Since starting her scriptwriting career on Shortland Street in 1997, Kate McDermott has worked on everything from Being Eve and Mercy Peak to the first five seasons of Go Girls. She also created chaotic family comedy Step Dave. Along the way she has brought her touch for black comedy to Outrageous Fortune and multi award-winning short This is Her.
It starts with three writers sitting in a room laughing and sweating and crying and stressing ... Kate McDermott on the genesis of Go Girls, in a 2011 interview for blog Wellywood Woman
TV3 series Outrageous Fortune had six memorable seasons. Award-winning prequel Westside takes the West family back to where it all began — to legendary safecracker Ted West (David de Lautour), and his fiery wife Rita (Antonia Prebble from Outrageous). Each episode of series one is set in a particular year of the 1970s. Season two moves to the 1981 Springbok Tour; the third, set in 1982, introduced a teen Cheryl West. Combining romance, crime and West family folklore with real life events, Westside was created by James Griffin and Rachel Lang, the duo behind the original.
Twenty-four year-old barman Dave finds his life turned upside down when he meets the girl of his dreams — Cara, 14 years his senior, and the owner of three kids. Over two seasons, the light-hearted drama explored whether their live-in relationship could survive the weight of low expectations, and her unruly family. Created by Kate McDermott (This is Her), Step Dave starred Swedish emigre Sia Trokenheim (2014 film Everything we Loved) and Brit born Jono Kenyon. Interest in the format encompassed the Ukraine — which remade the show in 2016 — France, Hungary and Greece.
In the first episode of comedy drama Step Dave, solo Mum Cara (Sia Trokenheim) finds herself rescued by womanising barman Dave (Jono Kenyon), after a disastrous blind date ends in a sprained ankle. Dave is convinced he's met 'the one'. Cara's daughters and mother in-law (Lisa Harrow) are horrified. And Cara fears there isn't enough time in her busy life for a man who calls her favourite song "ancient". Meanwhile Dave's flatmate is falling for the workmate who has stolen his desk. Created by Kate McDermott, Step Dave screened for two seasons — and was later remade in Russia.
In this 13 episode series by veteran TV scriptwriters Rachel Lang and James Griffin (creators of Outrageous Fortune, The Almighty Johnsons) Outrageous stars Antonia Prebble and Siobhan Marshall are cast east into Auckland's CBD, where they team up to solve a murder. Along the way the odd couple (office temp and victim's best friend) unite to unravel dubious goings-on in the post-crash Auckland financial world, and team up the people working behind the scenes against the corruption. The 2013 series was produced by Chris Bailey for South Pacific Pictures.
Nothing Trivial was a dramedy that kept score on the lives and loves of five friends in a pub quiz team called Sex on a Stick. The cast of City Lifers shifted to the suburbs and nearing middle age was led by Shane Cortese, Tandi Wright, Nicole Whippy, Debbie Newby-Ward and Blair Strang. Created by Rachel Lang and Gavin Strawhan, (the veteran writers behind Go Girls, Maddigan’s Quest, and Mercy Peak) the popular South Pacific Pictures production screened for three seasons on TV ONE. A fan-driven campaign saw NZ On Air fund a tele-movie to wrap up the series.
After success with short films (This is Her, Redemption) director Katie Wolfe made the transition to longer length story-telling with this 2010 drama. With This is Her writer Kate McDermott she adapted the Witi Ihimaera novel about a 40-something man confronting his double life, and the impact that his coming out as gay has on his wife, kids, and whānau. A key change was turning the book’s Pākehā protagonist to a successful Māori businessman (Calvin Tuteao). It screened on TV One on 23 January 2010 and at festivals internationally (where it was entitled Kawa).
Rachel Lang and Gavin Strawhan created Go Girls out of a desire for an upbeat show about "people who liked each other". Audiences liked the characters too: the show ran five seasons, after introducing us to a group of 20-something friends, each aiming to make a major life-change in the next year. Over five series various romantic adventures ensued, and the core cast of Anna Hutchison, Alix Bushnell, Bronwyn Turei, Jay Ryan and Matt Whelan were joined by others — before finally departing altogether, with one final season revolving around a new cast of wanna bes.
