Sitting bored in the car while his sister auditioned for The Legend of William Tell, Michael Wesley-Smith ventured inside and stumbled into a professional acting career. Discovered by the show’s casting director, he went on to appear in all five seasons of hit The Tribe. He also starred as the newest student at Atlantis High, another show made by company Cloud 9. Later, after completing a law degree in Otago and studying at Christchurch's NZ Broadcasting School, Wesley-Smith became a reporter for Three, and has worked on Campbell Live, Story and Newshub Nation. He has also reported for Sky and ESPN.
I am consistently amazed at the level of loyalty and interest in the show... Michael Wesley-Smith on the loyalty of The Tribe's fanbase, during a Facebook chat, 28 August 2011
Bill Dobson was one of around 500 New Zealanders to be taken prisoner by the Germans during World War I. His grandsons, filmmakers Grant and Bryce Campbell, use Dobson’s letters home, his sketch book and contemporary photographs to describe his journey. Bill was one of 210 Kiwis captured at French village Méteren, near the Belgian border, during Germany’s 1918 Spring Offensive. Camp conditions were tough, but Dobson filled his time with prolific sketching and performing in the Camp Concert Party. Post-war, Dobson married vaudeville performer Louise Morris.
Christchurch-born Jessie Scott was a rarity in 1914: a qualified doctor in a male dominated profession. But as this Great War Story shows, her bravery overcame even greater hurdles. Joining the Scottish Women’s Hospitals for Foreign Service, Dr Scott treated Serbian and British wounded in the Balkan war against Austria. Left behind during a retreat, she was captured but later released. That didn’t end her war. She went back to the front line, this time serving with Russian forces in Romania. Dr Scott's efforts earned her the Serbian Order of St Sava.
When 150 Niuean men were shipped off to Auckland en route to the Western Front, they had no idea what lay ahead. This Great War Story features the granddaughter of one of them, and the historian who researched his journey. Falaoa Tosene was “volunteered” to the NZ Māori Pioneer Battalion as a labourer. Unfamiliar food, uniforms and boots for men who had never worn shoes were the first shocks. In France, they faced freezing temperatures and disease. Tosene was hospitalised with trench foot. He survived, thanks to a former missionary, but 30 of his comrades died.
Harry Varnham was scarred both physically and mentally by his experience of World War One. In this episode of Great War Stories, his family explain why they believe the trauma of war eventually led him to take his own life decades later. Wounded during the Battle of Messines in Belgium, Varnham returned to the front and was seriously wounded again at Le Quesnoy. He was evacuated to London; he was just 19 when his leg was amputated. Back in New Zealand, Varnham married later in life and had two daughters, but he never overcame the mental scars from his time serving in WWI.
Rizk Alexander found himself in a rare situation during WWI — he was an Ottoman subject who chose to fight for the British Empire. His brief life still holds a fascination for his descendants. From a Syrian Christian family, Alexander had only been in New Zealand three years, when the 17-year-old signed up for war. Hoping to fight the Turkish Ottomans, he instead ended up on the Western Front, proving himself at the Battle of Messines in 1917. Later gassed, Alexander returned to Wellington to recuperate but he never fully recovered, dying in 1924. He was 27.
Captain Thomas Blake was one of about 40 veterinarians to serve New Zealand in the First World War. He accompanied some of the 10,000 Kiwi farm horses sent to the frontlines in the Middle East and, later France. They faced terrible conditions: sand and heat in Sinai, mud and rain in France, and suffered disease and horrific wounds. This Great War Stories episode explores the tight bond between horse and soldier. In the end, only four horses came home. Blake also made history: while in Egypt, he became the first Kiwi to marry while the troops were on active service.
For Kiwi-Chinese soldier Victor Low, World War I was fought mainly underground. Dunedin-born Low was a surveyor attached to the New Zealand Tunnelling Company, which created a network of caverns and tunnels in France before the Battle of Arras in April 1917. The complex was big enough to accommodate 12,000 soldiers and equipment. This episode of Great War Stories uses archive footage and modern laser scanning to map out the tunnels that still exist under the battlefield. Later, Low helped create the famous Bulford Kiwi which sits above Sling Camp in England.
