Bill Ralston is the everyman of New Zealand television, a sometime political correspondent, arts and current affairs presenter, award-winning journalist and head of TVNZ news and current affairs. With fingers in many pies and always ready with a pugnacious opinion, Ralston is one out of the box.
It’s crap. You know it’s crap, I know it’s crap and the viewers know it’s crap. Bill Ralston, as TVNZ news and current affairs head, assesses a competitor’s strategy
The Paul Henry Show debuted on 27 January 2014, taking over the time slot of Nightline, TV3's oft offbeat late night news show. The new programme marked the headline-grabbing presenter's return to Kiwi television, after time co-hosting Australian show Breakfast. On the first episode, Henry showed Prime Minister John Key photos of Winston Peters and Peter Dunne, then asked him "do you trust this man?" The Paul Henry Show went off air in December 2014, replaced by Newsworthy, with Henry moving to mornings for the high profile launch of cross-platform show Paul Henry.
A special tribute to 20 years of TV3's late night news show Nightline — including interviews with most of its regular newsreaders and major contributors of the previous two decades. Belinda Todd pops up in Los Angeles via satellite link and Darren McDonald is "door-stepped" at home while the others celebrate in a Ponsonby Road bar. There's a tribute to the late Dylan Taite; and other packages are devoted to Belinda Todd's more notorious antics, Bill Ralston's gonzo approach to politics, the show's arts coverage and its on-going love affair with nudity.
TV personality Jaquie Brown plays (and plays up) herself for delightful comic effect in this hit TV3 satire. Former Campbell Live reporter Brown plays an egomaniacal journalist looking to climb the media ladder any which way she can. Auckland's aspirational set: a cast of Metro social page alumni and wannabes, are skewered with self-referential glee. The second series was retitled for DVD release as The Jaquie Brown Odyssey; both series won acclaim and Best Comedy gongs at the Qantas Film and TV Awards. The Listener gushed: "A local sitcom that doesn't suck."
“Here is a taste of the best and worst of Backch@t 2000…goodnight.” Presenter Bill Ralston introduces this reel of outtakes and highlights from the Gibson Group arts series. The creative sector's issues of the day include installing Len Lye’s Wind Wand, arts funding, and arts patron Denis Adam’s thoughts on Te Papa’s arts displays. Ralston, reporters Mark Crysell and Jodi Ihaka, and film reviewer Chris Knox all get tongue-tied; there’s a tiff between two architecture panelists, brief appearances by Ian McKellen and Miriama Kamo, and opera singer Jonathan Lemalu hits a low note.
Backch@t was a magazine-style arts and culture show that appealed, from the opening acid-jazz theme tune, to a literate late-90s arts audience. Fronted by media personality Bill Ralston, the show included reporters Mark Crysell and Jodi Ihaka, and Chris Knox appears as the weekly film reviewer. In keeping with Ralston’s journalistic background, Backch@t took a ‘news’ approach to the arts, debating topics in the studio and interviewing the personalities, as well as covering the sector stories.
Backch@t was an award-winning magazine-style arts and culture show that appealed, right from the opening acid-jazz theme tune, to a literate late-90s arts audience. Fronted by media personality Bill Ralston, these excerpts from the first episode come out guns blazing with a debate by panellists about Tania Kovats's controversial artwork 'Virgin in a Condom', the sculpture that caused national upset when it was exhibited at Te Papa in 1998. Managing to keep a panel discussion convivial rather than confrontational, Ralston handles the catholic debate with aplomb.
John Clarke created an unofficial Kiwi national anthem when his alter ego Fred Dagg first released 'We Don’t Know How Lucky We Are' in 1975, simultaneously celebrating and poking fun at national pride. This video is a 1998 update of the song, instigated by TV's SportsCafe. Times change, but the recipe remains the same: "good clean ball and for God's sakes feed your backs!" Alongside a roll call of celebrities, politicians and sports stars — Sean Fitzpatrick, Chris Cairns, Zinzan Brooke — Clarke spreads the grateful gospel at the United Nations.
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.
This edition of the early 90s magazine arts show begins with a visit to Auckland's Herald Theatre to preview a production of Romeo and Juliet, directed by Michael Hurst and starring 16-year-old actor Sophia Hawthorne. Raybon Kan explores fatal books; author Ian Cross is interviewed and Bill Ralston reviews Cross’s latest novel (with Ralston wanting to know why all New Zealand art is "so bleak, so barren"). Film Festival director Bill Gosden previews the event's programme, and comedy group Facial DBX is interviewed ahead of the Watershed Comedy Festival.
After his mother gets infected by a bite from a deadly Sumatran rat monkey, Lionel (Almighty Johnson Tim Balme, in an award-winning performance) has to contend with a plague of the living dead while attempting to woo the love of his life. Peter Jackson had already been tagged with the title ‘The Sultan of Splatter’ after his first two features, but this was the film that confirmed it. Armed with a decent budget, he takes a Flymo to fusty 1950s New Zealand and takes cinematic gore to a whole new extreme in the process.
