Roger Gascoigne owns the most talked about wink in the history of New Zealand television. Gascoigne's work in continuity, music and quiz shows (on everything from Ready to Roll to Telethon) saw him snare two Feltex Awards and a legion of fans. In the 80s he went on to co-host regional magazine show Today Tonight.
Some write in and say they couldn't get to sleep because I didn't wink and they felt something was wrong! Roger Gascoigne in the New Zealand Women's Weekly, 15 May 1978
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).
The opening episode of the Prime TV series celebrating 50 years of New Zealand television travels from an opening night puppet show 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). Many of the major players are interviewed. The changing nature of the NZ living room — always with the telly in pride of place as modern hearth — is a story within the story.
When TV began in New Zealand in 1960, posh English accents on screen were de rigueur. As veteran broadcaster Judy Callingham recalls in this sixth episode of Kiwi TV history: "every trace of a New Zealand vowel was knocked out of you." But as ties to Mother England weakened, Kiwis began to feel proud of their identity and culture. John Clarke invented farming comedy legend Fred Dagg, while Karyn Hay showed a Kiwi accent could be cool on Radio with Pictures. Sam Neill and director Geoff Murphy add their thoughts on the changing ways that Kiwis saw themselves.
Peppermint Twist’s pastel-tinted portrait of 60s puberty floated onto NZ screens in 1987 and despite winning a solid teen following, only screened for one series. Set amongst a group of teens in small town Roseville (in reality the outdoors set originally used for Country GP), the show’s stylised look and sound had few Kiwi precedents - though its links to US TV perennial Happy Days are clear. Peppermint made liberal, and increasingly confident use of period music, with each episode named after a pop song of the day.
In this video billowing sails and an impressive array of mid-80s celebrities (musicians, broadcasters, sportspeople) raise their voices in patriotic fervour, to rally support for the first Kiwi challenge for the America’s Cup: “in a boat just called New Zealand”. The bid failed, but ‘Sailing Away’ set a record for the most consecutive weeks at number one by a NZ artist (nine), until the arrival of Smashproof’s ‘Brother’ in 2009. The tune — borrowed from ‘Pokarekare Ana’ — remains both as a reminder of simpler times in the America’s Cup, and an era of questionable haircuts.
No television special would be complete without a bloopers reel. 1985 marked the 25th anniversary of television in New Zealand, and one of the events celebrating it was a variety show at the Michael Fowler Centre. In this short excerpt, host Roger Gascoigne introduces a montage of humorous TV moments from across the years, some planned and others probably not — from turkeys in gumboots, Bill McCarthy’s exploding piano, and Relda Familton being judo-flipped, to Tom Bradley losing his script, and presenter Peter Sinclair disappearing in dry ice at the 1983 Feltex Awards.
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 segment of regional show Today Tonight covers the arrival at Wellington Airport of glam-rockers Kiss (with faces obscured), and the erection of 22 tonnes of equipment for their 1980 ‘Unmasked’ tour. Presented by Roger Gascoigne, the item shows playful sound bites from Simmons and co in full make-up, plus contest winner Scott Loveday after he gets to meet the band. Gene Simmons might have been made for loving you baby, but the "hottest rock show on earth" (tickets $12.50) battles against wind and rain at Athletic Park. The park is now the site of a retirement village.
Good Day was launched in March 1978 to succeed Today at One with producer Tony Hiles promising "an entertaining magazine programme with the magazine aspect spread over the whole week". The Avalon based show, which ran for two years, aired at 1pm on weekdays and featured regular reports and human interest stories from around the regions, studio interviews, book and film reviews, and consumer, arts and gardening segments. Political journalist Simon Walker was an early staffer while Dylan Taite contributed reports from Auckland.
Jon Stevens performs the song that turned him into an overnight pop star. 'Jezebel', written by little known UK songwriter Edwin Howell, was his debut single. It spent five weeks at number one, knocking Michael Jackson's 'Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough' from the top slot to get there. This performance is introduced by TV presenter Roger Gascoigne and features a guest appearance from a disembodied saxophone. But the real showstoppers are Stevens' trousers which appear to have been sprayed on and, surely set more than a few fans' hearts aflutter.
Rock’s wild man hits Wellington (and unfortunate bystander Rosie Langley) in this lip-synched version of single 'I’m Bored'. Filmed by a Radio with Pictures crew when Iggy Pop made a promotional visit to New Zealand in July 1979, the clip shows the legendary singer acting up around Parliament, and at a pub reception attended by local media personalities (including Roger Gascoigne). It’s an uncomfortable experience for some as Iggy pulls all his stage moves among the straight-faced (and partly straight-laced) crowd. The trip was promoting his third solo album New Values.
TV1 celebrated Christmas by throwing most of its big names into this 1977 comedy/variety show. Ringleaders Roger Gascoigne and Nice One Stu's Stu Dennison are joined by a cavalcade of newsreaders hiding under Santa beards. Among the loopy 70s oddities on show: Brian Edwards in school uniform, channelling The Goons; Selwyn Toogood doing an It's in the Bag sketch that would nowadays likely be deemed too un-PC to make it to air; plus racehorse expert Glyn Tucker talking reindeer races. Madcap band Mother Goose also appear.
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.
Telethon was a 24-hour live television spectacular aimed at securing donations from viewers for a charitable cause. The first, in 1975, launched the second channel (TV2) and raised over half a million dollars for St John's Ambulance. By 1981 Telethon had hit the $5 million mark. Along with willing local celebrities, volunteers and a receptive public, it attracted overseas stars: Basil Brush, Entertainment Tonight's Leeza Gibbons and Coronation Street's Christopher Quinton (who famously got together after the 1988 show). "Thank you very much for your kind donation!"
Pioneering soap opera Close To Home first screened in May 1975. For just over eight years middle New Zealand found their mirror in the life and times of Wellington’s Hearte clan. At its peak in 1977 nearly one million viewers tuned in twice weekly to watch the series co-created by Michael Noonan and Tony Isaac (who had initially only agreed to make the show on the condition they would get to make The Governor). The popular family saga carved a regular niche for local drama on screen, and the output demands were foundational in developing industry talent.
In the early 80s Ready to Roll was NZ’s premier TV pop show. It emerged in the pre-music video boom mid-70s hosted by Roger Gascoigne (and later Stu Dennison) with bands and dancers live in the studio. By the early 80s it was a seamless video clip Top 20 countdown — introduced by the Commodores pumping ‘Machine Gun’ — and appointment Saturday evening viewing for music fans (and a regular in the week’s Top 10 rating shows). It then evolved into a brand, spawning a number of RTR offshoots (Mega-Mix, Sounz and New Releases), before disappearing in the mid-90s.