Paul Holmes, KCNZM, helped change the face of New Zealand broadcasting. In 1989 the actor turned radio host began presenting primetime news and magazine show Holmes in spectacular style, when guest Dennis Conner walked out of his interview. Holmes balanced the TV show and a popular radio slot for 15 years, followed by a stint with Prime TV and current affairs show Q+A. He passed away on 1 February 2013.
Broadcasting taught me everyone is intelligent. Everyone is good at something, everyone can express in the right environment and anyone can be eloquent if approached correctly. Paul Holmes, in his 1999 autobiography
Poi E: The Story of Our Song tells the story behind one of New Zealand’s most iconic pop songs. Led by Dalvanius Prime, the Patea Māori Club single was released soon after the closure of the town’s freezing works. Conquering disinterest from record labels and radio, Poi E became New Zealand's highest selling single in 1984. Written and directed by Tearepa Kahi (Mt Zion), the "warm, funny, touching" documentary (NZ Herald) features interviews with those involved, and famous fans (eg Taika Waititi). Poi E won applause after premiering at the opening of the 2016 Auckland Film Festival.
This is the opening episode of the Prime TV series celebrating 50 years of New Zealand television: from an opening night puppet show in Auckland in 1960, through to Outrageous Fortune five decades later. It traverses the medium's development and its major turning points (including the rise of programme-making and news, networking, colour and the arrival of TV3, Prime, NZ on Air, Sky and Māori Television) and interviews many of the major players. The changing nature of the NZ living room — always with the telly in pride of place as modern hearth — is a story within a story.
In this excerpt from TVNZ Heartland’s look back at Kiwi TV history, presenter Andrew Shaw sits down with veteran broadcaster Paul Holmes to discuss his career. The 2010 korero begins with Holmes' comment that he initially saw broadcasting as a platform to pursue his acting aspirations. Holmes then ranges across tales of radio DJing and ratings wars; the challenges of his high profile transition to TV current affairs, and 15 years hosting his primetime show; and jumping ship to Prime, then returning to TVNZ to work on Q+A and Dancing with the Stars.
This Simmonds Brothers short film tells tells the story of Raumati South Kindergarten's beloved — but ill-fated — rooster. The early-rising hard-rocking cockerel's waking up of the neighbourhood sees complaints made to the council, and dog ranger Don Wolff is assigned to the case. The tragi-comic saga adds a surrealistic talking rooster twist to the Simmonds Bro's distinctive 'documation' style, which uses 2D animation and audio to portray real-life events. The 2001 shooting made national news, and Paul Holmes' and Carol Hirschfield's coverage features alongside local reaction.
Veteran broadcaster Paul Holmes brings his trademark stream of introspection and acerbic wit to the ancient cultures of Yemen in the Middle East. Holmes gets a lot of mileage from the country’s many curiosities: soldiers on patrol holding hands; the high volume manner of daily conversation and the ubiquitous Khat, a chewing plant known for its amphetamine-like effects. This excerpt sees him changing into an outfit that has more in common with the locals, and suddenly feeling much more welcome than before.
After 15 years on TV One, Paul Holmes left his high-rating slot for rival network Prime. New half-hour show Paul Holmes debuted in February 2005, but poor ratings meant it lasted only six months. The following April, Prime debuted the hour-long Holmes, which concentrated on longer interviews with people from business, the arts, sports and politics. Holmes argued the format allowed him the “opportunity to find out what makes the guests tick”. He called it “a style of broadcasting that has been missing from the New Zealand television landscape for a number of years”.
In this May 2006 interview Paul Holmes interviews actor Russell Crowe for his new Prime TV show. After 20 minutes Russell is joined by his cousin, cricket legend Martin Crowe. Free from PR pressures to promote a particular film, Russell is relaxed and reflective. He talks organic farming, Elvis Costello and fatherhood, All Blacks and Richard Harris, and growing up as “Martin Crowe’s cousin”. Holmes brings up Martin’s famous innings of 299, and the trio discuss baseball, phone biffing, Romper Stomper, Russell's Rabbitohs league club and Martin’s Gladiator role.
In this clip the Holmes show celebrates 15 years on air with a montage of the most notable moments on the show to that point. Memorable clips include chatting with Queen Elizabeth; being kissed by Eve van Grafhorst and Kiri Te Kanawa; Jonah Lomu crying; and Dennis Conner's infamous walkout from the opening episode. Famous guests include Ruby Wax, Geoffrey Palmer, Margaret Thatcher, Rachel Hunter, Sir Peter Blake and many others. Holmes ran for a further six months before it ended in November 2004.
