As a teen Beth Allen spent four years playing Amber on hit series The Tribe, as well as acting in The Legend of William Tell. Five years after that, an acting career in Sydney beckoned. But shortly before she was due to fly, she was offered a role on Shortland Street. Allen would spend six years playing Doctor Brooke Freeman. Never one to slow down, Allen has also produced plays for Auckland's Basement Theatre.
I am pretty determined. I will create work for myself if I don't get work. I'll stick around. I don't think you'll be able to get rid of me very easily. Beth Allen in a Sunday News interview, 9 August 2010
Possibly the longest-brewing wedding on Kiwi television was that of Shortland Street’s Chris Warner (Michael Galvin) and Rachel McKenna (Angela Bloomfield), in February 2014. Between them the couple had overcome stalkers, alcoholism, car crashes, bombs, brain damage, and a total of six prior marriages…but on this occasion there are no last minute objections to interrupt proceedings, just a firm answer to the decades long 'will they, won’t they?' question for the show’s golden couple. Only Grace (Lynette Forday), who is carrying Chris's baby, doesn’t look like she feels the love…
Since a spectacular truck crash just before the Christmas 1995 episode, the Shortland Street team have often pulled out the stops at Christmas time, and other special anniversaries. The 90 minute 20th anniversary special — which won acclaim in May 2012 — was no exception. Aside from Chris Warner being arrested for murder in his hospital bed, a dramatic helicopter crash injures Nurse Nicole Miller, a P addict is loose in the building, a heart has gone missing, and at least six former Shortlanders return. A fashion parade of old costumes from the clinic provides some light relief.
Rolling out their Christmas Special in June, to show just how far they're ahead of the game, the Moon TV team threw most of their regulars into this wrap-up special: dodgy driving on Speedo Cops, Naan Doctors (a soap set in an Indian restaurant) and Leigh Hart's regular attempt to sound literary with writer Joe Bennett. Elsewhere Hart and Matai Johnson cheat during the annual coast to coast race, and join Jason Hoyte to demonstrate how not to treat a guest when John Key joins them on Late Night Big Breakfast. Plus pratfalls from an incompetent handyman.
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.
One of the most successful television shows shot on Kiwi soil, The Tribe was the brainchild of British-born Raymond Thompson. In a future where the adults have been wiped out by a virus, the children that remain have formed into competing tribes, some of whom live to terrorise. Running five seasons, The Tribe sold to more than 120 territories, and the cast toured performances from the soundtrack for overseas fans. The cast were almost entirely New Zealanders, as were most of the crew. Sequel The New Tomorrow, following descendants of the original characters, screened in 2005.
Set in a future where teen gangs control the streets, The Tribe became a global hit at the turn of the millenium. In this second episode, the group have to decide whether they trust Lex enough to let him into the safety of the shopping mall. Lex appears out to prove that he is the resident alpha male, especially after the arrival of Bray (Dwayne Cameron), who has a surprise to spring. For the first season, a group of young people read each script in order to check that The Tribe provided what creator Raymond Thompson called "an accurate interpretation of children's ideas".
The first episode of The Tribe introduces many of the key elements that would capture fans around the globe: including a future where teens rule, and a shopping mall that provides a bolthole from terrifying, colourfully-garbed gangs. After meeting the only occupant, Amber (Beth Allen) decides the mall could be the perfect place for her new friends to hole up in. Meanwhile Lex (Caleb Ross) — soon to become one of The Tribe's longest-serving anti-heroes — gets angry. Employing roughly 500 cast and crew, Raymond Thompson's show introduced a host of young actors over five seasons.
A Twist in the Tale was one of a series of kidult shows launched by The Tribe creator Raymond Thompson, after he relocated to New Zealand. The anthology series spins from a storyteller (Star Trek's William Shatner) introducing a story (often fantastical) to a group of children, some of whom appear in the tales. The show featured early appearances by many young Kiwi thespians, including Antonia Prebble, Chelsie Preston Crayford, Dwayne Cameron and Michelle Ang. Although the writing team were British, some of the directors and most of the crew were New Zealanders.
In the debut feature from writer/director Scott Reynolds, serial killer Simon (Paolo Rotondo) has been locked up for the last five years, and is being interviewed by psychologist Karen Schumaker (Rebecca Hobbs). Narrated flashbacks reveal Simon's past, the demons and bad treatment in his present, and the potential for more killing. The Ugly won rave reviews, awards at fantasy festivals in Italy and Portugal, and over 30 international sales: Variety called the film "a tricky, stylish horror", praising it's suspense, visuals, and casting. The Listener's Philip Matthews found it "genuinely creepy".
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.