Chairman of company Greenstone TV, Richard Driver first broke into television as host of music show Radio with Pictures. After directing documentary Hokonui Todd, the ex singer ran production company Visionary TV and produced music series Give it a Whirl and award-winner Love, Speed and Loss. He went on to create and programme Sky TV's Documentary Channel for four years, before selling it to the BBC.
It’s very satisfying, I think, when you look back to have been part of a broadcast industry. You meet fascinating people – and everyone along the way you learn from. You learn good things and how not to do things. So I'm really happy to have had this accidental career in television. Richard Driver
On 19 November 2010, the first of a number of explosions occured at the Pike River coal mine. Twenty-nine men were trapped in the tunnel. Nominated for Best Documentary at the 2017 NZ TV Awards, The Women of Pike River explored the lives of six of those left behind, who were wives and mothers of the miners. The disaster was NZ's worst single loss of life since the 1979 Erebus crash — until the 2011 Christchurch quake four months later. Despite assurances survivors would be rescued and the dead retrieved, new owners Solid Energy said the mine was too dangerous to re-enter.
This edition of Prime TV’s history of New Zealand television looks at 50 years of entertainment. The smorgasbord of music, comedy and variety shows ranges from 60s pop stars to Popstars, from the anarchy of Blerta to the anarchy of Telethon, from Radio with Pictures to Dancing with the Stars. Music television moves from C’mon and country, to punk and hip hop videos. Comedy follows the formative Fred Dagg and Billy T, through to Eating Media Lunch and 7 Days. A roll call of New Zealand entertainers muse on seeing Kiwis laugh, sing and shimmy on the small screen.
Rocked the Nation launched in 2008 with six one hour-long shows. Production company Satellite Media ransacked the archives and interviewed protagonists, to survey 100 key moments in Kiwi music history: including smash hits, riots, TV talent shows, and sex, drugs and rock’n’roll. Hosted by Karyn Hay, the series screened on C4 during NZ Music Month, and was the channel’s highest-rating series to that date. Follow-up series counted down 100 New Zealand Pop Culture Stories (2009, hosted by Rhys Darby) and 100 New Zealand Sporting Moments (2011, hosted by Dai Henwood).
Based on the hugely successful Got Talent franchise created by Simon Cowell, this nationwide TV talent quest first screened on Prime for one season in 2008. It was revived by TV One in 2012 and 2013. The Prime hosts were Andrew Mulligan and radio DJ Jason Reeves, with judges Miriama Smith, Paul Ellis and Richard Driver. From 2012 the host was Tamaiti Coffey, with model/actor Rachel Hunter, Opshop frontman Jason Kerrison and UB40's Ali Campbell as judges. American choreographer Cris Judd replaced Campbell for the 2013 series.
Neighbours at War was a popular reality show that ran for 10 years and eight seasons on TV2. Narrated by long-serving director Bill Kerton, it offered a quirky Kiwi take on a UK concept: take a seemingly unsolvable dispute over a boundary/ fence/driveway, and get a famous Kiwi to mediate the neighbours who can’t agree. Mediators included Mark Sainsbury, Tom Bradley, Police Ten 7's Graham Bell, and John Key. The purposefully cheesy music, and emotion worn on the sleeve, helped make the Greenstone TV show a “much-loved New Zealand staple” (The Spinoff's Duncan Greive).
Love, Speed and Loss is an extended documentary about racer Kim Newcombe, who turned heads in the 1970s on a König motorbike he developed and designed himself. Built around home movie footage and interviews with his charismatic, straight-talking widow Janeen, the film charts the couple's travels in Europe, and triumph on the track. Newcombe was killed racing in 1973, and posthumously finished second in that year's World 500cc Championship. Love, Speed and Loss won best documentary at the 2007 Qantas TV Awards and three Air NZ Screen gongs.
Never mind Keeping Up with the Kardashians; in 2003 New Zealand reality TV had The Rippins. Denise (aka Peach) is the second wife for property developer Pat 'Spider' Rippin. This first episode follows the pair on a holiday to Port Douglas, Australia, accompanied by three of Denise’s four adult children. The fly-on-the-Sheraton-hotel-suite-wall camera captures the champagne, smoking, tanning, breast implants and false teeth over the passage of a New Year's Eve party. NZ Herald reviewer Fiona Rae described the show as "classic car-crash television".
NZ Herald writer Michele Hewitson described the concept behind this series as "Popstars with jokes". Experienced comedian Paul Horan scours Aotearoa for fresh comedic talent; over the course of a month, fifteen newbies are tested in live and television settings. Each episode ends with eliminations — the "last stand-up standing" is crowned the winner. Comedians Jon Bridges and Raybon Kan join Horan as judges. The first episode features Queen St venue The Classic Comedy Club. The show was partly inspired by a stand-up contest for new acts held in the United Kingdom.
Entertainment legend Maui Dalvanius Prime rides an emotional roller coaster, as he looks back on his career in this documentary made in the final stages of his battle with lung cancer. The boy from South Taranaki who dreamed of becoming a circus ringmaster became a taonga of the Kiwi music industry, from success in Sydney with The Fascinations, to his groundbreaking kapa haka / te reo hit ‘Poi E’. He recalls his struggle to come to terms with making Māori music, and takes one last hikoi to the East Coast — where he wrote ‘Poi-E’ with the late Ngoi Pēwhairangi.