In an emotional Today Live interview from June 2001, Susan Wood talks to pioneering newsreader Angela D’Audney about her diagnosis with a brain tumour four weeks earlier, resulting surgery and the prospect of radiotherapy. D'Audney talks about the highs and lows of her considerable career, and attributes her success as much to tenacity as talent. Paul Holmes reminisces and offers support, there’s archive footage of her from AKTV-2 in 1968; and she is given the final word in what will be her last television appearance. Angela D’Audney died on 6 February 2002.
With a cast of stars from television, music (TrueBliss, Bunny Walters) and sports (Stu Wilson), this 2000 documentary offers a close-up on fame — Kiwi-style. There are insights on local paparazzi from women's magazine editors, who have lost friends over what they have chosen to publish. Angela D'Audney reveals the 'intimate' relationship between TV personality and audience — looking animated is a job requirement, if she wants to walk in public unaccosted; and swimmer Danyon Loader describes the challenges of being forced into the media spotlight as a shy teen.
Host Paul Holmes looks back on the life of “the Colin Meads of cricket” — the big hearted, Excalibur-wielding Lance Cairns; although the celebration is just as often of his enthusiastic fondness for the game’s social side. A cavalcade of cricket stars (Chappell, Botham, Lillee, Marsh, Hadlee, Coney, Chatfield, Crowe and son Chris) reminisce — with the remarkable sixes in his innings at Melbourne in 1983 coming in for special attention. Cairns’ profound deafness and the death of his daughter in a level crossing accident provide a more serious note.
Barry Crump's iconic deer hunting yarn A Good Keen Man captured Kiwi Boy's Own imaginations. Published in 1960, it quickly sold 300,000 copies, and with Crump cast as an "ironic, laconic sort of super-bushman", made him a famous, if unlikely, literary figure. This award-winning 72-minute documentary chronicles Crump's colourful life. It covers everything from his emergence on the 50s literary scene, to fractured family relationships, violence, a life-changing incident on a bush camp, and religion, to the ads for Toyota utes that reignited Crump's profile in the 80s.
Host Paul Holmes puts the life of opera star Dame Malvina Major in the spotlight and discovers her origins in a large Waikato family whose first love was country music. Guests include John Rowles and Dame Kiri Te Kanawa (a fellow pupil of their often terrifying teacher, “the tiny force behind the biggest voices”, Dame Sister Mary Leo). Major’s triumphs are revisited, as is her decision to give up her international career to farm with her husband in Taranaki. A good sport throughout, she even manages a yodel for a ukulele-led family sing-along.
Based on the 1950s US show of the same name created by Ralph Edwards Productions, This Is Your Life has been honouring and embarrassing famous New Zealanders since 1984. Paul Holmes presents this episode, which celebrates the late Rob Guest. The show was made in 1998, at the height of Guest's distinguished career in Australasian musical theatre. It features excerpts from Phantom of the Opera and Les Miserables, and appearances by musical colleagues, friends and family. Guest is good-humoured throughout; he gives a gracious speech and performs an impromptu song after the closing credits.
'Our people' at Holmes' 1997 Christmas party included tearaway teenage twins Sarah and Joanne Ingham. Earlier that year the sisters had stowed away on a Malaysian container ship after Sarah had fallen for a sailor. The 18-year-olds made global headlines when they jumped overboard off the Queensland coast, supposedly swam through shark and croc-infested waters and spent two weeks in the bush, before being found and deported back to Nelson. As Holmes tries to elicit soundbites the notorious lasses display the laconic style that made them Kiwi folk heroes.
Paul Holmes signed off editions of his weeknightly current affairs show with "Those were our people today, and that's Holmes tonight". 'Our people' in this 1997 Christmas special — presented from the roof of TVNZ — include seemingly everyone deemed worthy of news in 1997: from surgery survivors, to stowaways (the notoriously laconic Ingham twins) and All Blacks. Reporter Jim Mora finds politicians bustling for cheery airtime; Tom Scott recalls where he was when Princess Di died; and international celebs (from the Spice Girls to Kylie) send wishes downunder.
On 12 October 1997 legendary country singer John Denver was tragically killed in a plane crash. Friend and fan Glen Campbell was touring New Zealand at the time, and he stopped by TVNZ's Auckland Network Centre for an interview with Paul Holmes, and a tribute performance in the atrium, with TVNZ staff gathering to watch. Campbell discusses his friend’s love of flying, desire to go into space, and his happiness in his final years. He covers Denver classic 'Take Me Home, Country Roads' and concludes the interview with a rendition of his own hit, 'Rhinestone Cowboy'.
