design and garden makeover marquees. A model of Gondwanaland in the Discovery Marquee is a highlight.
The movie that won splatter king Peter Jackson mainstream respectability was born from writer Fran Walsh's long interest in the Parker-Hulme case: two 1950s teens who invented imaginary worlds, wrote under imaginary personas, and murdered Pauline Parker's mother. Jackson and Walsh's vision of friendship, creativity and tragedy was greeted with Oscar nominations, deals with indie company Miramax, and rhapsodic acclaim for the film, and newbie actors Melanie Lynskey and Kate Winslet. Time magazine and 30 other publications named it one of the year's 10 best films.
The Son of a Gunn Show was a popular 90s after school links show for kids. It was hosted by the irrepressible Jason Gunn, who wrangled proceedings with the help of alien puppet sidekick Thingee. The energetic show took in everything from song and dance numbers, and educational segments, to spoofs and impressions (often Frank Spencer) as Gunn et al played in loco parentis to a generation of Kiwi kids. Guests included sports and show business celebrities of the day. The show ended when TVNZ moved their children’s production from Christchurch to Wellington.
Popstars was a key part of the late 1990s reality television explosion. The series followed the creation and development of all-female pop band TrueBliss (Carly Binding, Keri Harper, Joe Cotton, Megan Alatini and Erika Takacs). The five singers went on to record several chart-topping singles, and a platinum-selling album. Also a hit was the series format, which sold around the world and helped inspire Pop Idol/American Idol, the franchise that would dominate reality television for years to come. Popstars was named Best Entertainment Programme at the 1999 NZ Television Awards.
In the first all celebrity version of Touchdown reality TV hit Treasure Island, 14 marooned contestants must provide food, water, fire, and shelter for themselves on a Fijian island, as they compete to find treasure and avoid elimination. Presented by Pieta Keating — who was runner-up on the original Treasure Island — the "household names" include Olympians and All Blacks (Frank Bunce), model Nicky Watson, actors and TV tradesman John Cocks. Hunger and cheating suspicions soon exacerbate tensions between the teams.