Fifteen wannabe comedians combat nerves and a tight deadline in this first episode of talent quest So You Think You're Funny. The first task for judges Jon Bridges, Raybon Kan and Paul Horan is to eliminate five contenders from the line-up. The contestants are given a few days to write and practise a short set, before performing it in front of a live audience at Queen Street's Classic Comedy Bar. This scenario would be terrifying for most, and it confirms a harsh truth that Horan offers early on: "If the audience hates you, there's not a lot we can do'. One hundred people originally auditioned.
Whanganui-born chef Peter Gordon helmed the Sugar Club in Wellington in the 80s, before moving to the UK and started up a series of acclaimed restaurants, including Providores and Tapa Room (opened shortly after this doco was made). Plaudits as a pioneer of ‘fusion’ cooking followed. Here the ‘kai magpie’, takes in everything from paw paw to paua on a homecoming taste trip: raw fish in Rarotonga, Waikato River 'tuna', deer at Wairarapa’s Te Parae, Seresin organic olive oil, Marlborough koura, Stewart Island oysters, and more. The one-off special screened on TV One and on BBC2.
Kiwi music show Music Nation introduced young presenter Bic Runga to the nation, shortly before she took her microphone skills in another direction. In this debut episode, the show's 'field reporter' Ian Hughes (aka Hugh Sundae) interviews winners at the 31st NZ Music Awards, while Runga introduces many of the accompanying videos. There are double helpings of Supergroove, who took away five awards on the night, and Che Fu sings a thank you speech a cappella. But there are murmurs of discontent over Purest Form taking the public vote for best single.
Long before the website of the same name, Music Nation was a mid 90s television show devoted to Kiwi music. Hosted by Hugh Sundae and Bic Runga — shortly before Runga's debut album Drive conquered the nation — the show mixed video clips and interviews. Modelled loosely on legendary Sunday night music show Radio With Pictures, Music Nation was produced by former RWP hosts Karyn Hay and Richard Driver. Two seasons, each running 13 episodes, went to air.
Hokonui Todd is a portrait of African statesman Sir Garfield Todd (1908 - 2002). Todd was an outspoken supporter of black right to self determination in Rhodesia (which became Zimbabwe in 1980, after a bloody civil war). Here Todd and wife Gracie reflect on their lives: from their "egalitarian" New Zealand upbringing; their arrival in Rhodesia as missionary farmers; Todd's time as Prime Minister; being imprisoned by Ian Smith's racist white regime (along with daughter Judith); to emerging as a "conscience of the country" burdened with postcolonial troubles.
TV3 celebrated its launch with a two-hour special featuring music, montages, and a Māori welcome. Aotearoa's first new television channel in more than two decades went to air on 26 November 1989, after years of meetings, hard graft and competing bidders. This clip of TV3's first ten minutes creates a party atmosphere of smiling happy faces. Dave Dobbyn and dancers get energetic in promotional song 'Get the Feeling', then Governor-General Sir Paul Reeves pulls the launch lever. Also featured are appearances by a wide array of Kiwis, from children to soldiers to Sam Hunt.
A NZ Herald assertion that women’s music is just “gentle, political folk songs” leads off this report for TVNZ’s mid-80s rock show. It’s presented by Dick Driver from a showcase for women songwriters at Auckland’s much loved and missed Gluepot in Ponsonby. Featured musicians are singer/songwriter Mahinarangi Tocker, blues singer Mahia Blackmore and then member of When the Cat’s Away Dianne Swann. Those sensitive folksongs are in short supply but the same can’t be said for the obstacles encountered in dealing with a male dominated music industry.
Despite a cold, superstar singer/songwriter Joni Mitchell is a most obliging interviewee for music show host Richard Driver. Having adopted a number of styles over the years, she says she has become a “neither/nor”: no longer easily categorised by radio as a jazz or a rock musician. She performs compelling acoustic versions of ‘Number One’ (from her then current album Chalk Mark in a Rain Storm) and the brand new ‘Night Ride Home’ which she doesn’t know how she’ll record. It would show up in a similar arrangement as the title track of her next album.
Music show host Richard Driver encounters “arguably the most famous person in rock’n’roll”. A very relaxed Mick Jagger is promoting his second solo album Primitive Cool when Driver interviews him outside Auckland’s busy downtown ferry terminal. The Rolling Stones singer’s sunglasses get a solid workout as he enthuses about his new band (which includes guitarist Joe Satriani), dismisses celebrity biographer Albert Goldman’s book about John Lennon, recalls encounters with Michael Jackson, and ponders the curious situation of being the subject of a tribute band.
Richard Driver files this 1988 Radio with Pictures report from a Waitemata Stadium concert cobbled together after the failure of music festival Neon Picnic. He interviews The Chills, Graham Brazier and Live Aid legend Bob Geldof. Geldof, along with Tim Shadbolt and Phil Warren, had come to the aid of music fans by organising the consolation gig at the last minute. Geldof rates Neon Picnic’s demise as an international embarrassment. But he praises the local music community for rallying behind the replacement gig, and admits he enjoyed the rush of helping organise it.
