Since debuting in the late 90s as presenter of crime-solving show Crimescene, Dan Henry has gone on to direct a range of non-fiction programmes, from Country Calendar and Here to Stay, to Lost in Libya, the acclaimed tale of the Kiwis who were part of World War II's Long Range Desert Patrol.
It was a real pleasure. They are such gracious men. To have us come into their homes and trawl their memories, and then trust us to treat those memories well in the re-telling of their stories — that’s a big thing. It was great just to sit and spend time with these men and their families. Dan Henry, on interviewing World War II veterans for documentary Lost in Libya
This documentary follows three amateur historians into the heart of the Libyan Sahara as they track the path of ‘T Patrol’, a unit of World War II’s legendary Long Range Desert Group, which included a number of Kiwis. The LRDG braved extreme heat and desert conditions to launch surprise raids deep behind enemy lines in converted Chevrolets. In this excerpt the history hunters make their way to Murzuk, the scene of a raid on an Italian air base. Alongside the only known footage of the desert group in action, surviving members of the patrol recall events, and the LRDG’s ethos.
Here to Stay uses New Zealand personalities to examine key settler groups that make up the Kiwi tribe. Each show mixes personal stories with a wider view, as the presenter sets out to discover what traits and icons their ethnic group contributed to the NZ blend. In the first (of two) series Michael Hurst, Theresa Healey, Ewen Gilmour, Jackie Clarke, Frano Botica and Bernadine Lim explore the English, Irish, German, Scot, Croatian, and Chinese stories respectively. Each episode includes identity reflections from a chorus of well-known Kiwis.
Screening each weekend after TV One's primetime news, Sunday mixes New Zealand stories with reports from overseas. The local contributions have ranged from celebrity interviews, to reports that took months to put together (including award-winning pieces on the 2008 Chinese poisoned milk scandal, and how patients were treated at Porirua Hospital). Over the years, Sunday's roster of journalists has included veterans John Hudson, Janet McIntyre, Ian Sinclair, and current presenter Miriama Kamo. The show has played in both hour and half-hour formats.
In the first all celebrity version of Touchdown reality TV hit Treasure Island, 14 marooned contestants must provide food, water, fire, and shelter for themselves on a Fijian island, as they compete to find treasure and avoid elimination. Presented by Pieta Keating — who was runner-up on the original Treasure Island — the "household names" include Olympians and All Blacks (Frank Bunce), model Nicky Watson, actors and TV tradesman John Cocks. Hunger and cheating suspicions soon exacerbate tensions between the teams.
Treasure Island was an early local example of a reality show staple — contestants endured the great outdoors, and each other. Over nine seasons the series went through multiple variations, including a Couples at War season, and another featuring favourites from the past. During the 2004 season of Celebrity Treasure Island, contestant Lana Coc-Kroft was airlifted from Fiji, after she cut her foot on coral and got a life-threatening blood-poisoning disease. On 2002's Treasure Island: Extreme, Barrie Rice — an ex SAS soldier — dealt with being eliminated by hiding in the jungle.
The iconic all-things-rural show is the longest running programme on New Zealand television. With its typical patient observational style (that allows stories of people and the land to gently unfold) it’s an unlikely broadcasting star, but New Zealanders continue, after 50 plus years, to tune in. Amongst the bucolic tales of farming, fishing and forestry, there are high country musters, floods, organic brewing, falconry, tobacco farming, as well as a fencing wire-playing farmer-musician, a radio-controlled dog, and Fred Dagg and the Trevs.