Judith Fyfe’s career in broadcasting has placed her before and behind the cameras. A celebrated oral historian, she began her TV career as a reporter, and went on to work on consumer rights show Fair Go and pioneering drama Marching Girls. She was a core element in Gaylene Preston’s respected documentary War Stories, and co-founder of the Oral History Archive at the Alexander Turnbull Library.
All my life in broadcasting I never had ambitions, but I got offered the most wonderful stuff. Judith Fyfe
In Gaylene Preston's documentary, seven elderly women recall their personal experiences of World War II. Their intimate, unadorned stories are filmed talking heads style, interspersed with personal photographs and period newsreel clips. From tragic love stories to long-suppressed revelations of sex and death, War Stories is a revealing touchstone of New Zealand history. It received international acclaim. LA Times writer Kevin Thomas enthused that Preston takes "a simple idea and turns it into a rich, universal experience".
Sunday was one of a number of magazine-style shows to screen on TVNZ, in a weekend morning slot. It was hosted by Radio New Zealand presenter Kathryn Asare, who the previous year had been drafted in to present a similar show, 10AM. Liz Gunn (Breakfast) later took over the reins. Many of the items on Sunday had an arts bent, including pieces on designer/producer Logan Brewer, and La Sagrada Família architect Mark Burry. Sunday is not to be confused with the long-running TVNZ current affairs show of the same name.
After their house explodes and they bump into a gunman, journalist Alf (Temuera Morrision) and his American girlfriend (Beverly Hills Cop’s Lisa Eilbacher) head to the West Coast, on the run from the cops and mysterious forces. The conspiracy plot is mostly an excuse for chases, capers and crashes galore, all imbued with plenty of pell-mell shenanigans (this time heading north in a red Falcon) by Goodbye Pork Pie director Geoff Murphy. The movie marked Temuera Morrison's first big screen starring role. This excerpt sees John Clarke cameo as a used car salesman.
Gloss was a popular Kiwi television drama series made by TVNZ that screened in the late 80s; it combined a wealthy family, the Redferns, with a lucrative high-fashion magazine business. Yuppies, shoulder-pads and méthode champenoise abound in this cult "glamour soap". New Zealanders wanted to see themselves as less bottom of the world and more "here we come and we are sailing" (as the infamous Cup campaign song warbled), and Gloss was just what the era demanded.
The Marching Girls is the seven-part story of a Taita social marching team who decide to have a crack at the North Island Championships. As she writes here, actor/writer Fiona Samuel created the pioneering series out of frustration over a lack of challenging female roles: she declared it was about time the Kiwi "alienated macho dickhead" shared some screen time with women. Synth-rock soundtracks, ghetto blasters, Holden Kingswood taxis and chain-smoking abound in this feminist Flashdance in formation 80s classic.
Peppermint Twist’s pastel-tinted portrait of 60s puberty floated onto New Zealand television screens in 1987. Despite winning a solid teen following, it only lasted for one series. Set amongst a group of teens in small town Roseville (in reality the outdoors set on the edge of Wellington, originally used for Country GP), the show’s stylised look and sound had few Kiwi precedents — though its links to American perennial Happy Days are clear. Peppermint made liberal, and increasingly confident use of period music, with each episode named after a pop song of the day.
The Beginner's Guide... was a series of half-hour documentaries made for TV ONE, and hosted by reporters Ian Johnstone, Caroline McGrath, Judith Fyfe, John Gordon and Philip Alpers. Veteran broadcaster Johnstone described the programmes as going "into areas of life which intrigue, mystify or frighten us". Topics included visiting a marae, prisons, wealth, bankruptcy, GST, the Census, divorce, cancer and the Freemasons. Three series of six episodes and one special screened between 1983 and 1986.
Robin Morrison's photographic work was popular and accessible — he affectionately presented New Zealanders to themselves. The 1981 publication of The South Island of New Zealand from the Road cemented his reputation. The book featured ordinary New Zealanders in the environments they'd created. This documentary by Tony Hiles explores Morrison's earlier work: his gritty Bastion Point and Springbok tour series, and the projects which documented communities on the brink of change.
Popular consumer affairs show Fair Go is one of New Zealand TV's longest-running series. It began in 1977, devised by Brian Edwards and producer Peter Morritt. The TVNZ programme mixes investigative reporting (daring to "name names" and expose rip-off merchants everywhere) with light-hearted segments. Its roster of presenters has included Edwards, Judith Fyfe, Hugo Manson, Philip Alpers, Kerre McIvor (nee Woodham), Carol Hirschfeld, Gordon Harcourt, and longest serving host, Kevin Milne. A perennial favourite segment is the round-up of the year's ad campaigns.
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.
On Camera interviewer Judith Fyfe encounters American jazz bandleader William ‘Count’ Basie (1904 - 1984) on a 1971 NZ tour, 35 years after founding his legendary band. The Count Basie Orchestra defined the big band era, scoring multiple Grammys and backing Holiday, Crosby, Sinatra, King Cole, Bennett and Fitzgerald. In this interview the former silent movie pianist smokes, smiles and seems simultaneously laid-back and a tad testy, as he talks touring and early days, side-steps personal questions and laughs about rain impeding his gee-gees gambling habit in NZ.
NZBC series On Camera was an afternoon magazine show. It screened separately on each of the regional channels, but shared items and interviews. Subjects ranged from Rolf Harris and Alfred Hitchcock to VSA and ballet, and topics “of particular appeal to women”. Presenters included Julie Cunningham (Christchurch), Irvine Lindsay (Wellington) and Sonia King (Auckland), with Max Cryer reporting from Hollywood. Future head of TVNZ Māori programming Ernie Leonard (reporter) got early experience on the show, and future Quiet Earth composer John Charles was a director.