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Profile image for Bill Kerton

Bill Kerton

Narrator, Director, Writer

NZ Herald critic Paul Casserly described Bill Kerton in a 2015 television review as "TV2's resident voice of edgy reality shows". Appropriately for someone who has dozens of voice credits on TV shows and commercials, Kerton has a background in radio. 

A self-described "country boy", Kerton began writing ads for Whangarei’s KCC FM in the mid-80s, before taking to the microphone himself, including presenting for Kiwi FM in Hamilton. While on his OE in the early 90s, he worked as a daytime DJ for Belfast’s Cool FM. After returning to New Zealand, Kerton was programme director at Auckland's bFM where he first met larrikin presenter Mike Havoc and newsreader Jeremy 'Newsboy' Wells. In 1997 Havoc and Wells moved their malarkey to television (MTV) with Havocand then to late night on TV2. 

Following the departure of Havoc director Paul Casserly, Kerton came onboard — despite no TV experience — to direct many of Wells and Havoc's follow-up screen (mis)adventures. He worked on Havoc and Newsboy's Sellout Tours, Havoc 2000 Deluxe, Choice! 2002: Havoc and Newsboy's Election Special; plus one of Havoc's solo shows, Havoc in Ibiza and Havoc's final solo series for TV3, Havoc Presents: Quality Time. "I learned on the job," said Kerton. "It was great fun. Just making things up and making them work, no writers!" 

In a 2017 Spinoff interview Kerton praised TVNZ commissioners and executive producers who enabled his team to reach their (youth) audience: " [They] would look at what we were doing and go 'I have no idea why that’s funny or why you wanna do that, but off you go'." Kerton suspects he was hired to bring some semblance of control, but Havoc and Newsboy "just did what they did and I just made sure that it got finished in time". Escapades that attracted controversy include visiting a Blenheim spy base and a Christchurch man who stapled his testicles to a heavy wooden crucifix and set it alight for a $100 bar tab. While at TVNZ Kerton also directed shows presented by weatherman Jim Hickey (the second season of A Flying Visit), and Charlotte Dawson (Relive the 80s, from 2003). 

In 2004 Kerton got the chance to mix his radio presenting and TV directing/writing skills on a new Greenstone TV2 observational documentary series: Neighbours at War. The show was a quirky Kiwi take on a UK concept: take a seemingly unsolvable dispute over a boundary/fence/driveway, and get a famous Kiwi to mediate between the two sides. Mediators included Mark Sainsbury, John Key and Tariana Turia. In 2006 Kerton returned to his radio roots, becoming breakfast producer at The Rock whilst directing the second series of Neighbours at War.

Neighbours at War would go on to become an unlikely Kiwi TV institution, running for eight seasons until 2015. Kerton’s narration became an indelible part of the experience. Kerton recalls that it was initially just a gig for him, but he grew to love the vision of Aotearoa the show presented.

He told The Spinoff's Calum Henderson in 2017: "[Early in the show's run] I went to Mangere and met this lovely couple who thought their neighbours, because they were Fijian Indians, were eating the cats that were going missing. And I remember sitting there with them talking to them and thinking on the way back 'this is freakin' gold'. This is where I want to be, y'know, just talking to ordinary people and finding out what makes them tick ..."

Along with emotion worn on its sleeve, Neighbours at War was known for its cheesy music, awkward moments and lots of voice-over. They're choices that Kerton says were intentional, designed to give the show a distinctly "strange" Kiwi sense of humour. The style was personified in Kerton’s voice-overs: "New Zealand: Home to four million ordinary hard-working New Zealanders. We love The Warehouse, sexual intercourse, rugby and going round to the neighbours for barbecue on Sunday." 

As well as narrating, Kerton directed the first four seasons of the show. "Invariably you’ll go to do these stories and they’ll be something you never expected. Something you just could not make up. They’ll have a habit, or a pet or something. Invariably there’s something unusual." 

In 2017 he directed Greenstone series Gutsful, documenting the gripes of more Kiwi battlers for TV2. The Spinoff's Calum Henderson assessed the show as having "key Kerton characteristics: the wry, deadpan narration, the eagle eye for a funny or absurd detail, the genuine warmth and affection for his often quite eccentric subjects." 

His voice has provided commentary for Piha RescueBogans and House HuntThe Spinoff argued that Kerton’s "genius" narration on the latter enabled one of the show’s subjects to shine, allowing "him room to grow into a strange, obsessed caricature, ranting constantly about tiles". 

Kerton has also spent time directing in the edit suite; he's accrued a string of post production directing and writing credits on popular factual programmes from Meet the Frockers, Food Truck and Coast New Zealand, to Motorway Patrol, Redwood Kings (for Animal Planet) and Renters.

Profile published on 12 November 2018 

Sources include
Bill Kerton
Paul Casserly, 'TV's best quotes: 'Has anyone been tasered before?' - The NZ Herald, 9 August 2015
Duncan Greive, 'Television: Feature – Neighbours at War Lays Down its Guns' The Spinoff website. Loaded 1 October 2015. Accessed 9 November 2018
Calum Henderson, 'The telly legend being Neighbours at War is back with a brand new show' (Interview) The Spinoff, website. Loaded 10 May 2017. Accessed 9 November 2018