Richard Driver interviews members of touring Irish band The Pogues for legendary late night music show Radio with Pictures. Despite a daunting reputation, frontman Shane MacGowan is on his best behaviour (and in possession of a very clean pair of heels) as he and bandmates Spider Stacy and James Fearnley expound on the importance (and inescapability) of their Irish roots. MacGowan’s experiences with New Zealanders in London appear to be a private joke, but there’s nothing confusing about their opinions on being produced by fellow musician Elvis Costello.
English singer/songwriter Billy Bragg chats with Richard Driver in this interview, shot in a pre-bus lane Manners Mall in Wellington, for TVNZ’s hippest music show. They have unlikely company in the form of Alice, an elderly passerby, and the affable Bard of Barking happily includes her in the conversation. With a rare Top 10 hit single on his hands, Bragg discusses commercialism, his brief army career, and writing both love songs and political songs. A pre-concert performance of his track ‘Days like These’, recorded at Victoria University, bookends the interview.
Richard Driver investigates late 80s campus radio for music show RWP, and finds stations that have outgrown modest beginnings. They have longer broadcast hours, a national co-ordinator (former Netherworld Dancing Toy Graham Cockcroft) and a profile in the industry. Further positives include their own style (a certain informality in presentation, perceived as a plus by many) and a commitment to alternative music and local talent. But there are also concerns about estrangement from student associations, and commercial success breeding advertiser pressures.
The Cramps arrived in Auckland for the first time in 1986, and revealed themselves to be not quite as odd as they appeared. In this short RWP interview, lead singer Lux Interior shows himself as intelligent and sincere. Above all, he’s a music fan. The band went on to play two great shows of their rockabilly style of rock'n'roll at the Galaxy (now the Powerstation), which were recorded for live album RockinnReelininAucklandNewZealandXXX. A devoted couple, Lux and Poison Ivy were together for 37 years (33 of them as The Cramps) until Lux’s death on 4 February 2009.
Host Richard Driver introduces this short Radio With Pictures segment on the “band that made Milwaukee famous”. For the Violent Femmes it’s a long way from Wisconsin to Wellington. RWP hands control of the camera to the band: after goofing around in the ivy in front of Victoria University’s Hunter Building, the Femmes are presented with their first gold record in a nearby graveyard (New Zealand is “obviously a country with a high level of taste”). The first Femmes break up occured the following year. The band's cover of T. Rex classic ‘Children of the Revolution’ plays on the soundtrack.
Born of a dispute between TVNZ and record companies over video payments, True Colours tended to feature New Zealand bands in a studio setting, plus the occasional video. This first episode sets the template. Former Radio with Pictures host Dick Driver and Phillipa Dann (from pop show Shazam!) introduce a magazine-style show of live music, news and interviews. Ardijah open proceedings here, with their mix of polynesian R&B and funk. Later Tim Finn gets the interview treatment. The dispute was eventually settled and True Colours ended after seven episodes.
RWP reporter/director Brent Hansen (later head of MTV Europe) visits the South Island: checking venues, talking to local luminaries, catching live bands and generally taking the pulse of the local music scene. Flying Nun is on the rise (and just starting to attract international attention) although none of the label's major acts are playing near the RWP cameras. Christchurch is in flux waiting on the next big pop act to emerge, while Dunedin is a hive of activity with a new generation of Flying Nun acts starting to come through. Then there's Crystal Zoom...
The Christchurch music scene of 1982 gets a once-over in this Radio With Pictures report. Rob White of The Star acts as critic and guide, describing what’s hot in the South Island’s biggest city. A young Richard Driver provides his insights into what makes Christchurch bands so good, while various out-of-towners marvel at the quality of the lighting and sound in the local live scene. Amongst the local bands in the spotlight are The Narcs, the short-lived Thanks to Llamas and the Dance Exponents, who less than four months before this appearance had released their debut single 'Victoria'.
TVNZ journalist (and future Communicado founder) Neil Roberts does an ethnomusicologist turn in this edition of "established media tries to explain what the young people are doing". His subject is NZ's fledgling punk scene which is already on its way to extinction. Much of the focus is on Auckland but Doomed lead singer (and future TV presenter/producer) Johnny Abort (aka Dick Driver) flies the flag for the south. The Stimulators, Suburban Reptiles and Scavengers play live and punk fans pogo and talk about violence directed at them (from "beeries").
For a generation of music fans before the internet, show Radio with Pictures was a vital link to local and international music — and essential viewing before TV2's Sunday night horror movies. Following on from Grunt Machine in 1976, its presenters included Karyn Hay, Dr Rock (Barry Jenkin), Dick Driver Phil O'Brien. RWP's extended run coincided with the rise of MTV and the music video, and a burgeoning 1980s New Zealand music scene. Videos were a staple, but artist interviews also featured. The show also staged a number of Mainstreet concerts featuring leading local artists.