Go Girls starts from a twist, a beach and a promise. The twist is that this femme-dominated tale is narrated by a male (Jay Ryan). The promise involves four friends having a drink on the beach, and agreeing to make a major life-change within a year. Amy (Anna Hutchison) wants to be rich; whacky bartender Britta (Alix Bushnell) seeks fame; straight-talking Cody (Bronwyn Turei) wants a hubbie. The intentionally "optimistic, kind" hit show stretched to five seasons. In the backgrounder, co-creator Rachel Lang writes about the show's origins and difficult, rain-sodden birth.
In this first episode of the six part comedy drama, a suburban Mum (Jodie Dorday from movie Via Satellite) reaches the end of her tether with her washed-up rock singer husband Brian (Shane Cortese), and he comes to the end of his life — atop a broken bong. After her three closest friends convince her she’ll face a murder rap, Jodie makes a fateful decision to dispose of the body. The show marked a move into drama for reality TV supremos Eyeworks Touchdown. "Think Sex and the City meets Desperate Housewives in an Outrageous Fortune kind of way." wrote Listener critic Diana Wichtel.
"This is me. This is my husband …" So narrates Evie as she watches her younger self labour with childbirth. "And this is the bitch who will one day steal him, and ruin my life." When the bitch is shown as an angelic six-year-old the tone is set for Katie Wolfe’s award-winning black comedy (her debut short as a director). Writer Kate McDermott’s wry narration moves between then and now, as fate delivers a less than wonderful life in Auckland suburbia. Selected for the Sundance Film Festival, This is Her was a breakout festival success, earning Wolfe notice as a filmmaker to watch.
Television series Ride with the Devil follows a car-mad Chinese immigrant who arrives in New Zealand, and plunges into a world of car racing, burnouts and parties. In this first episode, Lin (Andy Wong, from TV movie Eruption) arrives in Auckland to stay with his aunt and start a business course. But by the end of his first night he finds himself in the middle of the action: trying to win a burnout competition in his cousin's car. Watching on is ex-con Kurt (Xavier Horan from Westside), who runs a custom car workshop. Kurt offers to help Lin get some wheels of his own.
Boy racer drama Ride with the Devil is a rare Kiwi television series to be built around an Asian character. In the second episode, Lin (Andy Wong) finds excitement and humiliation after moving from China to Auckland. He watches his new friend Kurt (Xavier Horan) in action at the race track. Things spin out of control during a party at Kurt's workshop — Lin is humiliated by his cousin after he slips off for some backseat fun with Pony (Anna Hutchison from Go Girls). But there is much worse to come, after a late night drag race goes badly wrong.
In the third episode of Ride with the Devil things rev up at "the holy grail of styley cars"— a car show. Lin and Kurt win attention for their vehicle, but they haven't banked on a visit from the police. Lin must decide whether to front up over a tragic accident. Meanwhile, Wendy (Lynette Forday, who was nominated for a Qantas Best Actress award for the role) discovers that her daughter has many secrets — including running a dodgy website involving the back seat of her car. Director Murray Keane created Ride with the Devil to represent New Zealand's boy racer culture.
In this episode of boy racer drama Ride with the Devil (a rare Kiwi TV drama built around an Asian character), Lin (Andy Wong) faces an uncertain future after telling police he was driving the car that accidentally killed a boy. This episode features Shortland Street veteran Angela Bloomfield, who was nominated for a Qantas award for her portrayal of grieving mother Shona. Meanwhile Wendy (Lynette Forday) reads the riot act to daughter Amy (Kellie Michelle Cheung) who continues to romance garage owner Kurt (Xavier Horan); and Kurt's enemy sees the chance for revenge.
Car-mad Chinese immigrant Lin (Andy Wong) is in a whole heap of trouble in episode five of boy racer drama Ride With The Devil. Not only is he facing deportation for his involvement in a fatal car accident, local tough guy Pinky (Ali Foa'i) plans to deliver some street justice. Amy discovers why her mum Wendy (Lynette Forday) seems to anticipate her every move, but payback for frenemy Pony plays out in an unexpected way. Plus Wendy and driving instructor Graham's mutual attraction hits new heights just as Lin's troubles go into overdrive in the last quarter.