The Ralston Group was an anarchic early 90s TV3 political chat show. Ringmaster Bill Ralston wrangled a caucus of political and media industry insiders, ranging from broadcaster Derek Fox and writer Jane Clifton to Peter Williams QC and PR man Richard Griffin. The irreverent show offered in the moment opinions on an especially heady era in NZ politics. A 2003 issue of The NZ Herald remembered it as “the best sort of dinner party: noisy and gossipy, the guests well informed, well lubricated with lots of opinions and zero inhibition.”
The Ralston Group was an early 90s TV3 political chat show where politicos and media industry insiders vigorously debated current affairs. In this mid-1991 episode ringmaster Bill Ralston prods RNZ political editor Richard Griffin, broadcaster Leighton Smith, North & South editor Robyn Langwell and lawyer Trevor de Cleene to tell it as they see it. They debate service on Air New Zealand, the reform of Accident Compensation Corporation, the National Party’s broken promise for a Guaranteed Retirement Income, and the vexed issue of personalised car number plates.
This episode of the early 90s political chat show sees ringmaster Bill Ralston, lawyer Trevor de Cleene, RNZ political editor Richard Griffin, North & South editor Robyn Langwell and broadcaster Leighton Smith vigorously debating parliamentary filibusters; whether Kiwis are sexual puritans (in the wake of Nightline’s notorious '69-in-60' sex position broadcast); and whether NZ youth is a generation lost to sex, suicide and car crashes. Ralston argues “the wowsers are winning again”; Langwell correctly predicts the end of paper The Star, and Smith predicts a Wallabies win on Saturday.
TV3's late night news show was devised in 1990 to provide a mix of credible news and entertainment. Once the serious news of the day was dispensed with, the brief was that the show could be a bit "off" with few rules - and the freedom to push boundaries. That's exactly what presenters like Belinda Todd, Bill Ralston, Dylan Taite and David Farrier proceeded to do in the show's often infamous "third break". Meanwhile, newsreaders including Joanna Paul, Janet Wilson, Leanne Malcolm and Carolyn Robinson did their best to keep a straight face. "Yo Nightliners!"
Frontline replaced Close Up as TVNZ’s flagship, primetime current affairs show in 1988. Fronted by Ross Stevens, and made at Avalon at a time when TVNZ management had relocated to Auckland, it produced the controversial 1990 doco For the Public Good which explored the relationship between business and the Labour Government. In the fallout, TVNZ was sued, staff were sacked and the office moved to Auckland. In 1994, a special about the Winebox tax allegations saw Frontline back in the news. Other presenters included Lindsay Perigo, Anita McNaught and Susan Wood.
Wellington’s Today Tonight was one of four regional news shows launched by TVNZ in 1980. Over the years its hosts included Roger Gascoigne, Mark Leishman and Mike Bodnar. The show covered the local news from the pre-Wellywood, pre-’Absolutely Positively’ era: from restaurateur Remiro Bresolin’s Venetian mural, and a Philip Rush midwinter swim to work (across the harbour); to show stalwart Bas Tubert doing an offbeat Lady and the Tramp number for the Botanic Gardens tulip festival, and Beehive whimsy when David Lange (PM) meets David Lange (farmer).
Long-running afternoon show The Video Dispatch presented current affairs for younger viewers. Legend has it some politicians also used it to get a handle on the news. Topics ranged from poverty to a DIY polytech computer called ‘Poly’. The show's first presenter was Dick Weir, who in 1983 handed the reins to Lloyd Scott (best known at the time as Barry Crump's hapless pal in a series of Toyota ads). Rodney Bryant replaced Scott in 1987. Among the show's many reporters were Michele A'Court, Kerre McIvor (nee Woodham), and Bill Ralston. The title sequence will tickle nostalgia for 80s kids.
Wellington's Today Tonight began, along with other regional news shows in Auckland, Christchurch and Dunedin, after the amalgamation of TV One and SPTV in 1980. Its catchment was diverse, covering the wider Wellington area, Taranaki, Hawkes Bay, the Wairarapa and extending to Nelson, Marlborough and the West Coast in the South Island. Presenters over the years included Roger Gascoigne, Leighton Smith, Mike Bodnar and Mark Leishman. The regional news shows bowed out in Auckland and Wellington in 1989, having yielded to the Holmes era.
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.
In this short Gallery interview — broadcast in June 1973 — Peace Media representative (and future TVNZ news boss) Bill Ralston talks about dwindling supplies for two private vessels that had left Aotearoa, to protest upcoming French nuclear testing at Mururoa Atoll. Ralston accuses Prime Minister Norman Kirk of being “a little bit heartless” for not assisting. Actually Kirk was realising plans for the HMNZS Otago to join the vigil. Protest yacht Fri was later stormed by French commandos, and the protests made world news. French nuclear testing in the Pacific finally ceased in 1996.