Television experience with the BBC helped David Pumphrey win a job in Kiwi television, soon after he returned to New Zealand in 1959. He went on to produce children's shows, live broadcasts, and Montage — forerunner to magazine show Town and Around. Pumphrey also worked on the first TV broadcasts by celebrity cook Graham Kerr, and directed for high profile current affairs shows Compass and Gallery.
Every day was exciting one way or another, by pushing the system a little bit further or doing something that hadn't been done before. David Pumphrey on working in New Zealand television during the 1960s
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.
Landscape was made by ex-National Film Unit producer Bob Lapresle (six episodes were made in 1968 and six the following year). The focus of each half-hour programme was on people and personalities rather than on scenery, which was then being covered by the NZBC’s popular Looking at New Zealand. Beginning with ‘Friday in a Country Town’, the Landscape series went on to cover such varied topics as a family shearing gang, muttonbirders exercising their customary rights, the day to day life of a policeman, and the growing awareness of New Zealanders towards the arts.
Current affairs show Gallery took on controversial topics of the day, most famously in a Brian Edwards interview which solved a Post Office industrial dispute live on-air. Produced by Des Monaghan, it began as a studio-based programme that discussed political issues, but was soon expanded. Edwards’ confrontational style of interrogating public figures was new to New Zealand TV, and polarised viewers. It saw Edwards (the "mad mauler") become a household name, and earned him a reputation as a hardline interviewer. He was succeeded as host by David Exel.
The iconic all-things-rural show is the longest running programme on New Zealand television. With its typical patient observational style (that allows stories of people and the land to gently unfold) it’s an unlikely broadcasting star, but New Zealanders continue, after 50 plus years, to tune in. Amongst the bucolic tales of farming, fishing and forestry, there are high country musters, floods, organic brewing, falconry, tobacco farming, as well as a fencing wire-playing farmer-musician, a radio-controlled dog, and Fred Dagg and the Trevs.
Town and Around was a nightly magazine show, covering everything from current affairs and studio interviews to slapstick to stunts; including a notorious spoof on a farmer who shod his turkeys in gumboots. A popular and wide-ranging regional series, it ran for five years from 1965, and was the training ground for a generation of industry professionals (Brian Edwards, David McPhail, and Des Monaghan amongst many others). Town and Around was made prior to a national network link, and editions came out of Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin.
Launched in October 1964, Compass was the first local programme to provide regular coverage of politically sensitive topics. Alongside the job of reporting on the news from a NZ perspective, Compass was the first to file comprehensive news reports from overseas. The controversial banning of a programme on the changeover to decimal currency became a flashpoint in 1966. This led to the high profile resignation of producer Gordon Bick. Compass can now be seen as the forerunner to Close Up, Foreign Correspondent and more recently Sunday.
London-born Graham Kerr’s first appearance on NZ telly was in 1960 as an Air Force catering adviser. The RNZAF omelette demonstration was the beginning of a career that would see Kerr become an internationally pioneering TV chef, liberally mixing personality — a patient, slightly naughty uncle, always ready with a risqué quip — and butter, cream or wine-soaked recipes. The Graham Kerr Show was the last series he made in NZ before galloping off overseas, and his worldly sophistication introduced Kiwis to horizons beyond the confines of their own insular cuisine.
Hitting television screens in 1961, just a year after the launch of regular TV services in New Zealand, this 30 minute talent show was spawned from Ian Watkins’ popular radio show (on which he memorably used a gun to signal the end of performances). Initially screening on Auckland channel AKTV-2, it became a national talent quest in 1962, with auditions in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. The following year, 30,000+ viewers used postal voting. Have a Shot was a noted platform for new amateur talent. After a four year run, it was replaced by New Faces.
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.