One of the first things you realise when you start working at NZ On Screen is that New Zealanders have a huge appetite for TV nostalgia.
Old favourite NZ television series like A Dog’s Show, Gloss and Billy T James are enduringly popular with visitors to our site, and you can often see them at the top of “Most Viewed Today” on our home page.
So it was fairly early into the life of NZ On Screen that I started thinking about some of the TV shows and moments within shows that had become so famous or infamous they had passed into legend.
I began making a list of the most obvious ones, and we started work on clearing rights and sourcing footage. By early 2012, we had enough of these memorable TV moments on the site to curate them into one of our featured collections.
In March 2012, we launched the collection, calling it “Legendary NZ TV Moments.” It featured 17 titles ranging from TV puppet Thingee’s eye popping out to Chloe of Wainuiomata’s tiger slippers on Heartland, to the famous Police Ten 7 instruction “always blow on the pie”, to Wheel of Fortune “O for Awesome”.
We thought of the collection as something fairly lightweight and fun, which, of course, it is. But it also turned out to be our most popular collection ever. Something about these strange little moments in our TV and pop culture history really struck a chord with people. And who is to say that pop culture history isn’t as important as other kinds of history?
NZ On Screen fans really entered into the spirit of things with the first collection, and started suggesting more legendary moments that we hadn’t thought of — newsreader Angela D’Audney baring her breasts in the TV play The Venus Touch, the Ingham Twins' monosyllablic interview on the Holmes - Christmas Party, the fake killing of Shrek on Eating Media Lunch, and the classic Turkeys in Gumboots sketch from Town and Around.
So we set to work on adding some new “moments” to the site, and in March 2013 we launched a follow-up collection with nine additional titles. In true women’s mag tradition, we called it “More Legendary NZ TV Moments.”
Once again, it broke the viewing records of all previous NZ On Screen collections.
As already mentioned, I think the collections have been popular for reasons to do with nostalgia and retro appeal. But I think the titles in the collections also reveal something about the low-key and deadpan style of NZ humour. Whether it be the spoofs (Forgotten Silver, Country Calendar, killing Shrek on EML, or putting turkeys on gumboots for Town and Around); or the bloopers (Thingee’s eye pop); the droll Kiwi moments (“always blow on the pie”); or the classic fights (physical in Bob Jones and Rod Vaughan’s encounter; verbal in Rob Muldoon and Simon Walker’s) - there’s something uniquely New Zealand about the content of these collections.
And so to the latest, and last, in the series. This one is the Top 10 titles from both of the previous collections, as selected by you, the site visitors of NZ On Screen. The Top 10 has been calculated by the number of views that each title has had.
Police Ten 7 (always blow on a pie) has come in at number one, and that is probably no great surprise to anyone as it has become such a well-loved part of our folklore. It’s interesting to note, however, that it was barely noticed when it first screened on Police Ten 7. It was uploaded to YouTube some time later and went viral from there. People from all around the world now watch it on NZ On Screen.
The Loose Enz one-off TV play The Venus Touch caused such a stir when it first screened in 1982. Angela D’Audney was one of our top newsreaders, but also an occasional actress. And when her role demanded a topless scene, she duly obliged. I worked with Angela in the latter years of her life, and I know she thoroughly enjoyed the controversy at the time. She would love it that her famous moment is number two in our Top 10.
The number three title, Thingee’s Eye Pop, is also an interesting one in terms of its origin. While people swear they saw it live as children and were traumatised by it, it didn’t in fact screen live. It was an out-take which only became famous when it was used in a bloopers special some time after the event.
Numbers four and five in our countdown take a violent turn, with would-be politician Bob Jones bloodying the nose of TV journalist Rod Vaughan, and Eating Media Lunch pretending to kill Shrek the star sheep.
Chloe of Wainuiomata and her tiger slippers make a warm and fuzzy number six, and then things get combative again with two infamous TV current affairs interviews — Simon Walker and Rob Muldoon on Tonight, and Kim Hill and John Pilger on Face to Face with Kim Hill.
At number nine, we have the lovely David Tua “O for Awesome” moment from a celebrity edition of Wheel of Fortune. This too has some interesting history. Tua later tried to explain that he had actually said “O for Olsen”, and if you listen hard it does sound like this may be the case. But the moment became so loved, even Tua gave up trying to explain himself and graciously went along with the common perception.
Number 10 is episode one of Shortland St and the immortal “You’re not in Guatemala now, Dr Ropata” line uttered to Temuera Morrison's globetrotting doctor by fiesty Nurse Carrie Burton. What better way to close our countdown than with one of the most famous lines ever uttered on New Zealand television, from one of our longest-running and most-loved shows.
