The late Huntly Eliott segued into television in the early 70s, after producing and acting in, a host of radio plays. He would go on to make his name in children's television, eventually rising to become TVNZ's head of children's programming. Eliott passed away in May 2000.
He was always passionate about the genre and never lost his enthusiasm for developing ideas and programme types for this very special audience: children. Fellow children's show producer Kim Gabara
Recorded in varied locations across New Zealand, Praise Be mixed choral contributions and biblical readings. Though its siblings Country Calendar and Fair Go are even older, Praise Be ranked among New Zealand’s longest-running television shows. The Sunday worship show played from 1986 to 2016, apart from two years off air in the mid 2000s. Veteran broadcaster Graeme Thomson presented the show for its first two decades, before he passed away in 2008; then the show was hosted by Chris Nichol, a Presbyterian minister and veteran of TVNZ’s Religious Programmes Unit.
TVNZ series Viewfinder was aimed at making news and current affairs accessible to a teen audience. Topics ranged from underage drinking to the new breakdancing craze, to a campaign to see School Certificate exam papers after they had been marked. Reports were filed by the show's three presenters. Over the show's run these included Phillipa Dann (in her first presenting gig), Uelese Petaia (star of 1979 movie Sons for the Return Home), David Hindley (also a gay rights campaigner) and Michael Barry. The show's distinctive synthesiser opening infiltrated many young minds.
In April 1984 Poi-E was atop the NZ music charts, with ‘Jo the breakdancer’ starring in the song's music video. So it's apt that this edition of the TVNZ youth show looks at “the craze currently sweeping New Zealand — breakdancing”. In her first presenting gig, future MTV host Phillipa Dann heads to Mangere to bop and head-spin. Elsewhere in this season opener, David Hindley reports on a School Certificate controversy, and why young drivers are dying on country roads. Co-presenting back in Viewfinder’s Dunedin studio is Uelese Petaia (star of movie Sons for the Return Home).
Charlie is about to die. His wife is playing prison guard, stopping visitors. She wants to score him a christian grave. But Charlie would prefer a drink. It it is time for blunt honesty — which means more battles with his wife, insulting the kids, and making sure his funeral involves the ocean. One of the last things legendary playwright Bruce Mason wrote before his death in 1982, Do Not Go Gentle also offers a rare central role for veteran Bill Johnson, fresh from playing villain in Under the Mountain. Late children’s TV talent Huntly Eliott cameos as the priest.
TVNZ's Loose Enz series was a series of 12 stand-alone dramas made in the early 1980s. This episode, directed by television trailblazer Caterina De Nave, chronicles married life for two neighboring couples who have very different relationship dynamics. Mary (a rare starring role for Shirley Duke) is trying to move into the working world now that her kids have grown up, much to the irritation of her controlling husband David. The couple next door have a much more equal relationship. Increasingly dark, this episode is a trenchant criticism of patriarchical mores of the time.
Count Homogenized, the vanilla-clad vampire with a lust for milk made his debut on this ghost-flavoured children's series, before moving on to star in his own show. Russell Smith's portrayal of the mischievous The Count has lodged itself in the hearts of many Kiwi kids of a certain vintage and has become an — absolute original — icon of NZ TV. True Blood has nothing on The Count and his unending search for bovine liquid sustenance!
Pioneering soap opera Close To Home first screened in May 1975. For just over eight years, middle New Zealand found their mirror in the life and times of Wellington’s Hearte clan. At its peak in 1977, nearly one million viewers tuned in twice weekly to watch the series, which was co-created by Michael Noonan and Tony Isaac. They initially only agreed to make it on condition they got approval for The Governor. The popular family saga carved a regular niche for local drama on screen; the demands of creating a regular show helped develop the skills of Kiwi actors and crew.
Launched in February 1974, Spot On was an award-winning education-focused magazine programme for children. Presenters who got their break on the beloved show included Ian Taylor, Danny Watson, Phil Keoghan and Ole Maiava. Keoghan went on to global fame as host of The Amazing Race; Taylor now heads up Taylormade Productions and Animation Research Ltd. The show was created by Murray Hutchinson. Producer Michael Stedman later became head of the Natural History Unit. Peter Jackson and Robert Sarkies entered Spot On’s annual Young Filmmaker competition.
Play School was an iconic educational programme for pre-school children, which was first produced in Auckland from 1972, then Dunedin from 1975. The format included songs, a story, craft, a calendar, a clock and a look outside Play School via the shaped windows. But the toys, Big Ted, Little Ted, Jemima, Humpty and Manu, were the real stars of the show. The title sequence ("Here's a house ...") and music were a call to action recognised by generations of Kiwis. Presenters included actors Rawiri Paratene and Theresa Healey, Russell Smith and future MP Jacqui Hay.