Producer, Director, Executive
Trained at Ilam School of Fine Arts, John McDonald cut his teeth directing at TVNZ in the 80s before producing sport for Sky TV. An OE producing at MTV Asia was followed by roles for Screentime. Since joining Mediaworks (TV3) in 2000, he has led an award-winning run of live coverage (Fight for Life, Rugby World Cup, the NZ Music Awards) and comedy. He is Head of In-House Production at Mediaworks.
On shows such as The X Factor and Dancing with the Stars, it pays to expect the unexpected. Something surprising almost always happens, and how you respond to it either improves or diminishes the broadcast outcome. John McDonald, on the challenges of producing live event television
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern shows off her comedy prowess in this Funny Girls special, celebrating 125 years of Kiwi women attaining the right to vote. Ardern corrects the blatant lies of "Pauline the producer" (Jackie van Beek), and puts up with Pauline kissing her. This episode is a who's who of female Kiwi comedians, featuring (for the first time) live stand-up alongside the sketches — including Justine Smith and Billy T winners Melanie Bracewell and Angella Dravid. The Suffragette Special followed series three.
Fresh from embarrassing the principal (Miranda Harcourt) on national television in season one of web series Lucy Lewis Can't Lose, Lucy Lewis (Thomasin McKenzie) discovers the school has gone Instagram crazy in series two. With her peers hooked on finding out who is labelled best and worst dressed, the fashion apathetic Lucy takes it upon herself to rid the school of this new cyberbullying…with some unintended results. When the whole school turns on her, Lucy's mates Ruby (Celia MacDonald) and Dave (Rāhiri Wharerau) help with a grand plan to set things right.
After being elected school representative against the odds — and certainly against her will — Lucy Lewis (Thomasin Mckenzie) must find a way to rid herself of the responsibility. Then she discovers an evil scheme by the principal (played by McKenzie’s real life mother Miranda Harcourt) to rake in cash at the students’ expense. Suddenly Lucy's new position provides an opportunity to foil the plot… if she can keep it. But winning over her peers could be tricky. McKenzie went on to co-star in American feature Leave No Trace, and act in Taika Waititi movie Jojo Rabbit.
It's Friday 4th December, 2015 and panel series 7 Days is celebrating its 200th episode with a live audience at the Auckland Town Hall. Everyone is up for a party, and nothing says 'party' more than guest Tim Shadbolt jumping out of a giant cardboard cake. The recipe is the same, but longer: two teams of comedians lead by regulars Paul Ego and Dai Henwood compete for wildly erratic points, but for this episode 7 Days becomes 7 Years, as the panel riff off news stories dating from 2009 when their first episode aired, through to 2015. Jon Toogood and choir Viva Voce guest star.
In this excerpt from the 2015 final of reality show Dancing with the Stars, broadcaster and former What Now? host Simon Barnett brings drama and excellent cape work to his paso doble with partner Vanessa Cole. The routine won a perfect score from judges Candy Lane, Stefano Olivieri and Hayley Holt, and sealed the series win for the couple. In true showbiz style it was no easy road for Barnett; early negative feedback and a nasty knee injury stalled his progress, but combining 80s anthem 'Eye of the Tiger' with Cole's sharp choreography proved a winning strategy.
British producer Simon Cowell launched hit talent show The X Factor in 2004, after leaving Pop Idol. In April 2013 the Kiwi version debuted on TV3, after 6,000 hopefuls auditioned. Presented by Dominic Bowden, the first season was won by Jackie Thomas. She had survived elimination earlier on, after a campaign by judge and mentor Daniel Bedingfield. In 2015 Beau Monga won the second season. That year, judge Natalia Kills called contestant Joe Irvine "disgusting" for supposedly copying the look of her husband, fellow judge Willy Moon. The couple were fired the next day.