Campbell Live was Three's flagship current affairs programme for a decade. Despite a public campaign to save it, the show ended on 29 May 2015. This final episode presents a greatest hits reel. Alongside acclaimed reporting (Novopay, the Pike River mine disaster and collapse of Solid Energy, the 2011 Christchurch Earthquake) there are campaigns for healthy school lunches, and to get the All Blacks to play in Samoa; plus marvellous moments like the 2011 Rugby World Cup final. An emotional John Campbell tautokos his team, and signs off: "Ka kite anō and a very good evening indeed."
The Paul Henry Show debuted on 27 January 2014, taking over the time slot of Nightline, TV3's oft offbeat late night news show. The new programme marked the headline-grabbing presenter's return to Kiwi television, after time co-hosting Australian show Breakfast. On the first episode, Henry showed Prime Minister John Key photos of Winston Peters and Peter Dunne, then asked him "do you trust this man?" The Paul Henry Show went off air in December 2014, replaced by Newsworthy, with Henry moving to mornings for the high profile launch of cross-platform show Paul Henry.
Campbell Live launched on 21 March 2005, in a slot following TV3’s primetime news bulletin. Over the next decade it gathered acclaim, awards (including Best News Investigation in its first year) and the odd controversy. Strongly identified with host John Campbell, the show mixed softer stories with a number of pieces of advocacy journalism, including stories on child poverty in low decile schools, and homeowners affected by the Christchurch quakes. News of Campbell Live’s end in 2015 won extensive media coverage, and an unsuccessful petition to keep the show on air.
The Strip centres around 30-something Melissa (Luanne Gordon), who sheds a legal career to set up a male strip revue. Created by Alan Brash, The Strip played to a certain demographic's desire for ogling naked men (warmed up by 1987 play Ladies Night and 1997 film The Full Monty), but with a focus on female characters, as Melissa juggles business with raising a teenage daughter. Taking cues from Ally McBeal (with fantasy sequences to match) the Gibson Group tale of g-strings, feminism and red light romance screened for two series on TV3 and sold internationally.
One of the most successful television shows shot on Kiwi soil, The Tribe was the brainchild of British-born Raymond Thompson. In a future where the adults have been wiped out by a virus, the children that remain have formed into competing tribes, some of whom live to terrorise. Running five seasons, The Tribe sold to more than 120 territories, and the cast toured performances from the soundtrack for overseas fans. The cast were almost entirely New Zealanders, as were most of the crew. Sequel The New Tomorrow, following descendants of the original characters, screened in 2005.
Set in a future where teen gangs control the streets, The Tribe became a global hit at the turn of the millenium. In this second episode, the group have to decide whether they trust Lex enough to let him into the safety of the shopping mall. Lex appears out to prove that he is the resident alpha male, especially after the arrival of Bray (Dwayne Cameron), who has a surprise to spring. For the first season, a group of young people read each script in order to check that The Tribe provided what creator Raymond Thompson called "an accurate interpretation of children's ideas".
The first episode of The Tribe introduces many of the key elements that would capture fans around the globe: including a future where teens rule, and a shopping mall that provides a bolthole from terrifying, colourfully-garbed gangs. After meeting the only occupant, Amber (Beth Allen) decides the mall could be the perfect place for her new friends to hole up in. Meanwhile Lex (Caleb Ross) — soon to become one of The Tribe's longest-serving anti-heroes — gets angry. Employing roughly 500 cast and crew, Raymond Thompson's show introduced a host of young actors over five seasons.
Independent channel TV3 launched its prime time bulletin on 27 November 1989. The flagship 6pm bulletin — originally called 3 National News — was anchored by ex state TV legend Philip Sherry, with Greg Clark handling sports. Sherry was replaced by Joanna Paul, then another ex TVNZ anchor, John Hawkesby. A 1998 revamp saw Carol Hirschfeld and John Campbell take on dual anchor roles. Their move to Campbell Live in 2005 opened the doors for a decade-long run by Hilary Barry and Mike McRoberts. In 2016 Mediaworks rebranded its news service — and the slot — as Newshub.