Tom Finlayson has worked in television in almost every capacity: as a reporter and producer in the cauldron of daily news, developing and producing classic drama shows (Under the Mountain, Mortimer's Patch) and movies, directing documentaries (The Party's Over) — as well as commissioning programmes, during a three year stint as TVNZ’s Director of Production.

Successful productions always have many claimants to their parenthood: failed ones tend to be orphans. There were at least 10 people who claimed parenthood of Shortland Street. But Marlin Bay was a waif! Tom Finlayson

50 Years of New Zealand Television: 5 - Telling Stories

2010, Subject - Television

From early teleplay The Evening Paper to the edgy Outrageous Fortune, this episode of 50 Years of New Zealand Television talks drama and comedy. Key players, from actors to executives, recall a host of signposts in the development of storytelling on Kiwi TV screens. John Clarke recalls 1970s sitcom Buck's House; Paul Maunder remembers the drama that likely helped introduce the DPB; and TV executive John McRae recalls worries about the projected cost of global hit Hunter's Gold, and mentioning the word 'placenta' on the first episode of Shortland Street.  

The New Zealand Wars 1 - The War that Britain Lost (Episode One)

1998, Network Executive - Television

This excerpt from the first episode of James Belich’s award-winning history of Māori vs Pākehā armed conflict looks at growing Māori resentment, after the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi. The focus is on Ngā Puhi chief Hōne Heke, who sees few concessions to partnership. He is especially incensed by the refusal of the British to fly a Māori flag alongside the Union Jack. His celebrated acts of civil disobedience directed at this symbol of imperial rule flying over Kororāreka (now Russell) lead to the outbreak of war in the north.

The New Zealand Wars 2 - Kings and Empires (Episode Two)

1998, Network Executive - Television

In this excerpt from James Belich's award-winning history of Māori vs Pākehā armed conflict, tensions simmer in 1850s Taranaki and Waikato, between land-hungry settlers and Māori who don't want to sell. This resolve to retain their land results in what Belich calls "one of the most important developments in Māori political history" — the birth of the King Movement. But a new governor determined to reassert British authority exploits disunity between Māori factions, and a disputed sale at Waitara culminates in "New Zealand's great civil war of the 1860s".

The New Zealand Wars 3 - The Invasion of the Waikato (Episode Three)

1998, Network Executive - Television

In this excerpt from James Belich's popular and acclaimed history series, George Grey returns to the governorship in the wake of the costly Taranaki war. Now bitter, secretive and reluctant to share power, he talks peace while secretly planning to strike at the heart of the King Movement in Waikato. As gunboats patrol the Waikato river and a great road is painstakingly built to take his army south, Grey fabricates plots and conspiracies, convincing London to send more troops and ships, until the military balance of power tips in his favour.

The New Zealand Wars 4 - Taranaki Prophets (Episode Four)

1998, Network Executive - Television

In this excerpt from James Belich's high-rating Aotearoa history series, the focus returns to Taranaki, where charismatic chief Tītokowaru had been promoting peace. But settler demands for land and confiscations exhaust his goodwill, and he declares war. Vastly outnumbered, Titokowaru embarks on a devastatingly effective guerrilla campaign, which is aimed at provoking his foes to attack him on his terms. As emotions rise, Tītokowaru's war escalates with the attack on Turuturumōkai Redoubt, an act of cannibalism, and his taunt "I shall not die ..."

The New Zealand Wars 5 - The East Coast Wars (Episode Five)

1998, Network Executive - Television

This excerpt from the final part of James Belich's award-winning history series focuses on Tūhoe prophet Rua Kēnana — the target of the last action of the New Zealand Wars in 1916, 73 years after hostilities began. He creates an independent community at Maungapōhatu in the Ureweras, complete with a remarkable meeting house. But any whiff of domestic dissent is intolerable for a Government fighting a war overseas. Armed constabulary are sent to apprehend Rua on trumped up charges, with fatal results for two of his followers.

