Fresh from drama school Toi Whakaari, Murray Keane was cast as a 1960s teen in TV series Peppermint Twist. He followed it by playing multiple roles in sketch show Away Laughing, and co-starring in short film Valley of the Stereos. In the early 1990s Keane began transitioning into directing, via both short films and the first of many Shortland Street episodes. Among many other high profile shows, he has directed for Outrageous Fortune, Westside, Step Dave and The Almighty Johnsons. In 2008 he created and directed boy racer series Ride with the Devil. He has been nominated twice for his directing work on Interrogation.
I'm really proud of Diplomatic Immunity ... We all sit back and go 'where did that not take off?' Because we had really high hopes for that. Murray Keane, on 2008 comedy series Diplomatic Immunity, in his ScreenTalk interview for NZ On Screen
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.
Described by co-star Neill Rea as the "little show that could", The Brokenwood Mysteries has screened in over 15 countries and and involved a long run of fictional murders. Each feature-length episode of this Prime TV crime drama is a standalone murder mystery, set in a small Kiwi town. Neill Rea (Scarfies) stars as veteran detective Mike Shepherd, who works alongside Detective Kristin Sims (played by Fern Sutherland from The Almighty Johnsons). Backing up the pair are Detective Sam Breen (Nic Sampson from Funny Girls) and Russian pathologist Gina Kadinsky (Cristina Ionda).
When this popular TV One comedy-drama about misbehaving real estate agents debuted in 2013, it copped flak from real estate bosses for perpetuating negative stereotypes about the industry. Agent Anna follows Anna Kingston (played by Robyn Malcolm, who also came up with the series idea), whose husband has left her and their two teenage daughters. Needing work, Kingston turns to selling houses in Auckland's cutthroat market. The programme ran for two seasons. Theresa Healey (Shortland Street), Adam Gardiner (movie Hopeless) and Roy Billing (Old Scores) co-star.
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.
Created by Outrageous Fortune’s James Griffin and Rachel Lang, this South Pacific Pictures-produced TV3 dramedy is about a family of Norse gods who wash up in 21st Century New Zealand. Emmett Skilton stars as Axl aka Odin, who must restore his brothers' lapsed superpowers and find his wife Frigg ("no pressure, then"). But he is thwarted by Norse goddesses and Māori deities. The combo of fantastical plot and droll Kiwi bloke banter won loyal fans, who successfully campaigned for a third (and final) season. Johnsons screened on the SyFy channel in the US in 2014.
This docudrama follows an imaginary news reporter who travels back in time to cover the days leading up to the Treaty of Waitangi’s signing on 6 February 1840. Dropping the usual solemnity surrounding Aotearoa’s founding document, it uses humour and asides to camera to evoke the chaos and motives behind the treaty. Written by Gavin Strawhan, with input from novelist Witi Ihimaera, What Really Happened screened on TVNZ for Waitangi Day 2011. Its nominations at the Aotearoa TV Awards included Best Drama, director (Peter Burger) and actor Jarod Rawiri (who played Hōne Heke).
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.
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.
Loosely based on the case of a real-life computer dealer who acquired international bank records and later died mysteriously on Auckland Harbour Bridge, Spooked marked Geoff Murphy’s first local movie in 15 years (after time directing in Hollywood). Everyman Kevin (Christopher Hobbs) is caught up in a barrage of intimidation after buying some used computer equipment and unwittingly receiving corporate secrets; Cliff Curtis plays the journalist investigating his case. There are also rare cameos by director Vincent Ward and Goodbye Pork Pie star Kelly Johnson.
Director Murray Keane was inspired to make this documentary after his wife Fiona Samuel focussed exclusively on women for her earlier doco about the loss of virginity and its effect on lives. The companion film features seven men aged from 20 to 80 talking candidly about their different experiences of 'the first time'. Keane illustrates these very personal stories with quirky, colourful visuals as his participants muse on an event that few were really prepared for and which was transcendent for some, confusing for others and a nightmare of abuse for one of them.
