Janine Morrell-Gunn is one of New Zealand's leading children's television producers. She trained as a producer and director with TVNZ before spending seven years as executive producer of TVNZ's Children's Unit. In 1998 Morrell-Gunn formed Christchurch based production company, Whitebait Productions.
As the platforms available to children increase, so must our commitment to produce the television they want to see. Janine Morrell-Gunn
NZ telly's longest running children's show turns 30 with a two hour, live extravaganza — far removed from its modest beginnings as a half hour pre-record in 1981. Current hosts Charlie, Johnson and Gem are joined by a parade of past presenters who reminisce, and compete to find the show's best decade. Masterchef finalist Jax Hamilton provides snacks, celebrities send greetings; and — in amongst the cupcakes, gunge, fart jokes and mayhem — the programme enters its fourth decade as an institution, watched by the children of its original audience.
In 2006, TVNZ’s long running children’s show celebrated 25 years on air — and Christmas — with a “Merry Birthday” special. In these excerpts, current presenters (including Tamati Coffey) are joined by a cavalcade of former hosts including Jason Fa’afoi, Carolyn Taylor, Props Boy, Shavaughn Ruakere and original anchor Steve Parr (with the same moustache a quarter of a century later). The emphasis is firmly on studio ordeal with guests gunked, foamed and asked to drink the undrinkable; and then there’s the raw fish — a step too far for at least one of them.
Jason Gunn and sidekick Thingee present a Christmas Day special as only they can. Guests include Wonder Dogs host Mark Leishman, singers Debbie Harwood and Kim Willoughby and All Black Va’aiga “Inga the Winger” Tuigamala. The fate of Christmas dinner hangs in the balance as guests and audience members take part in competitions that include an unfortunate way to make eggnog. Some bizarre presents are exchanged and there’s a cameo for Gunn's Mum. Jason also manages a Paul Holmes impression (along with some Frank Spencer and a dash of Rik Mayall).
The Son of a Gunn Show was a popular 90s after school links show for kids. It was hosted by the irrepressible Jason Gunn, who wrangled proceedings with the help of alien puppet sidekick Thingee. The energetic show took in everything from song and dance numbers, and educational segments, to spoofs and impressions (often Frank Spencer) as Gunn et al played in loco parentis to a generation of Kiwi kids. Guests included sports and show business celebrities of the day. The show ended when TVNZ moved their children’s production from Christchurch to Wellington.
Life in the Fridge Exists was a late 80s/early 90s teen magazine show that ranged from celebrity interviews to profiles of young artists and athletes, and health education (presented by Dr Watt, aka radio presenter Grant Kereama). The Christchurch-based show saw early appearances by comedian/actor Oscar Kightley (in his screen debut), Amazing Race presenter Phil Keoghan, future Lotto host Hilary Timmins, and broadcasters Kerre McIvor (née Woodham) and Bernadine Oliver-Kerby. Life in the Fridge Exists was also the name of a short-lived Wellington band.
This Christmas 1989 episode of the TVNZ teen magazine show sees newbie reporter Nadia Neave on Stewart Island to meet a crayfisherman, an artist and a conservation worker. Reporter Kerre McIvor (nee Woodham) quizzes David Lange about quitting as PM, as he prepares to drive in a street race. Natalie Brunt interviews Cher songwriter Diane Warren. Doctor Watt (DJ Grant Kereama) looks at solvent abuse, and future Amazing Race host Phil Keoghan joins a trio of young actors (including Tandi Wright) to give tips on overseas travel. Graeme Tetley (Ruby and Rata) was a series writer.
These clips collect together excerpts from kid's TV icon Thingee's appearances on After School. Thingee, alongside hosts Jason Gunn and Annie Roache, engages in much loopy fun factual madness: he gets into the Christmas spirit with carol singing, discusses his ambitions to be a jet pilot so he can time travel to meet his Mum (courtesy of trans-Atlantic time difference); plans to take over Video Dispatch (as Thingee Dispatch); talks like a pirate, eats worms, burps and wets himself. Check out Gunn's over-sized sunglasses and trademark loud 80s shirts.
TVNZ series Viewfinder was aimed at making news and current affairs accessible to a teen audience. Topics ranged from underage drinking to the new breakdancing craze, to a campaign to see School Certificate exam papers after they had been marked. Reports were filed by the show's three presenters. Over the show's run these included Phillipa Dann (in her first presenting gig), Uelese Petaia (star of 1979 movie Sons for the Return Home), David Hindley (also a gay rights campaigner) and Michael Barry. The show's distinctive synthesiser opening infiltrated many young minds.
What Now? is a long-running entertainment show for primary school-aged children. Filmed before a live studio audience on weekend mornings, What Now? is a New Zealand TV institution; it was the first TV show to have live phone-ins. The series is known for its challenges that sometimes result in participants being 'gunged'. A roll-call of presenters includes Steve Parr, Danny Watson, Simon Barnett, Jason Gunn, Michelle A'Court, Tamati Coffey, Antonia Prebble, and more. 'Get out of your Lazy Bed' by Matt Bianco is the theme song memorable to generations of Kiwi kids.
Spot On was an award-winning education-focused magazine programme for children. Presenters who got their break on the popular series include Ian Taylor, Danny Watson, Phil Keoghan and Ole Maiava. Keoghan went on to international fame as host of The Amazing Race; Taylor now heads up Taylormade Productions and Animation Research Ltd. Janine Morrell directed on the show, and producer Michael Stedman later became head of the Natural History Unit. Peter Jackson, Robert Sarkies and Paul Middleditch all entered the show’s annual ‘Young Filmmaker’ competition.