Although best known as a stand-up comedian, Michèle A'Court's television experience is wide. Training in journalism and a degree in English Literature and Drama proved useful on her first two screen gigs: as a writer/presenter on kids show What Now?, and as a reporter on youth news series The Video Dispatch. Since then A'Court has acted (Shortland Street, Go Girls), narrated documentaries, and written books. Her many comedy awards include the NZ Comedy Guild Female Comedian of the Decade in 2010. A'Court has appeared on TV's Pulp Comedy, 7 Days and The Project; she writes a long-running column for Stuff.
I've never thought of television as intrinsically evil. I think of it as a library, providing access to some of the finest things human beings can create. It’s where, as a child growing up at the bottom of the world, I first saw the work of the world’s best actors, writers, comics, musicians, and dancers. Michèle A'Court on the positives of television, in The NZ Herald, 28 February 2009
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.
On 11 December 2015 the morning telly watching nation mourned the end of a long-running TV One staple. Good Morning’s 9000 hours spanned nearly two decades, from faxes to Facebook. In this final episode, presenters Jeanette Thomas, Matai Smith and Astar wrangle a two-hour curtain call of ex-hosts. Included are the last Men’s Panel, cooking bloopers, and of course, advertorials (with a Suzanne Paul tribute, and a promo for Stiffy fabric stiffener). There’s tautoko to the show’s te reo, support for the arts, and disaster appeals, and Shortland Street's Will Hall lip synchs to Def Leppard.
This cheese-themed episode from the second series of the animated show is musically narrated by Kiwi cartoon icons Ches And Dale (both voiced by Outrageous Fortune’s Frank Whitten). The duo join Stanley and Mary-Jane on a pipe into Drainworld, where they battle Dr Drain’s plans to use cheese to convert an army of rats to his evil plans. Created by Jim Mora (Mucking In) and Brent Chambers of Flux Animation, the first series marked New Zealand TV’s first international animation co-production; the second season of Staines Down Drains was produced by Flux for TVNZ.
Auckland's home of stand-up comedy, The Classic theatre in Queen Street, is the subject of this "behind the scenes" mockumentary TV series. Anchored by MC Brendhan Lovegrove, episodes follow a night's performances; onstage routines are intercut with action from the green room and front of house. The line between reality and self-deprecatory fiction is blurry, with the participants happy to send themselves up. Show biz glamour is in short supply and, at times, it's preferable to look just about anywhere except the screen. A second series screened in 2012.
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.
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.
Here to Stay uses New Zealand personalities to examine key settler groups that make up the Kiwi tribe. Each show mixes personal stories with a wider view, as the presenter sets out to discover what traits and icons their ethnic group contributed to the NZ blend. In the first (of two) series Michael Hurst, Theresa Healey, Ewen Gilmour, Jackie Clarke, Frano Botica and Bernadine Lim explore the English, Irish, German, Scot, Croatian, and Chinese stories respectively. Each episode includes identity reflections from a chorus of well-known Kiwis.
This animated series for kids follows the adventures of germaphobic Stanley and feisty Mary-Jane. Sucked down a plughole into ‘Drainworld’, they help a plethora of plumbing creatures battle Dr Drain. Created by Jim Mora (Mucking In) and Brent Chambers, the series was NZ’s first official international animated co-production (between Chambers’ Flux Animation and Australian studio Flying Bark, run by Yoram Gross). The first series of 26 episodes screened on TV2 (NZ) and Channel Seven (Australia), and sold internationally. The NZ Herald called it “flush with fun”.
Subtitled A Journalist's View, this award-winning documentary makes the case that Scott Watson shouldn't have been imprisoned for murdering Ben Smart and Olivia Hope — because he couldn't have done it. Returning to Endeavour Inlet, veteran director Keith Hunter talks to witnesses, and argues the prosecution fumbled vital details of the murderer's yacht and description, then advanced a new theory without evidence to back it. Hunter went on to write 2007 book Trial by Trickery, further critiquing what he calls “New Zealand's most blatantly dishonest prosecution”.
Christmas time can mix joy and stress in equal measure. Both feature in this documentary, which follows four New Zealand families in the lead up to Christmas Day celebrations. Jenny Johnson is preparing for an "old-fashioned" Christmas with her two adult daughters back in town, while the Hinds children adjust to Christmas post divorce. The Thayer family remind us that no one loves Christmas more than kids, but for Piripi and his grandparents the focus is spiritual, not material. As the day arrives, presents are ripped open and new memories are formed.
Tamatoa the Brave Warrior follows the adventures of a young Māori adventurer and his talkative pals Moko (the tuatara), Manu (the moa) and Kereru (the kereru). In this episode Tamatoa's chances of entering the great river race look dim after Aunty Hana forces him to guard the kumara patch instead. Tamatoa reluctantly obeys, and finds himself caught up battling some crazed pukeko who want to use the kumara as a rugby ball. There may still be time to race... The series of ten minute episodes was created by the prolific Flux Animation Studios.