Described as a “tour of duty at knee height” this short film sees a bunch of boys playing war games confronting reality on a rural New Zealand ‘battlefield’. Actor turned director Murray Keane described the film as an atonement for putting a rubbish bin atop a local war memorial when he was a boy. It was nominated for Best Film and Best Script at the Nokia NZ Film Awards. The young cast includes Daniel Logan (young Boba Fett in Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones) Tyler Read (Shortland Street’s Evan Cooper) and Elliot Lawless (The Bridge of Terabithia).
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.
Created by Gavin Strawhan and Rachel Lang, popular one hour drama series Jackson's Wharf was set in a fictional coastal town and revolved around a sibling rivalry between brothers Frank and Ben. Frank is the town policeman with a big secret; and golden boy Ben is a big city lawyer who has returned to town after their father's death. In this excerpt from the first episode of the South Pacific Pictures production, returning son Ben faces gossiping locals, simmering family tensions over the will (who will get the pub?) and an impending fishing tournament.
For much of the 90s, hospital cafe manager Lionel Skeggins (John Leigh) was Shortland Street’s beloved nice guy. He fell in and out of love with Kirsty (their true soap romance included amnesia and a plane crash) before making this exit in March 1999. Lionel had been married to Mackenzie Choat (Ingrid Park) for just a week before learning of her dodgy past; he was fleeing her at the beach when he encountered a wave. His demise made 2016 NZ Herald and Stuff lists of the show’s memorable deaths, but the body was never recovered. Is Lionel the Street’s ultimate missing person?
One of the most successful television shows shot on Kiwi soil, The Tribe was the brainchild of British-born Raymond Thompson. In a future where the adults have been wiped out by a virus, the children that remain have formed into competing tribes, some of whom live to terrorise. Running five seasons, The Tribe sold to more than 120 territories, and the cast toured performances from the soundtrack for overseas fans. The cast were almost entirely New Zealanders, as were most of the crew. Sequel The New Tomorrow, following descendants of the original characters, screened in 2005.
Intergenerational warfare, mad aunts, bored teens, affairs, abortions and the ache of regret are on the menu in place of sausage rolls in Home Movie. A christening is the crux around which a family does its best to pull apart at the seams. Performances and a script attuned to the details of domestic disturbance don't hold back (America's Funniest Home Videos this ain't). Directed and written by Fiona Samuel, it was part of TV One's Montana Sunday Drama series. It won best actor, actress and TV drama at the 1998 NZ Film and TV Awards. Samuel writes about making Home Movie here.
Two 14-year-old girls discover that they have a lot in common in this two-part 1995 children's fantasy drama. They live in the same street, same house, same bedroom, but 76 years apart. An antique mirror/portal leads them on a time travel adventure involving nerve gas, a Russian Tsar and an English soldier. Created by Australian Posie Graeme-Evans (who devised TV hits Hi-5 and McLeod's Daughters) this award-winning trans-Tasman co-production between the Gibson Group and Millennium Pictures was sold to more than 60 countries. A second series followed in 1997.
This Shortland Street episode ended the 1995 season with a missing baby, a Christmas turkey and a bizarre accident. After being set up by conniving nurse Carla Leach (Elisabeth Easther), a drunken driver aims his Mac truck directly for the hospital's reception. Amongst the injured, Kirsty wakes up with a case of memory loss, while Carmen suffers unexpected after-effects, soon after swearing everlasting devotion to Guy Warner. Meanwhile Nick potentially faces prosecution, after accidentally leaving his girlfriend's one-year-old child at the supermarket.
In this award-winning Montana Sunday Theatre drama, Cliff Curtis plays Jim, a grungy rocker who can’t (and doesn’t want to) commit to a straight life with his misguidedly hopeful girlfriend Sina (Sarah Smuts-Kennedy). A night of emotional turmoil in the city ensues as Sina does her best to avoid the reality of her situation (as well as home invasion and Jim’s dodgy manager). Fiona Samuel's darkly funny script and top-notch casting underpin this look at the not-so-delicate nature of relationships amongst a group of Generation X Aucklanders.
