Jim Hopkins's screen career has ranged from science reporting to shed anthropology. The long-time public speaker has been an NZ Herald columnist, talkback radio host, “thoroughly boring” Waitaki district councillor, and author (Blokes & Sheds). Though his television encounters have often been quirky or comedic, Hopkins has also multiple stints as a reporter (including 1980s science show Fast Forward).
...that whole debating thing that exploded in the late 60s, early 70s, I do think it was one of the parents of stand-up [in New Zealand]. Jim Hopkins
Funny As traces the history of New Zealand comedy through archive footage, and extensive interviews with local comedy talent. Debuting on TVNZ 1 in July 2019, the five-part series explores how Kiwis "have used comedy to navigate decades of profound cultural change". Funny As touches on everything from live and musical comedy, to pioneers of Kiwi screen humour (e.g. Fred Dagg, Lynn of Tawa) and the hit exports of later years (Flight of the Conchords, Rose Matafeo). The series was made by production/creative agency Augusto, and produced by comedy veteran Paul Horan.
Jim Hopkins presents this documentary — based on his bestselling book — about backyard inventors and their inventions. Some of these “sheddies” are seeking their fortunes, but others seem to simply derive a quiet satisfaction from their ingenuity. They might come from a tradition of number eight wire, string and chewing gum, but amphibious planes and hovercraft feature prominently (with one basement boasting a wind tunnel). A rural bent extends to fence brackets, gate openers, shearing tables, possum pluckers and a serious rat trap (designed by a poet).
Blokes 'n' Sheds is a documentary where you'll find the content is exactly as titled: a tour of selected New Zealand blokes in their sheds, with the affable Jim Hopkins as tour guide. Based on Hopkins' best-selling book Blokes and Sheds (1998) the television version was made with the direct uncomplicated style that is a hallmark of Dunedin's Taylormade Productions. The contents of the sheds in question include vintage cars, oversize traction engines, a self-designed plane, and an old paddle-boat from the Whanganui River.
In this documentary, Kiwi icon Lynn of Tawa (Ginette McDonald) — she of mangled vowel fame — goes on the prowl in search of the ultimate Kiwi bloke. The girl from the suburbs explores the gamut of masculine mythology, from Man Alone to mateship, and asks "can a woman ever be a mate?". Made when the good keen man was facing up to the challenge from SNAGs, the documentary travels from the West Coast (for sex education) to a men's club, from rugby scrums to rabbit culls, and meets hunters, lawyers and gay ten-pin bowlers. The opening credits mispell Lynn as Lyn.
Gibson Group production Public Eye was inspired by the British series, Spitting Image. Latex puppets caricature topical personalities, mostly drawn from the world of politics (Ruth Richardson, Helen Clark, Winston Peters etc). Their foibles are duly skewered in fast-moving comic skits such as the 'Ruatoria Rasta' segment, 'The White Way' and 'Honky Tanga'. The wickedly grotesque puppets were based on drawings by cartoonist Trace Hodgson, and built by a team headed by future Weta FX maestro, Richard Taylor.
In this excerpt from TVNZ's 1980s science and technology series, reporter Jim Hopkins visits a West Auckland boatyard where one of the world's biggest single-masted yachts is being built. Construction of the multi-million dollar, 122 foot long Aquell (later Vainqueur), is state of the art for the times although decades of subsequent America's Cup boats have taken some of the lustre from revolutionary materials like Kevlar and carbon fibre. Then again, not every yacht comes complete with twin 350 horsepower diesel engines, two bedrooms and an onboard jacuzzi.
Reporter Jim Hopkins nudges Country Calendar territory as he looks at a new way of weighing sheep in TVNZ's 1980s science and technology show, Fast Forward. His subject, the Warp 485, is a labour saving device which will allow one farmer and a "good dog" to weigh and draft 600 sheep an hour, and deliver stock of the desired weight to the works at the right time of the year. Hopkins has a few visual tricks up his sleeve (including some stop frame animation) but largely contents himself with throwing in as many variations of weigh/way as he can muster.
Mid-1980s series Then Again revisited high profile moments in Kiwi history, mixing archive material and interviews with those who were there. This item from a 1986 episode looks back at the Strongman mine explosion of 19 January 1967, which killed 19 men at New Zealand's largest underground coal mine. Twenty years on reporter Jim Hopkins visits the still-working West Coast mine, to see if ghosts still linger. An official inquiry found that the state-run coal mine had neglected safety procedures; the Government paid compensation to families of the victims.
This Christchurch-based TVNZ science and technology show put science in primetime in the 1980s (notably on Friday nights before Coronation Street). The successor to Science Express, it sought to explain how science was changing everyday NZ life; and reporters (including Jim Hopkins, Liz Grant, Peter Llewellyn and Julie Colquhoun) attempted to engage the public without alienating the scientific community, and vice versa. Its run ended in 1989 when TVNZ decided it couldn't compete with the runaway success of Australian counterpart Beyond 2000.
Long before Look Who's Famous Now and 2014's There and Back, TVNZ series Then Again traced its own line from past to present. Hosted by Annie Whittle, the series combined where-are-they-now style interviews with footage from the archives, including that unfortunate weightlifting incident at the 1974 Commonwealth Games. Among the names to feature were sportspeople (Sylvia Potts, Graham May), broadcasters (Colin Broadley, Peter Harcourt) and celebrity quins (the Lawsons).
Magazine show Weekend dates from an era just before NZ television underwent major change: the series ended shortly before the finish of ad-free Sundays, and new competition from TV3 in 1989. The mainstay of each extended live show was journalist Gordon McLauchlan, who took the time to introduce items over a cup of tea, and handled studio interviews. Joining him at various points was Kerry Smith, Judy McIntosh, Terry Carter, and food/wine expert Vic Williams. Weekend won three Listener awards for Best Factual Series; in 1987 McLauchlan was named Best Presenter.
What Now? is a long-running entertainment show for primary school-aged children. Filmed before a live studio audience on weekend mornings, What Now? is a New Zealand TV institution; it was the first TV show to have live phone-ins. The series is known for its challenges that sometimes result in participants being 'gunged'. A roll-call of presenters includes Steve Parr, Danny Watson, Simon Barnett, Jason Gunn, Michelle A'Court, Tamati Coffey, Antonia Prebble, and more. 'Get out of your Lazy Bed' by Matt Bianco is the theme song memorable to generations of Kiwi kids.
TV1 celebrated Christmas by throwing most of its big names into this 1977 comedy/variety show. Ringleaders Roger Gascoigne and Nice One Stu's Stu Dennison are joined by a cavalcade of newsreaders hiding under Santa beards. Among the loopy 70s oddities on show: Brian Edwards in school uniform, channelling The Goons; Selwyn Toogood doing an It's in the Bag sketch that would nowadays likely be deemed too un-PC to make it to air; plus racehorse expert Glyn Tucker talking reindeer races. Madcap band Mother Goose also appear.
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.