Presenter, narrator, producer, director: Mark Leishman has done many things over his long broadcasting career. Starting out as a continuity announcer before moving to regional news. Leishman went on to make or host some of New Zealand's best-loved shows, including Top Town and Tux Wonderdogs. Animal shows featured heavily in his CV, along with sport and game shows.
One of my greatest experiences was travelling the circumference of Australia to record the adventures of Sir Peter Blake in the Bicentennial Around Australia Yacht Race. Mark Leishman
Animals, people and cameras can make for a wild unpredictable combination, as this set of bloopers demonstrates. First up is the legendary 1989 clip of rugby star Zinzan Brooke falling off a spooked Shetland pony in Wales. Back on Kiwi soil, Dexter the golden labrador refuses to listen to owner Mark Leishman. A hare and dog take over a trotting track and cricket pitch, while reporters doing their pieces to camera are harassed by a friendly horse and overzealous ostriches. Plus two pigs give Country Calendar reporter John Gordon the giggles.
Made for TVNZ’s Heartland channel, this series saw veteran newsreaders looking back at memorable moments in New Zealand history, from the 1960s to the 1990s. Covering both news events and popular culture, the show combined archive content and interviews with those who were there. Each decade was covered over a week, nightly from 7.30 - 10pm. The TV legends presenting the screen nostalgia included Dougal Stevenson (covering the 60s), Jennie Goodwin (70s), Tom Bradley (80s) Judy Bailey (90s) and Keith Quinn (who joined in the second season).
This documentary uses archive footage and interviews to tell the story of motor-racing legends Bruce McLaren, Denny Hulme, and Chris Amon. The trio topped podiums in the sport's 'golden age' — one of those eras when unlikely Kiwi talent managed to dominate a truly global sport. The Team McLaren racing team that four times Grand Prix winner Bruce McLaren founded in 1966, has been the most successful in Formula One. That same year McLaren and Amon teamed up to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and in 1967 Hulme was Formula One world champion.
By the year 2000, popular TVNZ weatherman Jim Hickey had a programme with his name in the title. The motoring show looked at everything from the psychology of buying a car to road testing new editions and revisiting classics. Hickey's co-presenters were Mark Leishman and onetime MTV host Marie Azcona. After leaving in the second season, Azcona was replaced by Jeanette Thomas. Jim's Car Show was produced for TV One by Dave Mason. Hickey and Mason formed company Rustic Road productions in time for the second season, and went on to make further programmes together.
By the mid 90s, popular TVNZ weatherman Jim Hickey had begun presenting things other than fronts and precipitation (e.g. Country Calendar, Shaky Beginnings). In 2000 he got his own series. This first episode of his TV One motoring show sees Marie Azcona report on the controversy surrounding the Model T Ford winning Car of the Century; Mark Leishman gives the lowdown on buying a car at an auction; guest Jim Mora vacuums his Audi; and host Hickey test drives the new Volkswagen with music journo and “old Beetle fan” Dylan Taite.
Dogs of all shapes and sizes — from huskies and ridgebacks to Alaskan malamutes and King Charles spaniels — compete in this episode of TVNZ's canine challenge. Encouraged by their unfailingly devoted owners, they display varying degrees of ability and interest in an obstacle course, sprints, fetching and scent tests. Away from the cauldron of competition, presenter Mark Leishman's golden Labrador Dexter — the real star of the series — has his portrait painted and there's home video of the lengths, and heights, one dog will go to for a drink of water.
Onetime All Blacks Marc Ellis and Matthew Ridge cemented their on screen partnership with late 90s show Fresh-up in the Deep End. The Touchdown series saw the pair taking their lovable, duelling larrakin personas to a variety of locations: they did time in the armed services, the circus, flash restaurant Petit Lyon, and as butler and chauffeur to model Rachel Hunter. They also launched their own political party, did the Coast to Coast, and tried a variety of dance moves. Fresh-up in the Deep End ran for two seasons.
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).
One shaggy dog, dozens of humans, and a smorgasbord of Kiwi scenery: viewers were glued to the screen for this TV One promotional campaign, which began screening in August 1991. The six-part promo followed a lovable sydney silky poodle cross travelling the country by car, train and paw. En route, roughly 50 Kiwis make blink and you'll miss it appearances: including sporting figures, local townspeople, and 20+ TV personalities (see backgrounder for more info, and clues on who is who). The popular promos were directed by Lee Tamahori, before he made Once Were Warriors.
This wryly-titled 80s show was a homegrown take on US show That’s Incredible!, with the spectacular stunts and supernatural happenings of the original replaced with more downbeat kiwiana kitsch subjects. This excerpt from an end of season review looks at highlights from presenter Phil Keoghan’s contribution. The future Amazing Race host tries a spaghetti eating competition (post-bungy jumping), giraffe feeding, land sailing, snowboarding, male cheerleading, cow pat tossing and a cowboy up challenge. TFI was the first series from production company Communicado.
This 80s relic was a homegrown take on US show That's Incredible!, with spectacular stunts and supernatural happenings replaced with subjects that were more kiwiana kitsch than wow! It was the first show from production company Communicado; presenters included Tim Shadbolt, Neil Roberts, Sue Kedgley, Phil Gifford and Phil Keoghan. In a Vanity Fair interview to illustrate Kiwi's "enormous understatement" Jane Campion famously quipped: "You know, they used to have a program on TV in New Zealand, That's Fairly Interesting. [...] In America, it's That's Incredible!"
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.
This iconic travelling TV game show pitted teams representing New Zealand towns against each other in a series of colourful physical challenges. Top Town was run over a series of weekly heats, staged in different towns on local sports fields. It leveraged nostalgia for a fast-fading time when NZ's population (and identity) resided in rural hub towns. The series was light-hearted light-entertainment gold, but the battle for civic bragging rights was serious stuff and it screened for 14 years from 1976 until 1990.