Out of the Dark

1996, Network Executive - Television

This documentary follows the police investigation that lead to the capture and imprisonment of South Auckland rapist Joseph Thompson. He was the first serial rapist convicted in New Zealand. Using re-enactments and in depth interviews with police, the Keith Hunter-directed doco examines how the relatively new technology of DNA matching and criminal profiling led to the arrest of Thompson in 1995. Viewers are not spared details of his long-lasting and brutal rampage which targeted girls as young as 10. Thompson was eventually sentenced to over 30 years in prison.

For Arts Sake - A Century of Cinema

1996, Network Executive - Television

In this excerpt from the 1996 TV One arts series, presenter Alison Parr interviews the NZ Film Commission's longtime marketing director Lindsay Shelton about the international success of Kiwi films. Shelton attributes the recent popularity of Once Were Warriors and Heavenly Creatures to Kiwi stories being different and new — "everything in our films was unexpected". Roger Donaldson, Geoff Murphy, Jane Campion and Peter Jackson are mentioned, with special note of Jackson's "confidence and wish" to stay in New Zealand's "tiny as well as fragile" film industry. 

The Game of Our Lives - Tries and Penalties

1996, Network Executive - Television

This episode of rugby series The Game Of Our Lives looks at the impact the sport has had on race relations in New Zealand. The country's history of rugby forging bonds between Māori and Pākehā is a stark contrast to South Africa's apartheid policy. Tries and Penalties focuses on the troubles between Aotearoa and South Africa —  from coloured players George Nepia and Ranji Wilson being excluded from All Blacks tours to South Africa, to the infamous 1981 Springboks tour, and Nelson Mandela opening the 1995 Rugby World Cup final between the two teams.

Billy T James - A Celebration

1995, Network Executive - Television

Having made a comeback after heart surgery in 1990, legendary entertainer Billy T James passed away in August 1991. Four years later that anniversary was commemorated with Billy T James - A Celebration. Hosted by Pio Terei, the special highlights some of Billy’s best moments of both comedy gold, and his vast talents as musician. Interviews with Billy T and his colleagues (including showband veteran Robbie Ratana, comedian Peter Rowley, and screen wife Ilona Rodgers) offer insight into the real man behind arguably New Zealand’s most beloved entertainer.

Open Home - Series Four, Episode 13

1995, Network Executive - Television

This TVNZ show explores 90s grand designs, and the people who live in them. This episode from the fourth season sees Dave Cull quizzing husband and wife architect team Colin and Lindy Leuschke on the challenges of designing their Parnell home, and checks out a pimped up house trailer inspired by technology show Beyond 2000. Jude Dobson visits a Kiwiana classic: Fred and Myrtle Flutey's Bluff paua shell home; and Jim Hickey meets a Remuera reproduction antique importer. The opening titles are a showcase of computer graphics from the era.

Seeing Red

1995, Network Executive - Television

Directed by Annie Goldson (Brother Number One), this 1995 TV documentary explores the story of Cecil Holmes, who won Cold War notoriety in 1948 when he was smeared as a communist agent, while working as a director for the National Film Unit. This excerpt — the opening 10 minutes — revisits the infamous snatching of Holmes' satchel outside Parliament, his Palmerston North upbringing, war service, and the founding of the Government's National Film Unit. There are excerpts from a 1980 interview where Holmes describes his inspirations (including UK film Night Mail).

An Immigrant Nation - The Footprints of the Dragon

1994, Network Executive - Television

Footprints of the Dragon examines immigration from China and Taiwan, through interviews with three families: the Kwoks, already into their fifth generation down under; and two families from Taiwan, who are far more recent arrivals. One woman is forced to return frequently to Taiwan, to earn money for the family. The documentary also examines discrimination against early Chinese migrants in the late 1800s, who were required to pay a 100 pound poll tax. The episode is directed by Listener film critic Helene Wong, herself a third-generation Chinese-New Zealander. 