"It was the beginning of the end of the world..." Award-winning actor Tim Balme (Braindead) narrates this rain-lashed tale of being trapped in a world where all the women have disappeared. The film noir stylings, Blade Runner climate and tough-talking dialogue come to the fore when Balme encounters a beautiful woman with an attitude (Balme's real-life partner Katie Wolfe), and finds desire playing tricks with his mind. Planet Man was judged best short film in the Critics' Week section of the 1996 Cannes Film Festival.
A young man suffering from mounting sexual frustration (Skitz regular Michael Sengelow) wakes up one day to find incredibly strange things happening between his legs. A comic fable about personal gardening, male organs, and finding the perfect partner, Prickle marked the directorial debut of one-time actor Murray Keane. Keane would showcase his talent for comedy again, when he directed episodes of Outrageous Fortune and Diplomatic Immunity.
This stylishly high camp melodrama from directors Stewart Main and Peter Wells won acclaim, after debuting at the 1993 Cannes Film Festival. In the imaginary 19th-century town of Hope, draper Dorothea Brooks (Jennifer Ward-Lealand) is desperate to save her sister from the clutches of opium, sex and the dastardly Fraser. She begs hunky migrant Lawrence Hayes to help; but complications ensue. Inspired partly by 1930s and 40s Hollywood melodramas, Desperate Remedies was sumptously shot by Leon Narbey (Whale Rider). Richard King writes about the film here.
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.
In 1992 Australian soap star Craig McLachlan (Neighbours) landed in NZ, to tackle one of his only starring roles in a movie to date. McLachlan plays Ed — a WWll soldier who goes AWOL — in a story 74-year-old writer James Edwards drew from his own life. When Ed is shipped overseas with no leave, he feels obliged to make sure that his recently pregnant wife Daisy (Katrina Hobbs) is OK before he departs. But then the days become weeks. For director John Laing the road movie offered a chance to explore changing gender roles, as women discovered life beyond house and family.
Away Laughing was an early sketch comedy show for both TV3 and Wellington production company Gibson Group. In this first episode from the second series, spies, skateboarders, Kiwi mateship, and All Black Buck Shelford are the butt of jokes. Along the way, Murray Keane plays both an Australian mocking New Zealand place names, and a true blue Kiwi; a trio of firefighters make idiots of themselves in a classroom; kids argue about the best kind of lunch; and onetime Telecom promo man Gordon McLauchlan (David Downs) interviews two gorillas about Telecom's privatisation.
After his mother gets infected by a bite from a deadly Sumatran rat monkey, Lionel (Almighty Johnson Tim Balme, in an award-winning performance) has to contend with a plague of the living dead while attempting to woo the love of his life. Peter Jackson had already been tagged with the title ‘The Sultan of Splatter’ after his first two features, but this was the film that confirmed it. Armed with a decent budget, he takes a Flymo to fusty 1950s New Zealand and takes cinematic gore to a whole new extreme in the process.
Based partly on two tragedies that occurred in Europe, this darkly comic tale centres on a butcher who works near Parliament. The butcher leaves his young son to handle the customers so that he can go upstairs and engage in some hanky panky with his wife. But with rent payments due, underlying tensions soon erupt into bloody nightmare. Director Stuart McKenzie and his real-life partner, actor Miranda Harcourt, would later collaborate again on the feature film For Good.
Shortland Street is a fast-paced serial drama set in an eponymous inner city Auckland hospital. A South Pacific Pictures production, the iconic show is based around the births, deaths and marriages of the staff, family and patients. Screening five days a week on TV2 it is New Zealand’s longest running drama. Characters and lines from the show have entered the culture, most famously, "you're not in Guatemala now, Dr Ropata!". This 2007 promo, set to the theme song, collects together highlights from the first 15 years of the show.