So take a look at The Most Legendary NZ TV Moments and enjoy these strange little bits of Kiwi pop culture all over again. I don’t know exactly what it is, but there’s something about them we really love.
“You know, the 'blow on the pie' thing." Billy said to his godfather, Bob, an irascible old coot who made a killing as a property investor. “Bugger blowing on a bloody pie, what about the time I punched out Rod Vaughan?” Well Bob Jones, you are, as Jason Gunn might have once said, “on the list.”
It’s hard to go past the Bob vs Rob or the ‘Tumble in Taupo’ as it’s not known. It certainly ticks that TV box marked, “If it bleeds it leads.” Although it has been hammered down this venerable list to number four — surely a split decision.
History has been kind to both the violent offender and the victim. Jones surely tapped into something primal, something utterly Kiwi. He did something bad, but it was so righteous. It could be summed up as “don’t interrupt my fishing with a helicopter you news dick.” Rod for his part wore the beating with pride, knowing that he had a story that would lead the news as he mugged with blood dripping from his face. Both men executed their respective duties perfectly.
I reckon that I can still remember that Sunday night sitting in the lounge watching the Philips K9 as Bob stormed out of the bracken like a yeti. But memory is a funny thing. I’ve seen the clip so many times now, that, like Thingee’s Eye Pop (which wasn’t broadcast live), it’s also possible that I created that memory or possibly blended it with one that had me sitting uncomfortably on the couch in Onehunga as the late great Angela D’Audney bared her chest so proudly, on the TV play The Venus Touch.
Thank god that Angela was prepared to show “her norks” — as the parlance of the day would have it — because the rest of The Venus Touch wasn’t at all revealing. That showing a part of the human anatomy had the power to upset the nation is sad and charming at the same time. But to do it back then, that took real backbone. In my book Angela is deserving of a liberty sized statue … or at least a specially painted Air New Zealand plane.
Was I there when Dr Ropata was told that he was not in South America — where presumably medical care is dished out willy-nilly? I couldn’t tell you. But how many times have I heard those immortal words, “You’re not in Guatemala now, Dr Ropata”? I would guess about 107.
Famous as the phrase is, can you tell me who said it? The first name that comes to mind is Tem Morrison, but it was of course said to him by that nurse … you know the one, quite bossy, a little shrill? Would make a good prison guard, you know, whatshername? As ever, it’s the doctors who get all the glory.
The words came from the character Carrie Burton, who was played by Australian actor Lisa Crittenden. Oh god. An Australian uttered our most famous television quote! That’s more grist for the mill operated by those feeble-minded goobers who groan on about the provenance of Crowded House, pavlovas or Phar bloody Lap.
It’s probably lucky for Lisa that she lives in Melbourne, if she was here she would run a never-ending gauntlet of half-p*ssed kiwis asking her to say the fabled words. “Come on love, (burp) I’ll start you off, “You’re not in …”
But what if it was David Tua, not Bob Jones, who laid into Rod Vaughan?
Or what if it was the be-slippered Chloe of Wainuiomata who sat down to interview the irritable left-wing icon John Pilger, rather than Kim Hill?
Rod would probably not have survived the encounter on the Turangi river’s edge if Tua had been throwing his left hook, but if he had, he would have been reduced to a shell of a man, someone barely able to dribble on a pie let alone blow on it. He would not know if he was in Guatemala or if 'O' was indeed the first letter of the word 'Awesome'.
Chloe v Pilger on the other hand would probably have gone better than that infamous encounter between the famous journalist and Kim Hill. How could it have gone any worse? It was a testy affair between the pair, with Pilger playing the know-it-all defender of the truth, while Hill was in no mood to be patronised and seemed to be running on a fuel consisting of zero patience.
A perfect storm of 'ego' and 'maniacal' was on display and by the time Kim threw Pilger’s book at him — sadly he was on a plasma screen not in the studio — a great moment had been forged. His strange plea of “just read” belongs on another list: ‘The most bizarre thing ever muttered on NZ TV.’ Of all our interviewers who have risen to prominence it’s unlikely that anyone is less in need of that particular advice than Kim Hill. If she needs to read more, then what advice would Pilger have dished out to other on-screen interrogators? What could he have said to the non-National Radio tutored rabble of local broadcasters? “Learn the frigging alphabet”?
As for Shrek and Thingee, their inclusion says a lot about our national character. Why do we enjoy watching the butchery of a normal sheep impersonating a celebrity sheep and an ugly puppet losing an eye?