Open Home - Series Three, Episode Nine

1994, Network Executive - Television

Open Home was a 90s series looking at New Zealand homes and the people making, designing and living in them. This episode from the third season ranges from deconstructionism to DIY. Builder (and future Dunedin mayor) David Cull checks out a Northland glasshouse designed by Nigel Cook, before visiting the renovated Australian farmhouse and digital recording studio of Dragon band member Todd Hunter. Susan Wood tries translating the architectural theory of deconstructionism with the help of Auckland architects, including Mark Wigley.

Peter Peryer: Portrait of a Photographer

1994, Network Executive - Television

Ever wondered why artist Peter Peryer photographed himself holding a chicken? This documentary provides the answer. Directed by Greg Stitt (Just Me and Mario), it traces the path of one of New Zealand's most significant, and intriguing, art photographers — from "crucified Christ to laughing Buddha" — through Catholic themes, to a more minimalist approach. Also showcased are some of Peryer's captivating images: the "bodies of work, families of photos, and images that rhyme". The photographer passed away on 18 November 2018.

Watch Me Next Time

1993, Director - Television

Moment of Truth

1992, Director - Television

The Party's Over

1992, Director, Producer - Television

Christopher Columbus sailed 15,000 miles to find the new world: "500 years later, it turned up on the doorstep." This documentary chronicles New Zealand's hit contribution to Expo '92, held on the Seville island where Columbus apparently planned his voyages. Amidst the celebrations, come culture clashes. Reporter Marcia Russell argues that ultimately Expo is about creating consumers and brand awareness, by selling New Zealad as sophisticated, exotic, proud, and culturally mature. It is also a chance to persuade the masses that Aotearoa is actually south.

Smiling Again

1991, Director, Producer - Television

A law change in the 1980s gave mentally-handicapped children the right to be educated at New Zealand state schools. This 1991 doco examines the pros and cons of mainstreaming special needs children, by looking at the schooling of severely brain-damaged child Jessica Palmer. Teachers both for and against mainstreaming are interviewed, alongside Jessica's parents. Palmer's teacher Sue Dunleavy admits there have been noise issues at times, but thanks to Jessica's presence her classmates have "learnt acceptance and caring and understanding, and it's taken the fear away."

Dame Cath Moves Up - A Personal Portrait

1990, Director - Television

Dame Catherine Tizard has been many things: mother, marriage celebrant, civic leader and Her Majesty's rep in NZ. Here Tizard takes reporter Marcia Russell through her life, from a Waikato town (where she was wary of becoming a farmer's wife); through marrying her uni lecturer; leading Auckland as mayor; to her Governor-General role. Her front-running story parallels societal changes that presented increased opportunities for Kiwi women. A roll-call of Governors-General outlines how for over 100 years the position was held exclusively by white British males.

The Grasscutter

1988, Producer - Television

As a member of the Ulster Volunteer Force, Brian Deeds (Belfast-born actor Ian McElhinney) grassed on 23 fellow terrorists in Northern Ireland. Now living in New Zealand under a new identity, Deeds has to come clean to his girlfriend (Judy McIntosh) when a hit squad arrives in town for him. This clip sees guns and car crashes on the streets of Dunedin. Made in NZ, the Anglo-Kiwi funded TV movie won solid audiences on UK television, before local release on video. Ian Mune (Came a Hot Friday) directs; Marshall Napier and Temuera Morrison are the cops playing catch up. 

Terry and the Gunrunners - 1, First Episode

1985, Executive Producer - Television

This first episode from the kidult series pits 12-year-old Terry Teo, sister Polly and brother Ted against a gang of gunrunners led by crime boss Ray Vegas (former Goon Michael Bentine), after Terry skates down the wrong driveway and stumbles on the crims and their illegal arsenal. Terry was fondly remembered by Kiwi kids who grew up in the 80s. Taking cues from the Stephen Ballantyne and Bob Kerr comic it was based on, there are Batman-esque graphics and arcade game-style animated sequences. Sean Duffy’s bald villain is called Curly and the bikie is Billy T James.