In May 1995, 22-year old David Bain was convicted of murdering five members of his family with a rifle in their Dunedin home. Bain would spend over a decade in prison before being acquitted on all charges. National debate around the 1995 verdict was galvanised by the release of two conflicting books on the case — Joe Karam’s David and Goliath and James McNeish’s The Mask of Sanity. The former All Black and the writer go head-to-head in this often testy Holmes debate from 1997. Ten years later, the Privy Council quashed Bain’s 1995 conviction; he was acquitted in a 2009 retrial.
Fronted by Paul Holmes, this doco looks at the New Zealand Paralympic team at the 1996 Paralympics in Atlanta. It was the most successful team to date with a haul of nine gold medals, six silver and four bronze (and 44 personal bests). Triumph focuses on several disabled Kiwi athletes, from their arrival in the States to victory on the track, in the pool and on the field. The first Paralympics were held in Rome in 1960 with just 400 competitors. In Atlanta 3,500 athletes competed, 35 of them kiwis. Triumph broke ground screening in a primetime slot on TV One.
In this interview publicising 1996 comedy The Birdcage, Robin Williams turns his humour settings to a surprisingly low level. Quizzed on matters political by Holmes reporter Ewart Barnsley, Williams argues that politically correct people can display the “same kind of repressive tendencies” as others, and admits that the portrait of homosexual parents in the Mike Nichols-directed comedy could be offensive to both gays and straights. But, he adds, the majority of viewers "go and laugh their ass off and find some common ground and humanity in it”.
In this clip Holmes interviews Sir Edmund Hillary, a hero and legend to many New Zealanders. Sir Ed has just been awarded the Humanitarian of the Year Award by the International Variety Club. This is in recognition for the work Sir Ed has done for the people of Nepal. Sir Ed is celebrating at a function in the TVNZ atrium and is interviewed in a live cross from the studio. This award put Sir Ed alongside Winston Churchill, Helen Keller and Sammy Davis Jr, former recipients of this award.
In 1982 Eve Van Grafhorst contracted HIV via a blood transfusion she received after being born prematurely. Hysteria about the disease led to Van Grafhorst being cast as a pariah in her Australian community, and in 1986 she and her family fled to Hastings in New Zealand. She became an AIDS poster child and helped shift attitudes to the disease. This documentary, which screened on TVNZ eight months after her November 1993 death, tells her story through the eyes of her mother, who is interviewed by broadcaster Paul Holmes (a friend of the courageous Eve).
This February 1994 interview sees Paul Holmes quiz legendary couple Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash, ahead of their concert at the Auckland Town Hall. The duo talk prayer, drugs, scars (June memorably describes Johnny’s face), controversial US ice skater Tonya Harding, and shopping for antiques in New Zealand. The duo then perform their Grammy-winning 1967 version of 'Jackson'. The song was reprised by Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon, performing as Cash and Carter, in 2005 biopic Walk the Line: "We got married in a fever, hotter than a pepper sprout."
In 1993 Paul Holmes travelled to the UK to meet Margaret Thatcher, who had recently authored "clear and vivid" memoir The Downing Street Years. In this hour-long interview, the outspoken former PM talks NZ anti-nuclear policy (bad), Communism (evil), and sanctions in South Africa (pointless). The horrors of Bosnia, she argues, show what happens when consensus politics win out over strong leadership. An iron lady explosion is only narrowly avoided after Holmes probes Thatcher on David Lange’s comment that meeting her was like being addressed by a Nazi orator.
Presented by Paul Holmes, this documentary follows the team of 13 kiwi competitors at the Barcelona 1992 Paralympics. Swimmer Jenny Newstead won four gold medals and broke world records, but for this small team the focus was on personal bests as they headed into a more professional era. There's triumph and disappointment mixed with the message that these were elite athletes competing strongly against the rest of the world. The lessons learned in Barcelona would lead to a much stronger showing four years later in Atlanta.
A documentary profiling the humanitarian work of Professor Fred Hollows (1929-1993), a New Zealand-born, Australian based eye specialist who saved the sight of thousands of underprivileged people in Australia, Eritrea, Nepal and Vietnam through a mix of common-sense and temerity. The "intellectual with the wharfie's manner" became an Australian folk hero and was named Australian of the Year in 1990. Producer John Harris went on to found Greenstone Pictures, along with Director Tony Manson, who later became a Senior Commissioner for TVNZ.
