193 centimetre tall Ben Barrington played Olaf, a well-meaning but lazy God on TV's The Almighty Johnsons. After graduating from drama school in 2001, Barrington won a Chapman Tripp award for his stage work, and was nominated for further gongs for Insiders Guide to Happiness, as a doctor close to cracking up. After time as romantic interest on Aussie hit Offspring, he joined Shortland Street in 2015.
The Insiders Guide to Happiness is a production that I'm still fiercely proud of to this day ... kind of a world all its own, that show. It just had this tone to it that wasn't like anything else. Ben Barrington on The Insiders Guide to Happiness
Chris Warner (Michael Galvin) debuted in Shortland Street on the very first episode, when the young doctor got sweaty with an aerobics instructor. Over 25 years the character has been through his share of drama (including five marriages and counting, by 2017). In this short interview, Galvin reflects on his favourite storyline while playing Warner: the shock 2016 arrival of three adult children (triplets!) that he fathered as a sperm donor in the show’s second year. In the accompanying Shortland St clips, Sass Connelly (Lucy Lovegrove) tells Warner that he was "the Dad I never knew".
Inspired by the "very uncomfortable" dating experiences of actor Holly Shervey, Auckward Love follows the love lives of four female friends in Auckland. Shervey created the series; her partner, fellow actor Emmett Skilton (The Almighty Johnsons) directs and produces. Series one cost only $5,000. It was quickly picked up by TVNZ OnDemand and screened at several film festivals, including the London International Film Festival and Los Angeles CineFest. Two more series have since been produced. The friends are played by Shervey, Lucinda Hare, Jess Holly Bates and Jess Sayer.
Awkward Auckland love stories abound in this web series about four 20-something female friends. Holly Shervey (Shortland Street) plays Alice, who turns to dating app Tinder after her boyfriend (Dean O'Gorman) dumps her. Alice's flatmates — the hard-drinking Vicky (Lucinda Hare) and hippie Grace (Jess Holly Bates), plus promiscuous friend Zoe (Jess Sayer) — fail at their own love lives, but always have each other's backs. Shot on a low budget of just under $5,000, series one was selected for several global film festivals. Shervey based it on her own dating experiences.
Described by co-star Neill Rea as the "little show that could", The Brokenwood Mysteries has screened in over 15 countries and and involved a long run of fictional murders. Each feature-length episode of this Prime TV crime drama is a standalone murder mystery, set in a small Kiwi town. Neill Rea (Scarfies) stars as veteran detective Mike Shepherd, who works alongside Detective Kristin Sims (played by Fern Sutherland from The Almighty Johnsons). Backing up the pair are Detective Sam Breen (Nic Sampson from Funny Girls) and Russian pathologist Gina Kadinsky (Cristina Ionda).
Created by Outrageous Fortune’s James Griffin and Rachel Lang, this South Pacific Pictures-produced TV3 dramedy is about a family of Norse gods who wash up in 21st Century New Zealand. Emmett Skilton stars as Axl aka Odin, who must restore his brothers' lapsed superpowers and find his wife Frigg ("no pressure, then"). But he is thwarted by Norse goddesses and Māori deities. The combo of fantastical plot and droll Kiwi bloke banter won loyal fans, who successfully campaigned for a third (and final) season. Johnsons screened on the SyFy channel in the US in 2014.
In the first 10 minutes of this TV3 comedy, Axl (Emmett Skilton) has a close shave outside the bottle store on the eve of his 21st birthday, but that’s nothing compared to the meteors, earthquake and a blood red Mission Bay that follow. By episode end Axl learns that he and his Kiwi bloke older brothers are also … Norse gods. From Outrageous Fortune creators James Griffin and Rachel Lang, the light-hearted lad fantasy saga gained a loyal following and — in a rare example of an NZ TV export to the US — the three series screened on the SyFy channel from July 2014.
This telefeature imagines the build up to, and aftermath, of an Auckland volcanic eruption. The last big one produced Rangitoto, and scientist Clive de Roo (Mark Mitchinson from Siege) is the man who discovers under the mountain rumblings, 600 years later. Citizens are non-plussed until the top pops. Eruption was produced for TV3 by The Gibson Group and was one of the last projects completed by veteran screenwriter Graeme Tetley (Out of the Blue, Vigil) before his death in 2011. The Gibson Group had earlier produced 2008 earthquake in Wellington drama Aftershock.
Based on a UK reality format, Dancing with the Stars sees a line-up of celebrities paired with a professional dance partner, and put through ballroom dance routines. Judges and a public vote eliminate a pair each week. A five time winner of best programme in its category, the show played for five hit seasons on TVNZ, hosted by Jason Gunn and Candy Lane. In 2015 it was relaunched by Great Southern TV for TV3; Dominic Bowden and Sharyn Casey hosted. Dai Henwood and Casey presented the seventh series in 2018. Winners have included Norm Hewitt and and Suzanne Paul.
After her husband is jailed, matriarch Cheryl West (Robyn Malcolm) decides the time has come to set her family on the straight and narrow. But can the Wests change old habits? So begins the six-series long saga of the Westie dynasty. Hugely popular at home (beloved by public, critics and awards-nights alike), and imitated overseas, Outrageous Fortune has been a flag-bearer for TV3 and contemporary NZ telly drama; the series proved — in all its grow-your-own glory — that genre TV in NZ could be so much more than overseas stories pasted to a local setting.
The second, but prequel, series to The Insiders Guide to Happiness is chaos theory in action: seven young strangers are linked together by a bizarre incident. In this excerpt from Episode Six, Marty's (Louis Sutherland's) travel writing isn't going anywhere, Nicole (Kate Elliott) gets "wild and crazy and bad" for Halloween, and there's baking romance, sun bed sex, and scratchy shoplifting. The series won several Screen Director's Guild Awards and a clutch of gongs at the 2006 Qantas Film and TV Awards, including Best Drama, Director, Script, Actor and Actress.
The Insiders Guide to Happiness follows the interconnecting lives of eight 20-something characters — one of them dead — as they search for happiness. Dramatic, comic, sexy, surreal, the drama won critical acclaim and was a ratings success. An ambitious chaos theory-derived 'meta' concept is underpinned by strong performances from the ensemble of burgeoning acting talent, and stylishly-shot Wellington city locations. The Gibson Group production won seven awards at the 2005 NZ Screen Awards, including Best Drama and Best Director (Mark Beesley)
This series follows the interconnecting lives of eight 20-something characters — one of them dead — as they search for happiness. An ambitious 'meta' concept, strong performances from the ensemble cast and stylishly-shot Wellington locations won the Gibson Group drama awards and acclaim, particularly from its targeted youth demographic. In this excerpt from Chapter Eleven, Lindy accepts a job in Toronto but fails to tell boyfriend William; Barry and James discuss Chaos Theory and relationships; and Sam uses flowers in an attempt to fix things with Tina.
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.
The Strip centres around 30-something Melissa (Luanne Gordon), who sheds a legal career to set up a male strip revue. Created by Alan Brash, The Strip played to a certain demographic's desire for ogling naked men (warmed up by 1987 play Ladies Night and 1997 film The Full Monty), but with a focus on female characters, as Melissa juggles business with raising a teenage daughter. Taking cues from Ally McBeal (with fantasy sequences to match) the Gibson Group tale of g-strings, feminism and red light romance screened for two series on TV3 and sold internationally.
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.