Terry and the Gunrunners - 2, Episode Two

1985, Executive Producer - Television

In this episode of the kids’ adventure series, 12-year-old hero Terry Teo has stumbled on a gunrunning operation. The baddies — boss Ray Vegas and villainous sidekicks Curly and Blue — are hunting for him; and Terry’s brother and sister are doing their best to help, ending up in Kaupati in the most Kiwi holiday park ever. Meanwhile, more information emerges about the mysterious, but dim, Thompson and Crouch as they report to their boss (played by none other than real life ex PM Sir Robert Muldoon) — and Billy T James is turning out to be a very cultured bikie.

Terry and the Gunrunners - 3, Episode Three

1985, Executive Producer - Television

In this episode of the larger-than-life kids' drama series, action moves to the punningly-named town of Kaupati where crime boss Ray Vegas and sidekicks Curly and Blue are expecting a weapons delivery (in well-labelled cardboard cartons). They’ve also abducted Terry Teo after he stumbled on their cunning plan. Meanwhile, Terry’s sister and brother are in pursuit, Thompson and Crouch are looking highly conspicuous in their quest for stealth, the bikies are discussing Hegel — and the Kaupati cop could be the dimmest bulb in the chandelier so far.

Terry and the Gunrunners - 4, Episode Four

1985, Executive Producer - Television

In this episode of the beloved 80s kids’ drama, hero Terry Teo has escaped from evil criminal mastermind Ray Vegas. All roads lead to a lovingly realised Kaupati A&P Show (with cameo from radio personality Merv Smith) as Vegas’ henchmen Curly and Blue, Terry’s brother and sister, and Thompson and Crouch pursue him. Curly still has the best outfit and manages to trash another motorcycle — but the bikies are too busy discussing philosophy. Meanwhile, Thompson and Crouch are revealed as government agents (with a cavalier approach to spending taxpayers’ money).

Terry and the Gunrunners - 5, Episode Five

1985, Executive Producer - Television

In this episode of the 80s kid’s TV drama, matters are coming to a head. Terry Teo and brother Ted and sister Polly, criminal mastermind Ray Vegas and his henchmen Blue and Curly, government agents Thompson and Crouch, the bikies and the local policeman continue to chase each other around rural Kaupati. What Thompson and Crouch lack in intelligence, they make up for in costume changes; and Spud (Billy T James) is now quoting Byron to his bikies. The constable is dimmer than first suspected — but old salt Captain Shaddock’s aim is true.

Terry and the Gunrunners - 6, Episode Six

1985, Executive Producer - Television

The series finale in this 80s children’s drama begins with hero Terry Teo once again in the clutches of the evil Ray Vegas and sidekicks Blue and Curly. While Terry is held hostage by the gang, local cop Sergeant Wadsworth calls for back up — but reinforcements seem to have come from Keystone rather than HQ. Blue reveals an unexpected facility with heavy weaponry and humanity in amongst the pyrotechnics, but will the forces of good, and Polly’s karate skills and commonsense, be enough to get the Teo siblings back home for mum’s roast dinner?

Other Halves

1984, Producer - Film

Trespasses

1984, Writer, Producer - Film

Under the Mountain - The Alien World Below (Episode Four)

1981, Producer - Television

Classic sci-fi series Under the Mountain follows redheaded twins with psychic powers — Rachel and Theo — as they battle the alien Wilberforces. This fourth episode sees the twins venture into the aliens' submarine lair for the first time. The lair's moody production design, the NZ Symphony Orchestra's score, and creepy transmogrifying special effects contributed to the slimy imprint the series left on a generation of Kiwi kids, haunted by the giant slugs slithering underneath Auckland's volcanoes. The award-winning series was adapted from the Maurice Gee novel.

Under the Mountain

1981, Producer - Television

Classic sci-fi TV series Under the Mountain follows the adventures of redheaded twins with psychic powers — Rachel and Theo — on their Auckland summer holiday. They meet the mysterious Mr Jones, an alien emissary who enlists them in the battle against the evil Wilberforces, who are plotting planetary destruction. Adapted from the Maurice Gee novel, the series' fx left their slimy imprint on a generation of NZ kids, haunted by the transmogrifying Wilberforces, who changed from humans into giant slugs slithering underneath Auckland’s volcanoes.

