Producer, Director, Executive
Trained at Ilam School of Fine Arts, John McDonald cut his teeth directing at TVNZ in the 80s before producing sport for Sky TV. An OE producing at MTV Asia was followed by roles for Screentime. Since joining Mediaworks (TV3) in 2000, he has led an award-winning run of live coverage (Fight for Life, Rugby World Cup, the NZ Music Awards) and comedy. He is Head of In-House Production at Mediaworks.
On shows such as The X Factor and Dancing with the Stars, it pays to expect the unexpected. Something surprising almost always happens, and how you respond to it either improves or diminishes the broadcast outcome. John McDonald, on the challenges of producing live event television
Reality series The Ridges follows the lives of socialite and interior designer Sally Ridge and her daughter Jaime. Sally and 19-year-old Jaime face the challenge of moving into and renovating a rundown 13 bedroom Auckland villa. Meanwhile Jaime trains hard for a charity boxing match with another reality TV personality, Rosanna Arkle from The GC. The six-part series ran on TV3 for one season. The first episode features the much remembered moment where Sally and Jaime encountered a mouse. Jaime was the only one of her three siblings to feature in the show.
In 2012 television pranksters and funny boys Jono Pryor and Ben Boyce remixed the best elements of their popular shows Pulp Sport and The Jono Project, to concoct Jono and Ben at Ten. Three's satirical news and entertainment series ran for seven seasons. Comedians Guy Williams, Rose Matafeo and Laura Daniel also featured. The series began life on a Friday night at 10pm, before moving to a Thursday 7:30pm slot in 2015 (when the title was shortened to Jono and Ben). Despite a fan petition to 'uncancel', the last episode aired on 15 November 2018.
Combining sketches, pranks and parodies, Jono and Ben at Ten quickly gained popularity after it hit the airwaves in 2012. Critics praised the Jono Pryor (The Jono Project) and Ben Boyce (Pulp Sport) hosted series as one of the top shows that year. In this first episode, Pryor and Boyce hold their own Olympic Games, prank clothing store customers and get child versions of themselves to ask celebrities the hard questions. Meanwhile, comedian Guy Williams sings goodbye to rugby player Sonny Bill Williams at a press conference. The TV3 series was renamed Jono and Ben in 2015.
Interior designer and socialite Sally Ridge opened up her home — and life — to television cameras for this TV3 reality series. Episode one opens with Ridge and 19-year-old daughter Jaime moving from their plush home into a huge, rundown villa. Sally and self-confessed "clean freak" Jaime leap onto chairs after they discover a plump mouse running around their new kitchen. Sally bemoans having to rip up carpet on her own and deal with a huge renovation project. None of Sally's three other children — two to Adam Parore, and one to Matthew Ridge — appear in the series.
Since debuting in 2009, award-winning panel series 7 Days has introduced a range of Kiwi comedy talents to television audiences. Three's show takes an irreverent look at the past week in the news, with regular segments like “my kid could draw that” and “what’s the taxi driver talking about”. Jeremy Corbett hosts; the two teams of regular and guest comedians have included Paul Ego, Dai Henwood, Ben Hurley and Urzila Carlson. The show echoes the format of Britain's long-running Mock the Week. Corbett has described 7 Days as the comedy show he's always wanted to make.
Based on a UK reality format, Dancing with the Stars sees a line-up of celebrities paired with a professional dance partner, and put through ballroom dance routines. Judges and a public vote eliminate a pair each week. A five time winner of best programme in its category, the show played for five hit seasons on TVNZ, hosted by Jason Gunn and Candy Lane. In 2015 it was relaunched by Great Southern TV for TV3; Dominic Bowden and Sharyn Casey hosted. Dai Henwood and Casey presented the seventh series in 2018. Winners have included Norm Hewitt and and Suzanne Paul.
This Christchurch-based TVNZ science and technology show put science in primetime in the 1980s (notably on Friday nights before Coronation Street). The successor to Science Express, it sought to explain how science was changing everyday NZ life; and reporters (including Jim Hopkins, Liz Grant, Peter Llewellyn and Julie Colquhoun) attempted to engage the public without alienating the scientific community, and vice versa. Its run ended in 1989 when TVNZ decided it couldn't compete with the runaway success of Australian counterpart Beyond 2000.
For this five year global inquiry into "who owns our seeds", director Barry Barclay used the 'marae approach' that he’d honed on TV series Tangata Whenua — canvassing the views of corporates (vying to profit by owning the DNA of major crop seeds), scientists, and farmers in the developing world. Barclay later argued that big business effectively suppressed the resulting film. NZ Herald’s Peter Calder called Miracle "chillingly prescient" in 2006. A 1988 screening helped spur the Wai 262 Treaty claim, for Māori intellectual property rights involving indigenous flora and fauna.
Smash Palace is a Kiwi cinema classic and launched Roger Donaldson's American career. Al Shaw (a brilliant, brooding Bruno Lawrence) is a racing car driver who now runs a wrecker's yard in the shadow of Mount Ruapehu. His French wife Jacqui is unhappy there and leaves him, taking up with Al's best mate. When she restricts Al's access to his young daughter, his frustration explodes and he goes bush with the girl, desperate not to lose her too. "There's no road back" runs the tagline. New Yorker critic Pauline Kael called the film "amazingly accomplished".