This animated series follows the adventures of Tamatoa, his cousin Moana and their animal mates Manu the moa, Moko the tuatara and Kereru the kereru. In this episode Tamatoa sets out with Moko and Kereru after his uncle tells him about an island where the pipi grow "as big as flax bushes", and the kina are bigger than his appetite. They arrive in search of giant kaimoana and stumble upon an army of giant hermit crabs ... it seems Tamatoa may have bitten off more than he can chew. Set in pre-colonial times, the series was made by Auckland company Flux Animation.
In this episode, the pint-sized Tamatoa sets off to rescue his talkative friend Moko the tuatara (Jason Hoyte), after Moko goes on an accidental kite journey and ends up in a swamp that is home to a brightly-coloured taniwha. Tamatoa has been warned that if he meets the taniwha, having a gift ready might help things along. The swamp is a place of many surprises: some of them with teeth, some with smiles. The light-hearted, colourfully-animated show was created by Kiwi company Flux Animation Studios.
Breakfast first aired in August 1997 on TV One. Screening five mornings a week over a three hour time slot, the programme mixes news and entertainment interviews with updates of news, sport and weather. The format of one male and one female presenter began with original hosts Mike Hosking and Susan Wood, and has included Pippa Wetzell and Paul Henry (who won controversy for Breakfast comments about an Indian politician), and Brit Rawdon Christie and Alison Pugh. A Saturday version of Breakfast was trialled in 2011, but abandoned the next year.
Over nearly two decades and almost 9000 hours of TV time, Good Morning was a TVNZ light entertainment mainstay, airing on weekdays from 9am on TV One. Filmed at Wellington’s Avalon Studios for most of its run, the magazine show ranged from advertorials for recipes and home appliances to news, film reviews, aerobics, interviews, and … hypnotism. Presenters included inaugural host Liz Gunn, Mary Lambie (with her cat Lou), Sarah Bradley, Brendon Pongia, Steve Gray, Hadyn Jones, Lisa Manning, Rod Cheeseman, Jeanette Thomas, Matai Smith, and Astar.
Pulp Comedy succeeded the talent quest A Bit After Ten as a TV outlet for stand-up comics. Its origins lay in Auckland's Comedyfest which was established to capitalise on the city's burgeoning early 90s stand-up scene. Showcases at the Powerstation led to a request from TV3 for a television series. Produced by Mandy Toogood and Simon Sinclair, it ran for eight years and provided national exposure for novices as well as leading lights like Mike King, Ewen Gilmour, Flight of the Conchords, Michele A'Court, Brendhan Lovegrove, Philip Patston and Cal Wilson.
It's the first semi-final in the first series of this stand-up comedy talent quest presented by Jeremy and Nigel Corbett (who assert their edgy, early 90s credentials with a running gag about Nirvana). Judges Ian Harcourt, Theresa Healey and Strawpeople's Mark Tierney preside over a line-up comprising a very composed Michele A'Court, mildcore rappers Hip Hips, The Back Garden, Jo Randerson (in angry-ish feminist mode), a particularly hirsute Jon Bridges and eventual winner Late Night Mike (with Harcourt generating as many laughs as the contestants).
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.
Broadcast on Christmas 1992, this epic episode of What Now? was both a festive special, and a best of compilation from the show’s first decade on air. The set gets ever more crowded as a long line of past hosts join current presenters Simon Barnett and Catherine McPherson, and help make the Christmas carols more stirring. Eddie Sunderland and Fifi Colston explain a few arts and crafts, in between showcases of the show's best sketches to date. Hiding somewhere on the set is Mr Claus himself, narrowly avoiding detection.
This long-running travelling TV game show pitted towns against each other in a series of colourful physical challenges. The 1986 final takes place at Lower Hutt’s Fraser Park, where teams from Alexandra, Timaru, Whangarei (including future All Black Ian Jones) and Waihi compete for civic bragging rights. Hosted by Bill McCarthy and Paddy O’Donnell, with officials Melissa (Miss Top Town) and champion Olympic kayaker Ian Ferguson. A Taniwha, cross-dressing cheer squads, a Para Pool, and slippery slope, all make for much light entertainment malarkey.
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.
Long-running afternoon show The Video Dispatch presented current affairs for younger viewers. Legend has it some politicians also used it to get a handle on the news. Topics ranged from poverty to a DIY polytech computer called ‘Poly’. The show's first presenter was Dick Weir, who in 1983 handed the reins to Lloyd Scott (best known at the time as Barry Crump's hapless pal in a series of Toyota ads). Rodney Bryant replaced Scott in 1987. Among the show's many reporters were Michele A'Court, Kerre McIvor (nee Woodham), and Bill Ralston. The title sequence will tickle nostalgia for 80s kids.