Paul Holmes quizzes legendary naturalist Sir David Attenborough in this April 1991 studio interview. Attenborough is downunder to promote his BBC series Trials of Life. Attenborough talks about the state of natural history TV making and changes in camera technology (musing that the old days were less efficient, but “more fun”), and responds to clips of killer whales surging on to a beach chasing sea lions, and chimpanzees teaming up to hunt. Holmes asks Sir David if he’s ever been “horrified” by nature, if animals are noble, and whether this is his last big series.
This 1991 Holmes interview opens with Glen Campbell performing 'Wichita Lineman', the song which Mojo and Blender rated as among the finest of the 20th century. When Campbell recorded it in 1968, he was busy transforming from session musician — he played on everything from 'Good Vibrations' to 'Strangers in the Night" — to pop/country star. Campbell spends most of the interview playing and praising the writer whose songs made him famous: Jimmy Webb ('Galveston'). Asked about past drug use, Campbell laughs, before maintaining he is now living cleanly.
One shaggy dog, dozens of humans, and a smorgasbord of Kiwi scenery: viewers were glued to the screen for this campaign promoting TV One, 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, town locals, and roughly two dozen TV presenters (see backgrounder for more info, plus clues on who is who). The popular promos were directed by Lee Tamahori (before Once Were Warriors).
In this short report for a 1990 edition of Holmes, Dylan Taite rocks back the clock to talk to New Zealand music pioneer Johnny Cooper. John Dix’s recently published history of NZ rock’n’roll Stranded in Paradise had resurrected interest in Cooper, the Wairoa-spawned singer who gained notice with a Bill Haley cover, then gave NZ its first homegrown rock’n’roll song with his tale of a Whanganui pie cart, 'Pie Cart Rock'n'Roll'. Aptly, Taite interviews Cooper at a Queen St cart where Cooper unslings his guitar once more: “Let’s rock and roll around the old pie cart!”
Holmes was a long-running current affairs programme that followed the news each weeknight on TV ONE. Presented by veteran broadcaster Paul Holmes, the show was as famous for his showmanship as it was for examining the issues of the day. Holmes interviewed the day's newsmakers; often championing the underdog 'kiwi battler'. In 2004 Paul Holmes defected from TVNZ to Prime TV to set up a rival 7pm current affairs programme, Paul Holmes. That lasted a few months before being axed (due to low ratings).
The very first Holmes show. In this famous interview, Paul Holmes asks American yachtsman Dennis Conner to apologise for cheating in the America's Cup. Conner storms out, making headlines the next day and giving the new show a ratings boost. The NZ Herald described this interview as "an aggressive, overly-mannered encounter interview rather than a thoughtful interrogation, a ratings-generating event rather than a genuine, tenacious journalistic grilling." It was a style that made Holmes famous.
In this 1989 Holmes excerpt, visiting Brit jazz musicians Acker Bilk and Kenny Ball meet Prime Minister Geoffrey Palmer, a self-described “mediocre trumpeter”. The trio play ‘Tin Roof Blues’ in the PM’s office, before a circuit of the Beehive balcony. Unlike Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign-defining saxophone slot on The Arsenio Hall Show, the Kiwi leader’s jazzy side earned more sniggers than kudos - although the law professor recalled the jam fondly in his memoir as one of the lighter moments of his Prime Ministerial tenure: “I loved it”.
This TVNZ documentary captures the early days of NewstalkZB, shortly after Radio New Zealand gambled on relaunching it with an all talk format. Previous breakfast host Merv Smith has taken most of his audience to rival Radio i; his replacement is Paul Holmes. The former king of the Wellington airwaves is soon grappling to make an impact in Auckland. Competition amongst the stations is cut-throat, but Holmes is the focal point here. He’s under pressure and surrounded by a battery of often conflicting opinions. By 1988 he'd hauled the show from ninth to second in the ratings.
Musician Petunia (Jennifer Ludlam) and daughters Polly and Patch are tiring of their lives as land yachting "gypsies of the motorway" in the first episode of this hyperactive children's fantasy drama written by Margaret Mahy. Their salvation could be a magic house owned by Crocodile Crosby — a used car dealer with ambitions to be a pirate — but a devious land agent (Michael Wilson) and a dastardly wealthy couple stand in the way. All powerful narrator Paul Holmes orchestrates the action which features extensive use of music and period video special effects.