Ride With The Devil brings The Fast and the Furious to Te Atatu. The sixth and final episode of this boy racer drama series features laughter, romance, burnouts and drama in equal measure. Chinese immigrant Lin (Andy Wong) is to be deported from New Zealand for his involvement in a fatal car accident, but there's unfinished business to attend to. Kurt (Xavier Horan) and Lin's mates from the garage celebrate endings and beginnings the only way petrol heads can — by burning serious rubber. At Lin's goodbye dinner new love is celebrated, but there's a brutal twist in the tale.
After her husband is jailed, matriarch Cheryl West (Robyn Malcolm) decides the time has come to set her family on the straight and narrow. But can the Wests change old habits? So begins the six season saga of the Westie dynasty. Hugely popular (beloved by public, critics and awards givers alike), Outrageous Fortune was a flag-bearer for TV3 and New Zealand television drama. The series proved — in all its grow-your-own glory — that television in Aotearoa could mield comedy and drama, and be so much more than overseas stories pasted to a local setting.
Over a two year stint from 2003, the devious Dominic 'Dominator' Thompson (Shane Cortese) did plenty to earn his place in the pantheon of Kiwi soap opera super villains. When his affair with a 16-year-old was revealed, he resorted to drugging his wife, two murders, framing others, and feigning insanity to cover it up. In December 2004, on the cusp of finally being sprung, the show’s evil bad boy lured his rival Chris Warner (Michael Galvin) to a remote barn and prepared to incinerate them both. But as the spectacular second clip reveals, it can be unwise to play with fire ...
Being Eve was a popular and self-aware comedy-drama for teens. It launched the career of actor Fleur Saville, who played 15-year-old teen anthropologist Eve. This excerpt from episode 22 of series two sees angst and ambition collide, as Eve dreams of Hollywood success via a school Shakespeare production. Shakespeare himself makes a cameo (as Eve's muse), while she struggles with her original vision for the classic. But will she be upstaged by Sam? The series later won best drama at the 2005 NZ Screen Awards, and fostered young directing and producing talent.
This quirky, upbeat comedy-drama looked at teen life through the eyes of 15-year-old Eve (Fleur Saville). Something of an amateur teen anthropologist, Eve questions everything in her world, musing on life to the camera. The series' fresh, self-aware style appealed directly to media-savvy teenagers. The TV3 series launched Saville's TV career, fostered young directing and producing talent, won many awards (including Best Drama Series at the 2002 NZ TV Awards) and was nominated for an International Emmy. It sold to over 40 territories, including the United States.
With its mix of quirky characters, lush scenery, and medical drama, Mercy Peak proved to be a winning formula. Produced by John Laing for South Pacific Pictures, and starring a host of NZ acting talent (Tim Balme, Jeffrey Thomas, Renato Bartolomei, et al), Mercy Peak follows the highs and lows of Dr Nicky Somerville (Sara Wiseman), who leaves the big city after discovering her partner’s infidelity. Taking up her new role at the hospital in the tiny town of Bassett, Nicky soon learns that life is full of complexities no matter the population.
Created by Gavin Strawhan and Rachel Lang, Jackson’s Wharf was set in a fictional coastal town and revolved around a sibling rivalry between brothers Frank (the town cop) and Ben Jackson (a big smoke lawyer). Returning with his family, golden boy Ben has controversially inherited the local pub from his recently deceased father. Produced by South Pacific Pictures, the one hour popular drama screened for two seasons. Writer James Griffin and director Niki Caro worked on the show, alongside much of the talent who would later create Mercy Peak and Outrageous Fortune.
Shortland Street is a fast-paced serial drama set in an inner city Auckland hospital. The long-running South Pacific Pictures production is based around the births, deaths and marriages of the hospital's staff and patients. It screens on TVNZ’s TV2 network five days a week. In 2017 the show was set to celebrate its 25th anniversary, making it New Zealand’s longest running drama by far. Characters and lines from the show have entered the culture — starting with “you’re not in Guatemala now, Dr Ropata!” in the very first episode. Mihi Murray writes about Shortland Street here.