Andrew Gunn spent 13 years working for TVNZ’s Children’s Unit. His writing credits range from extended contributions to What Now! to 1998 award-winner The Beginner’s Guide to Space Travel. In 2009 Gunn (who is brother to entertainer Jason Gunn) co-wrote trolley derby tale Kiwi Flyer with director Tony Simpson. 2014 saw his second feature 3 Mile Limit, based on the early days of pirate station Radio Hauraki.
The most challenging thing was making sure that this was more than a movie with comical gags, stunts and action. I’ve worked in children's television for many years so I'm used to that sort of stuff, but to make the movie more cinematic we had to give it a heart and a spine and something with a little more depth. Andrew Gunn on Kiwi Flyer
In this family-friendly feature, Santa (Finnish actor Kari Väänänen) does a runner to a beach in Aotearoa days before his big night of the year, fed up with bureaucracy and brats. It falls to two Kiwi kids to get him out of the southern sun, and back to global gift giving. Director Tony Simpson (Kiwi Flyer) pitches the North Pole native against Kiwi biosecurity and a bickering camping family (including Step Dave's Sia Trockenheim). Sunday Star Times critic James Croot praised the trio of writers for delivering "a rare 21st century effort that evokes the memory of the great kidult dramedies."
On 4 December 1966 pirate radio hit Kiwi airwaves when Radio Hauraki broadcast from the Colville Channel aboard the vessel Tiri. In this feature, rookie director Craig Newland and writer Andrew Gunn fictionalise the true life story of the station’s battle to get to air — overcoming courtroom rulings and a conservative state broadcasting monopoly, as well as storms at sea. Go Girls actor Matt Whelan (who was Moa-nominated for the role) plays young rebel journo Richard Davis, fighting for free speech, the freedom to choose, the woman he loves … and rock’n’roll!
Kiwi Flyer (also known as Derby Dogs) sees 12-year-old Ben (Edward Hall) and his mate trying to win a local trolley derby in memory of Ben’s father. In their way are schoolboy loan sharks, competition from Australia — a family led by Wayne (Vince ‘Beaureparies’ Martin) — plus getting permission from Mum (Tandi Wright). There’s plenty of Boy’s Own action and slapstick (aided by comedian Dai Henwood playing a bumbling teacher), as Ben channels the DIY spirit and races for glory. Tony Simpson’s low-budget heartwarmer was based on Nelson’s annual Collingwood St Trolley Derby.
New Zealand television's longest running children's show turns 30 with a two hour live extravaganza — far removed from its modest, half hour beginnings back in 1981. Current hosts Charlie, Johnson and Gem are joined by a parade of past presenters who reminisce, and compete to find the show's best decade. Masterchef finalist Jax Hamilton provides snacks, and celebrities send greetings. In amongst the cupcakes, gunge, fart jokes and mayhem, the programme enters its fourth decade as an institution, watched by the children of its original audience.
This episode of the kids' TV institution celebrates te reo — one of Aotearoa's three official languages — for Māori Language Week. The July 2011 show opens at its Christchurch studio with a haka from Spreydon's kura kaupapa; from there the kōrero — and gunge — flows freely. Bursting with edifying energy it includes the show's trademark games, and The Wobblies, LOL and Family Health Diarrhoea. Australian Idol Stan Walker is the star guest and sings 'Loud' with Camilla the chimp, and NowTube visits an 80s What Now? (Steve Parr, Frank Flash et al). Tu meke tamariki!
Aimed at children, anthology series Freaky showcased tales of horror and the fantastic. Each episode was generally broken up into three stories, from aliens controlling humans like rats in a maze, to a terrifying water slide that transports riders to a prehistoric world. The tweenage Twilight Zone tales spawned a cult following, plus a wiki page detailing each story. Freaky creator Thomas Robins would refine the three stories in one approach with his 2006 anthology series The Killian Curse. He also co-created pioneering web series Reservoir Hill.
Jason Gunn and sidekick Thingee present a Christmas Day special as only they can. Guests include Wonder Dogs host Mark Leishman, singers Debbie Harwood and Kim Willoughby and All Black Va’aiga “Inga the Winger” Tuigamala. The fate of Christmas dinner hangs in the balance as guests and audience members take part in competitions that include an unfortunate way to make eggnog. Some bizarre presents are exchanged and there’s a cameo for Gunn's Mum. Jason also manages a Paul Holmes impression (along with some Frank Spencer and a dash of Rik Mayall).
Shortland Street is a fast-paced serial drama set in an inner city Auckland hospital. The long-running South Pacific Pictures production is based around the births, deaths and marriages of the hospital's staff and patients. It screens on TVNZ’s TV2 network five days a week. In 2017 the show was set to celebrate its 25th anniversary, making it New Zealand’s longest running drama by far. Characters and lines from the show have entered the culture — starting with “you’re not in Guatemala now, Dr Ropata!” in the very first episode. Mihi Murray writes about Shortland Street here.
What Now? is a long-running entertainment show for primary school-aged children. Filmed before a live studio audience on weekend mornings, What Now? is a New Zealand TV institution; it was the first TV show to have live phone-ins. The series is known for its challenges that sometimes result in participants being 'gunged'. A roll-call of presenters includes Steve Parr, Danny Watson, Simon Barnett, Jason Gunn, Michelle A'Court, Tamati Coffey, Antonia Prebble, and more. 'Get out of your Lazy Bed' by Matt Bianco is the theme song memorable to generations of Kiwi kids.