Petunia and her daughters Patch and Polly have moved into their decidedly unconventional dream house in the second episode of this surreal children's fantasy drama written by Margaret Mahy and directed by Yvonne McKay. Their idyllic new life of music making is soon shattered by their home handyman neighbour from hell Branchy (Grant Tilly). But he has problems of his own with the unwelcome arrival of his three long lost, grasping and perpetually hungry sons. Special guest Jon Gadsby contributes an energetic performance as pie magnate Chicken Licken.
Based on the 1950s US show of the same name, This Is Your Life has been honouring and embarrassing famous New Zealanders since 1984. Past recipients of the Big Red Book have included Sir Howard Morrison, Davina Whitehouse, John Walker and many others. Bob Parker was the original presenter of the show (later hosts were Paul Holmes and Paul Henry). Before lives and careers are celebrated there's a moment of mild excruciation as viewers wait for the presenter to suprise the soon-to-be-anointed subject with the famous words: "This is your life''.
This episode of the Loose Enz series features small town intrigue in Hawkes Bay. Prickly, violin playing, ex-POW Austin (Derek Hardwick) refuses to retire despite handing over the farm to son Wesley (Goodbye Pork Pie director Geoff Murphy) — and the impending sale of the neighbouring property (to Japanese buyers) puts him on the warpath one boozy night at the local. Rural land politics and identities are nicely observed, the farmers’ band is delightfully chaotic (with Paul Holmes as a sax-playing fencer), and the Land Rover stuck in reverse is worthy of Fred Dagg.
Made during Kiwi television's golden age of light entertainment, Rock Around the Clock set out to recreate the golden days of early rock'n'roll. Lifelong rock'n'roller Tom Sharplin took the lion's share of time behind the microphone, with Paul Holmes introducing occasional guests as fictional compere Wonderful Wally Watson. Completing the 50s vibe were a bevy of rock'n'roll dancers, and an elaborate set which incorporated both dance floor and milk bar.
The golden age of rock is recaptured in a studio mock-up of the Wellington Rock “n’ Roll Revival club. Hosted by Paul Holmes (using the name Wonderful Wally Watson,) the show features Tom Sharplin and his band. Dalvanius Prime puts in an appearance too, delivering a wonderful version of “The Great Pretender.” The show mixes studio and location sequences as it delivers hits made famous by the likes of Bill Haley and Chuck Berry. Marshall Napier and Brian Sargent are on hand as a couple of bodgies, referencing the milk bar cowboys of the 50s.
The Grunt Machine began life in May 1975 as a pop culture show for 12-20 year olds playing four days a week at 5.30pm. Presented by Andy Anderson, it featured music and reporter based items. Pulled in August, it returned in September as a much hipper late Friday night rock show fronted by David Jones. The 1976 season started with Paul Holmes (in his first presenting role) and featured a Split Enz special for its first show. Fellow DJ John Hood took over later in the year (lying on cushions to do his links). The final Grunt Machine aired in December 1976.
This segment from Grunt Machine is a visit to Wellington radio station 2ZM. Announcer Paul Holmes (and later Grunt Machine host — resplendent in afro and moustache) is interviewed after giving away an LP to Carol of Naenae. He isn't a fan of music charts and thinks 2ZM should drop its Top 20 because people just want to hear music now and not the hit parade. Elsewhere there are calls to record shops to check sales and compile the Top 20 that Mr Holmes would rather not have — and a listening session rattles through the new releases in very short order.
NFU drama Men and Super Men is a barbed chronicle of a workplace where harmony is a distant dream. Intended as a how-not-to guide for ‘management bodies’, the film sees patronising factory supervisor Ferguson (actor Eddie Wright in fine form) trying to increase productivity by constantly changing systems. Meanwhile a trio on the factory floor (Paul Holmes, Peter McCauley and Close to Home’s Stephen Tozer) react with bullying and barely suppressed defiance. It was an open secret when the film was made that some of the characters were inspired by NFU staff.
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.
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).
After a young woman (Denise Maunder) falls pregnant, she decides to go against the tide of advice from her family and unsympathetic welfare authorities by keeping her baby. Misery and hardship ensues. Director Paul Maunder brought kitchen sink drama to NZ television with this controversial National Film Unit production. The story can claim to have effected social change, stirring up public debate about the DPB for single mothers. Keep an eye out for a young Paul Holmes as a wannabe lothario. Maunder writes about making it in this piece. Costa Botes writes about it here.