Under the Mountain - Maar (First Episode)

1981, Producer - Television

Mortimer's Patch - Day of Judgement (First Episode)

1980, Producer - Television

Mortimer’s Patch was a popular police series following detective Doug Mortimer (Terence Cooper), a city cop returning to his rural roots. In the first episode, scripted by Keith Aberdein (The Governor), a girl (Greer Robson) goes missing in sand dunes near the shack of an eccentric recluse. Fear and suspicion mounts, and Mortimer brings in help from the city: prejudiced detective Chris Knight (Ken Blackburn). Don Selwyn plays Sergeant Bob Storey. In this background piece, Mortimer's Patch producer Tom Finlayson writes about the show's birth, death and double resurrection. 

Mortimer's Patch

1980 - 1984, Producer, Creator - Television

Mortimer’s Patch was a popular drama series following Detective Sergeant Doug Mortimer (Terence Cooper) at work in the town of Cobham. Mortimer plays a city cop returning to his rural roots; Don Selwyn is Sergeant Bob Storey. The series was NZ’s first police drama, and a rare local drama to top ratings. Mortimer's Patch was made when the archetype of the ‘community cop’ everyone knew was still a powerful one, and it was a counterweight to the faceless riot policing of the Springbok Tour. Three series were made.

Radio Waves

1978, Producer - Television

Radio Waves charted the “lives and loves” of a commercial Auckland radio station in the age of Bee Gees and flares. Grant Bridger (‘Win Savage’) and Andy Anderson played DJs with Alan Dale as station manager; it was Dale’s screen debut, before fame in Australia (Neighbours) and the US (24, Ugly Betty). Devised by Graeme Farmer, Waves was an effort by SPTV to best TV One’s flagship soap Close to Home. While producer Tom Finlayson’s first drama was short-lived, its metro Auckland context — peopled with upbeat urban strivers — signaled a changing NZ on screen. 

Radio Waves - 16 May 1978

1978, Producer - Television

Radio Waves revolves around an Auckland commercial radio station. In this episode, drive-time DJ Win Savage (Grant Bridger) annoys an advertiser and doesn't seem to care. Andy Anderson is a hippy ‘jock’, Alan Dale plays urbane station manager Jack in his screen debut (before finding fame on Australia's Neighbours), and the many women on staff put up with their share of stick from all that male ego. Waves was short-lived — The Bee Gees and flares weren’t enough for viewers to shut the farm gate — but its urban strivers signaled a changing face for NZ on screen.

News at Ten

1975 - 1977, News Editor - Television

This Day Tonight

1967 - 1978, Producer, Reporter - Television

Slipknot

1967, As: Journalist - Television

Town and Around: Auckland Highlights

1966, Reporter - Television

Presenter Keith Bracey picks out the highlights from 1966 for the northern edition of magazine show Town and Around. 'Kiwi gent' Barry Crump, sharp-shooting country singer Tex Morton, singer Lee Grant and axeman Sonny Bolstad feature, alongside visitors including US comedian Shelley Berman, actor Chips Rafferty and English TV presenter (Pavlova Paradise author) Austin Mitchell, who criticises the state of local media. Keith's picks gravitate to the light-hearted, with probing coverage of gardening with gnomes and a man who uses a carrot as a musical instrument.

Town and Around

1966-1969, Reporter - Television

Town and Around was a nightly magazine show, covering everything from current affairs and studio interviews to slapstick to stunts; including a notorious spoof on a farmer who shod his turkeys in gumboots. A popular and wide-ranging regional series, it ran for five years from 1965, and was the training ground for a generation of industry professionals (Brian Edwards, David McPhail, and Des Monaghan amongst many others). Town and Around was made prior to a national network link, and editions came out of Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin.