In the late 1970s actor and singer Marcus Craig ( aka Diamond Lil) popularised the glittering world of drag for mainstream New Zealand. His hit cabaret act featured talents like Billy T James and Tina Cross; his duet with Fred Dagg made the pop charts. His television credits include satirical series Something to Look Forward to, various guest slots and the role of co-host on variety show Top of the World.
Every joke Lil’s ever told has a double meaning. If they get the wrong one, that’s their business. Marcus Craig in The New Zealand Woman’s Weekly, 22 June 1981
Merv Smith, Rob Campbell, Diamond Lil, and Mary Mountier are the guests on this 1980s chat show. Host Cathy Saunders talks to Smith about 20 years as Auckland’s number one radio host, before Smith takes over to interview Diamond Lil (aka female impersonator Marcus Craig), in a segment littered with innuendo. Campbell covers the contradictions of being a unionist on the BNZ board, and horse racing expert Mountier talks Kiwi thoroughbreds. Also appearing are Limbs Dance Company, Wellington band Hot Cafe, and 1985 Telequest winner Sharon Cunningham.
American journalist George Plimpton was a pioneer of ‘participatory journalism’; writing stories describing his experiences trying on the shoes of boxer, comedian and trapeze artist. In Kiwi TV series The Deep End, reporter Bill Manson tested himself by taking turns as a professional wrestler, female impersonator, captain of a navy frigate, and so-called Mum to a family of 18 kids, among others. The globe-travelling journalist later said the show was one of the projects that remained dearest to his heart, despite — or because of — its mixture of joy and terror.
Local news was a staple of pre-network 1960s NZ television, and retained its popularity in the network era. The amalgamation of TV1 and SPTV in 1980 produced regional shows The South Tonight and The Mainland Touch in the South Island, and Today Tonight in Wellington. Top Half covered the area spanning from Turangi to North Cape. It was presented for six years by the "dream team" of John Hawkesby and Judy Bailey (latter succeeded by Natalie Brunt in 1986). Amid some controversy, regional news on TVNZ was eased out by Holmes and the arrival of a new era of TV.
They came, they battered, they bickered. Peter Hudson and David Halls were as famous for their on-screen spats as they were for their recipes. The couple ("are we gay - well we're certainly merry") turned cooking into comedy. Their self-titled show ran for a decade on New Zealand TV and it attracted a cult following when they moved the show to the UK. The duo won Entertainer of the Year at the 1981 Feltex Awards. Microwaves, little roasted nuts and great dollops of innuendo: the sometimes fusty genre of TV culinary demonstration would never be the same.
Kaleidoscope was a magazine-style arts series which ran from 30 July 1976 until 1989. Running for many years in a 90 minute format, the show tried varied approaches over its run, from an initial mix of local and international items — including live performances — to episodes which focused on a single artist or topic. In the early 80s Kaleidoscope collected three Feltex awards for Speciality Programme. Hosts over the years included initial presenter Jeremy Payne, newsreader Angela D'Audney, future Auckland music professor Heath Lees, and Warratahs fiddler Nic Brown.
Telethon was a 24-hour live television spectacular aimed at securing donations from viewers for a charitable cause. The first, in 1975, launched the second channel (TV2) and raised over half a million dollars for St John's Ambulance. By 1981 Telethon had hit the $5 million mark. Along with willing local celebrities, volunteers and a receptive public, it attracted overseas stars: Basil Brush, Entertainment Tonight's Leeza Gibbons and Coronation Street's Christopher Quinton (who famously got together after the 1988 show). "Thank you very much for your kind donation!"
Town Cryer was New Zealand's first live talk show to play to a national audience (Peter Sinclair had earlier hosted a late night regional chat show). Although enthused, local audiences took a while to believe it wasn't prerecorded. Over 64 episodes, Max Cryer persuaded both local and international names to join him, including actors, sports stars, Robert Muldoon — and an emotional appearance by singer Larry Morris, hours after finishing a prison sentence for drugs. In 1977 Town Cryer morphed into an afternoon show, shorn of its musical performances; by year's end it was gone.
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.