Bill McCarthy’s wide-ranging television career spans 50 years and counting. McCarthy won a keen following when he anchored coverage of the 1974 Commonwealth Games. After five years presenting Television One’s network news (alternating with Dougal Stevenson), he became a producer and director, and did time as TVNZ’s head of sports. McCarthy set up his own company in 1990, and continues to make shows for cable television.
As a departmental head, McCarthy never ducked a fight and would, if he felt the need, take the battle right to the critics … That forthright attitude endeared him to even his fiercest critics. Barry Shaw, NZ Herald, 22 May 1989
The opening episode of the Prime TV series celebrating 50 years of New Zealand television travels from an opening night puppet show in 1960, through to Outrageous Fortune five decades later. It traverses the medium's development and its major turning points (including the rise of programme-making and news, networking, colour and the arrival of TV3, Prime, NZ On Air, Sky and Māori Television). Many of the major players are interviewed. The changing nature of the NZ living room — always with the telly in pride of place as modern hearth — is a story within the story.
This fourth episode in Prime’s series on Kiwi television history series charts 50 years of sports on TV. Interviews with veteran broadcasters are mixed with clips of classic sporting moments. Changes in technology are surveyed: from live broadcasts and colour TV, to slo-mo replays and CGI graphics. Sports coverage is framed as a national campfire where Kiwis have been able to share in test match, Olympic, Commonwealth and World Cup triumphs and disasters — from emotional national anthems and inspirational Paralympians, to underarm deliveries, snapped masts and face-plants.
Once upon a time the Kiwi accent was a broadcasting crime, and politicians decided in advance which questions they would answer on-screen. Here is the News examines three decades (up to 1992) of Kiwi TV journalism and news presentation. The roll-call of on and off camera talent provides fascinating glimpses behind key events, including early jury-rigged attempts at nationwide broadcast, Dougal Stevenson announcing the 1975 arrival of competing TV networks, the Wahine, Erebus, Muldoon, turkeys in gumboots, and the tour - where journalists too, became "objects of hatred".
This long-running travelling TV game show pitted towns against each other in a series of colourful physical challenges. The 1986 final takes place at Lower Hutt’s Fraser Park, where teams from Alexandra, Timaru, Whangarei (including future All Black Ian Jones) and Waihi compete for civic bragging rights. Hosted by Bill McCarthy and Paddy O’Donnell, with officials Melissa (Miss Top Town) and champion Olympic kayaker Ian Ferguson. A Taniwha, cross-dressing cheer squads, a Para Pool, and slippery slope, all make for much light entertainment malarkey.
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.
In 1982 renowned Russian pianist Vladimir Ashkenazy toured New Zealand. With the combined support of TVNZ, Radio New Zealand and the NZ Symphony Orchestra, a one-off televised concert was arranged. Ashkenazy plays two pieces backed by the NZSO at the Auckland Town Hall, after an interview by Ian Fraser, in which the pianist praises the NZSO's ability to handle a piece he describes as "almost unplayable in parts". In the second clip, he plays Béla Bartók’s Second Concerto, and in the third clip — which appears never to have gone to air — César Franck’s Symphonic Variations.
Bookended by cameo appearances from the Queen and Robert Muldoon, this National Film Unit short offers a brief history of the various buildings that graced Wellington’s parliamentary lawns, before moving to the main event: the design and building of the Beehive. Plans are drawn up after acceptance of Scottish architect Sir Basil Spence’s “bold, circular design”. Then we watch as one of NZ’s most iconic structures is born from a gaping hole in the ground in 30 seconds of swift cuts. At the official launch, a still youthful looking Queen expresses her approval.
TV1 celebrated Christmas by throwing most of its big names into this 1977 comedy/variety show. Ringleaders Roger Gascoigne and Nice One Stu's Stu Dennison are joined by a cavalcade of newsreaders hiding under Santa beards. Among the loopy 70s oddities on show: Brian Edwards in school uniform, channelling The Goons; Selwyn Toogood doing an It's in the Bag sketch that would nowadays likely be deemed too un-PC to make it to air; plus racehorse expert Glyn Tucker talking reindeer races. Madcap band Mother Goose also appear.
This iconic travelling TV game show pitted teams representing New Zealand towns against each other in a series of colourful physical challenges. Top Town was run over a series of weekly heats, staged in different towns on local sports fields. It leveraged nostalgia for a fast-fading time when NZ's population (and identity) resided in rural hub towns. The series was light-hearted light-entertainment gold, but the battle for civic bragging rights was serious stuff and it screened for 14 years from 1976 until 1990.
In 1975 TV One launched with a flagship 6.30 news bulletin which went largely unchanged with the move to TVNZ in 1980. In a 1987 revamp, it became the Network News with dual newsreaders Judy Bailey and Neil Billington (replaced by Richard Long). In 1988, the half hour programme moved to 6pm. With the advent of TV3 in late 1989, it was rebranded One Network News; and, from 1995, extended to an hour. The ill-fated replacing of Long with John Hawkesby in 1999 saw it make headlines rather than report them. In 1999, there was another name change to One News.
This classic sports mishap from the 1974 Commonwealth Games sees weightlifter Graham May fall flat on his face after passing out while holding a 187.5kg barbell over his head. Despite the fall May went on to win gold in the super heavyweight (110kg+) division, and weightlifting gained a local profile due to his and the NZ team's success. The mustachioed Kiwi’s face-plant became a staple of blooper reels worldwide: from the long-running 'It's moments like these …' Minties ad campaign to the title sequence for ABC’s Wide World of Sports on US TV. May died in 2006.
When television began broadcasting in Auckland in 1960, the news consisted of a days old bulletin from the BBC in London. A locally-compiled bulletin began before the end of the year, with occasional locally-filmed items. From 1962 to 1969 a five minute news summary screened at 7pm, with the longer NZBC Newsreel following at 8. TV news expanded rapidly through the 60s, with the NZBC setting up a network of newsrooms in the main centres. November 1969 marked the first time a shared news broadcast played nationwide, with the launch of the NZBC Network News.