Douglas Drury was one of a group of producers who lead an expansion of local television drama at a time — the mid 60s — where New Zealanders rarely saw their own stories on screen. Later, as second in command of state television’s drama department, he helped launch landmark series Pukemanu and initiated NZ's first situation comedy, Buck House. Drury passed away in Australia on 5 February 2016.
I've been staggered, the public's reaction has been much stronger than we expected ... We've heard stories of groups of people in places like Taumarunui taking flagons around to friends' houses on Pukemanu night, and making it a social occasion. Douglas Drury on the success of Pukemanu, The Sunday Times, 31 October 1971
Country GP was a major 80s drama series that charted the post-war years 1945 to 1950 in a rural central South Island town. Using fast-turnaround techniques that anticipated later series like Shortland Street, 66 episodes of Country GP were shot in 18 months at a specially built set in Whiteman’s Valley, Lower Hutt. It was groundbreaking as the first NZ series to cast a Samoan in a title role (Lani Tupu as Dr David Miller); but it also provided a nostalgic look back to an apparently kinder, gentler time than mid-80s New Zealand with its major social reforms and upheavals.
Famous as New Zealand television's first ever sitcom, Buck House was a rollicking and relatively risqué series that centred on the comings and goings of university students in a dilapidated Wellington flat — the eponymous 'Buck House'. Stars of the show included John Clarke, Paul Holmes, and Tony Barry (Goodbye Pork Pie). Despite (or more likely because of) its bawdy humour, occasional coarse language and alcohol abuse, the pioneering comedy sated the needs of many Kiwi viewers desperate for TV with identifiable local content and flavour.
New Zealand television's first sitcom, Buck House centred on the antics of a group of university students sharing a flat in Wellington. In this sixth episode of the first series, Reg — played by a fast-talking, afro-headed Paul Holmes — gets embroiled in his flatmate Joe's latest illicit moneymaking scheme. 'Escorts Unlimited Ltd', as Joe (Tony Barry) tries to explain, is a surefire winner. That is, until Buck House's other flattie, the left-leaning Jo (Jacqui Dunn) invites a member of the local constabulary home for a cup of tea. The late night comedy was considered edgy when it debuted in 1974.
'Ship girls' are the subject of this episode of the NZBC’s Probation Service drama. Hapless Janice (Freda Costley), a 19-year-old with a father who moved to Whakatane and a mother she doesn’t see if she can help it, is looking for love in the wrong places: sneaking onto the wharves to party with sailors in the hope she’ll find a boyfriend. Now the police have arrested her and, if she’s not careful, she’ll end up in borstal. Will the Probation Officers (Ewen Solon and Glynis McNicholl) be able to "stop her gangway habit becoming an addiction"?
This tale of body-snatching botanical aliens invading 70s Wellington shared the 1973 Feltex Award for Best Drama. Dominated by Davina Whitehouse’s performance as a retired teacher-turned ET foster parent, it included early TV roles for Paul Holmes, Grant Tilly and Susan Wilson. Vincent Ley’s script won a Ngaio Marsh teleplay contest, and its realisation stylishly traverses local summertime environs — Silence was one of the first NZBC dramas filmed in colour. Director David Stevens went on to success in Australia (writing Breaker Morant, and The Sum of Us).
Section 7 was New Zealand’s first urban TV drama series and followed soon after Pukemanu (which was set in a logging town). Taking its name from the Criminal Justice Act section which placed offenders on probation, it focussed on a Probation Service office and addressed issues of the day including new migrants, ship girls and domestic violence. Expatriate Ewen Solon returned from England to take the lead role in a series very much based on British dramas of the time. More popular with critics than the public, Section 7 was limited to 11 half-hour episodes.
Pioneering series Pukemanu (the NZBC’s first continuing drama) followed the goings-on of a North Island timber town. The series was conceived by former forester Julian Dickon (who quit the series and was replaced by Listener critic Hamish Keith as writer). Producing two seasons of six episodes was a key step in industry professionalisation, and many of the cast became stars (Ginette McDonald, Ian Mune). It offered an archetypal screen image that Kiwis could relate to: rural, bi-cultural, boozy and blokey; and reviews praised its Swannie-clad authenticity.
Pioneering series Pukemanu (the NZBC’s first continuing drama) was set in a North Island timber town. Its portrait of the town’s folk offered an archetypal screen image that Kiwis could relate to: rural, bi-cultural, boozy and blokey; viewers and reviewers praised its Swannie-clad authenticity. This first episode sees a culture clash as a motorcycle gang (including a young Bruno Lawrence) comes to town and causes trouble, running Ray (Geoff Murphy) off the road; and stranded townie Diana (Ginette McDonald) falls in love with a local axeman while hunting.
This 1967 documentary offers a rare behind the scenes glimpse into the early days of Kiwi television, as a group of actors learn firsthand how the new medium differs from the stage. The actors' workshops were held in three cities as part of a push to create more local drama. After NZ Broadcasting Corporation producer Brian Bell introduces the actors to the camera, they try out some scenes. Five TV plays emerged, and two are seen getting made: The Tired Man, featuring Grant Tilly and Ray Henwood, and acclaimed Christchurch-shot drama Game for Five Players.