Valley of the Stereos is a comic face-off that starts tinny, but gleefully escalates to bass heavy, as a not-so-zen hippy (Danny Mulheron) gets caught up in a vale-blasting battle with the noisy bogan next door (Murray Keane). Made by many key Peter Jackson collaborators, the near-wordless pump up the volume tale was directed by George Port, shortly before he became founding member of Jackson's famed effects-house Weta Digital. Ironically Weta's computer-generated miracles would help render the stop motion imagery seen in the finale largely a thing of the past.
The sketches for this TV3 comedy show were mostly performed on a revolving stage before an unseen audience — and dropped if no one laughed. The cast mixed rising stand-up comics (Jon Bridges, Vicki Walker) and actors (Hori Ahipene, Peta Rutter). Producer Dave Gibson was keen to avoid satire and politics, in favour of broad social comedy. Among the regular sketches were Walker's pioneering female-created character — society gal Felicity — Kevin Smith's fast-talking Joe Blow, and two gormless skateboarders. The Gibson Group show debuted on 6 May 1991; a second season followed.
The first episode of this sketch comedy show debuted in May 1991. Most of the skits were tested and filmed in front of a live audience. The large cast includes early appearances by a roll call of emerging talents: Kevin Smith displays his talent for accents, while frustrating a McDonalds lawyer and talking his way through customs; Vicki Walker's character Felicity crushes on Steve Parr; Danny Mulheron's self-satisfied priest Phineas O'Diddle embarrasses Hori Ahipene; and Facial DBX comedians Jon Bridges and David Downs play day-glo clad skateboarders talking digital watches.
This feature dramatises an ill-fated offensive that Kiwi soldiers undertook during World War I’s Gallipoli campaign. On 8 August 1915 the Wellington Battalion briefly seized Chunuk Bair, a pivotal peak overlooking the Dardanelles; they suffered huge losses. The film pitches the attack as a formative New Zealand nationhood moment, with Kiwi guts and resilience countered by inept, careless British generals, as much as their Turkish foes. Filmed on an Avalon set and the Wainuiomata coast, the story was based on Maurice Shadbolt’s classic play Once On Chunuk Bair.
This Christmas 1989 episode of the TVNZ teen magazine show sees newbie reporter Nadia Neave on Stewart Island to meet a crayfisherman, an artist and a conservation worker. Reporter Kerre McIvor (nee Woodham) quizzes David Lange about quitting as PM, as he prepares to drive in a street race. Natalie Brunt interviews Cher songwriter Diane Warren. Dr Watt (DJ Grant Kereama) looks at solvent abuse, and future Amazing Race host Phil Keoghan joins a trio of young actors (including Tandi Wright) to give tips on overseas travel. Graeme Tetley (Ruby and Rata) was a series writer.
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.
Peppermint Twist’s colourful, stylised portrait of 60s puberty floated onto NZ screens in 1987, winning a solid teenage following. Something of a homegrown homage to US sitcom Happy Days, Peppermint was set amongst a group of teens in small town Roseville, and made liberal use of period songs and arrangements. This episode involves mounting rivalries over a typically pressing issue: an upcoming limbo contest. Further nostalgia value is provided by real-life 60s music show host Peter Sinclair, who makes a cameo as compere of the contest.
This 38 episode series revolved around the ups and downs of a community house run by Tony Van Der Berg (Frank Whitten). The series was devised by Liddy Holloway to meet a network call for an Eastenders-style drama that might tackle social issue storylines. It was the first drama series to put a Māori whānau (the Mitchells) at its centre. Despite being well-reviewed, it was perhaps the last gasp of Avalon-produced uncompromisingly local drama (satirised as the ‘Wellington style’), before TV production largely shifted to Auckland to face up to commercial pressures.
Mortimer’s Patch was a popular drama series following Detective Sergeant Doug Mortimer (Terence Cooper) at work in the town of Cobham. Mortimer plays a city cop returning to his rural roots; Don Selwyn is Sergeant Bob Storey. The series was NZ’s first police drama, and a rare local drama to top ratings. Mortimer's Patch was made when the archetype of the ‘community cop’ everyone knew was still a powerful one, and it was a counterweight to the faceless riot policing of the Springbok Tour. Three series were made.