The first New Zealand final of The X Factor features emotional highs and lows, and judge's compliments aplenty. Three young singers made it through in 2013: Whenua Patuwai, Jackie Thomas and Benny Tipene. All would achieve NZ top three singles within weeks of the final. Among the highlights of the 95 minute special: Tipene's acoustic version of 'Hey Ya!', Patuwai's 'A Change is Gonna Come' and Thomas's emotional last number — not to mention the showstopping opening: Daft Punk's 'Get Lucky', featuring 13 finalists, an acrobat, and two dancers wearing mirrorball heads.
Reality series The Ridges follows the lives of socialite and interior designer Sally Ridge and her daughter Jaime. Sally and 19-year-old Jaime face the challenge of moving into and renovating a rundown 13 bedroom Auckland villa. Meanwhile Jaime trains hard for a charity boxing match with another reality TV personality, Rosanna Arkle from The GC. The six-part series ran on TV3 for one season. The first episode features the much remembered moment where Sally and Jaime encountered a mouse. Jaime was the only one of her three siblings to feature in the show.
In 2012 television pranksters and funny boys Jono Pryor and Ben Boyce remixed the best elements of their popular shows Pulp Sport and The Jono Project, to concoct Jono and Ben at Ten. Three's satirical news and entertainment series ran for seven seasons. Comedians Guy Williams, Rose Matafeo and Laura Daniel also featured. The series began life on a Friday night at 10pm, before moving to a Thursday 7:30pm slot in 2015 (when the title was shortened to Jono and Ben). Despite a fan petition to 'uncancel', the last episode aired on 15 November 2018.
Combining sketches, pranks and parodies, Jono and Ben at Ten quickly gained popularity after it hit the airwaves in 2012. Critics praised the Jono Pryor (The Jono Project) and Ben Boyce (Pulp Sport) hosted series as one of the top shows that year. In this first episode, Pryor and Boyce hold their own Olympic Games, prank clothing store customers and get child versions of themselves to ask celebrities the hard questions. Meanwhile, comedian Guy Williams sings goodbye to rugby player Sonny Bill Williams at a press conference. The TV3 series was renamed Jono and Ben in 2015.
Interior designer and socialite Sally Ridge opened up her home — and life — to television cameras for this TV3 reality series. Episode one opens with Ridge and 19-year-old daughter Jaime moving from their plush home into a huge, rundown villa. Sally and self-confessed "clean freak" Jaime leap onto chairs after they discover a plump mouse running around their new kitchen. Sally bemoans having to rip up carpet on her own and deal with a huge renovation project. None of Sally's three other children — two to Adam Parore, and one to Matthew Ridge — appear in the series.
Since debuting in 2009, award-winning panel series 7 Days has introduced a range of Kiwi comedy talents to television audiences. Three's show takes an irreverent look at the past week in the news, with regular segments like “my kid could draw that” and “what’s the taxi driver talking about”. Jeremy Corbett hosts; the two teams of regular and guest comedians have included Paul Ego, Dai Henwood, Ben Hurley and Urzila Carlson. The show echoes the format of Britain's long-running Mock the Week. Corbett has described 7 Days as the comedy show he's always wanted to make.
Based on a UK reality format, Dancing with the Stars sees a line-up of celebrities paired with a professional dance partner, and put through ballroom dance routines. Judges and a public vote eliminate a pair each week. A five time winner of best programme in its category, the show played for five hit seasons on TVNZ, hosted by Jason Gunn and Candy Lane. In 2015 it was relaunched by Great Southern TV for TV3; Dominic Bowden and Sharyn Casey hosted. Dai Henwood and Casey presented the seventh series in 2018. Winners have included Norm Hewitt and and Suzanne Paul.
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.
Smash Palace is a Kiwi cinema classic and launched Roger Donaldson's American career. Al Shaw (a brilliant, brooding Bruno Lawrence) is a racing car driver who now runs a wrecker's yard in the shadow of Mount Ruapehu. His French wife Jacqui is unhappy there and leaves him, taking up with Al's best mate. When she restricts Al's access to his young daughter, his frustration explodes and he goes bush with the girl, desperate not to lose her too. "There's no road back" runs the tagline. New Yorker critic Pauline Kael called the film "amazingly accomplished".