Russell Smith still gets recognised for his portrayal of milk-obsessed vampire Count Homogenized. Smith first played the affro-haired vamp on late 1970s series A Haunting We Will Go, then starred in spin-off show It is I, Count Homongenized. Smith's screen career is a study in adaptability. After early work in children's television — including co-hosting Play School — he joined the cast of pioneering show A Week of It, one of many comedy roles. In the late 80s he played a hard-bitten detective in Wellington cop show Shark in the Park. Smith has also directed on childrens shows Bumble and Mel's Amazing Movies.
People either loved it or hated it. And it didn’t seem to matter which, they still recognised you. It was one of those programmes which created a response. It doesn’t happen a lot with television. Russell Smith on playing Count Homogenized, in a 1991 Listener interview
Two Little Boys follows the misadventures of two Invercargill bogans. When a Scandinavian tourist fatally encounters his fender, Nige (Bret McKenzie) runs to his mate Deano (Australian comedian Hamish Blake). "Trouble is, Deano's not really the guy you should turn to in a crisis." Mateship is challenged by flatmate Gav (Maaka Pohatu), a rogue sea lion, and some dunderheaded decision-making. Directed by Rob Sarkies (Scarfies) and written with his brother Duncan (from his novel), the black comedy is also known by the title Deano and Nige's Best Last Day Ever.
The second, but prequel, series to The Insiders Guide to Happiness is chaos theory in action: seven young strangers whose lives intersect are linked together by a bizarre incident. Produced by the Gibson Group, The Insiders Guide mix of meta-tangle story-telling with fresh shooting and faces, saw Love become a hit with the same youth demographic as Happiness. The show went on to win a clutch of Screen Director's Guild Awards and most of the major drama gongs at the 2006 Qantas Film and TV Awards, including Best Drama, Director, Script, Actor and Actress.
The second, but prequel, series to The Insiders Guide to Happiness is chaos theory in action: seven young strangers are linked together by a bizarre incident. In this excerpt from Episode Six, Marty's (Louis Sutherland's) travel writing isn't going anywhere, Nicole (Kate Elliott) gets "wild and crazy and bad" for Halloween, and there's baking romance, sun bed sex, and scratchy shoplifting. The series won several Screen Director's Guild Awards and a clutch of gongs at the 2006 Qantas Film and TV Awards, including Best Drama, Director, Script, Actor and Actress.
Letter to Blanchy was a gentle back-blocks comedy co-written by A.K. Grant, Tom Scott and comedy duo, McPhail and Gadsby (who also starred). Each episode centred on the bumblings of a trio of mates living in a fictional small town: intellectual Derek (McPhail), rough-diamond Barry (Gadsby) and tradesman Ray (Rowley). The show's narration comes from a letter written to Blanchy, a friend living in the relative sophistication of Christchurch. The series was adapted for a theatre tour in 2008.
Letter to Blanchy was an old-fashioned backblocks comedy, which centered on the bumblings of a trio of mates living in a fictional small town: intellectual Derek (David McPhail), rough-diamond Barry (Jon Gadsby) and tradesman Ray (Peter Rowley). In this excerpt from the second episode, the lads plan a "traditional" hangi for local gentleman Len. Amongst much non-PC humour, railway irons are proposed in place of hot stones, pasta in place of pig, and a keg disrupts preparations. Hole-digging is much debated in the usual Kiwi bloke way.
Letter to Blanchy was a gentle rural backblocks comedy, and a rare example of Kiwi TV comedy makers filming extensively on location. The show centres on a trio of bumbling smalltown mates: intellectual Derek (David McPhail), rough-diamond Barry (Jon Gadsby) and tradesman Ray (Petet Rowley). In this excerpt from the third episode, Barry and Ray give Derek advice on how to get rid of a stubborn tree trunk, and plant the explosives needed to blast it out of the ground. In the Kiwi DIY way things are destined not to go to plan. "Where did the stump go?" Ian Mune directs.
Letter to Blanchy is a gentle rural comedy co-written by, and starring legendary comedy duo, McPhail and Gadsby. Each episode is a self-contained story, drawing material from the bumblings of a trio of good friends living in a fictional small town. They are: intellectual Derek (McPhail), rough diamond Barry (Gadsby) and tradesman Ray (Rowley). The narration is a letter written to Blanchy, a friend living in the relative sophistication of Christchurch. The series was adapted for a theatre tour in 2008.
After the assassination of scientist David Typhon, a cast of interested parties head for his secret lab in New Zealand, pursuing the truth behind rumoured experiments on humans. Among them are rabid protestors, a European infiltrator (Michael Hurst) and the strangely-gifted Cato (Greg Wise). Typhon’s People marked a rare time that writer Margaret Mahy created a story aimed at adult audiences. Blessed with an impressive cast of Kiwis, Brits (Wise, Alfred Molina), and Australian Sophie Lee (The Castle), it sold as both a miniseries and as a 90 minute telemovie.
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.
Originally conceived as a TV series, Gaylene Preston's comedy was a local hit, uplifting recession-era audiences with its tale of resourceful misfits. Ruby (Yvonne Lawley), an 83-year-old trying to dodge a retirement home, rents a room to Rata (Vanessa Rare in her screen debut) — a solo mum with sidelines in music and benefit fraud. Rata's son is into shoplifting, while Simon Barnett plays a hapless yuppie wannabe. Marginalised by the deregulated economy of the 80s and living on their wits, they may just find common cause despite themselves, in this tale from writer Graeme Tetley.
TV One drama Shark in the Park followed the lives of cops policing a Wellington city beat. This episode from the second series sees the team bust a street fight, and search for a missing teenage girl. An elderly shoplifter and a joyrider test the ethics of the diversion scheme, where minor offences don't result in a criminal record. Actors Tim Balme and Michael Galvin (Shortland Street) feature in early screen roles, as youngsters on the wrong side of the law. Galvin plays the dangerous driver – he also happens to be the son of Sergeant Jesson (Kevin J Wilson).
Shark in the Park was New Zealand’s first urban cop show. In this second season opener, Inspector Flynn (Jeffrey Thomas) and his team face restructuring and cutbacks from HQ, and a gang prospect (Toby Mills) is interrogated about a hit and run. Among the impressive cast of cops are Rima Te Wiata, Nathaniel Lees, and Russell Smith (It is I, Count Homogenized). This was the first episode made by Wellington company The Gibson Group, as Kiwi television entered an era of deregulation (Shark's previous series was one of the last made by TVNZ’s in-house drama department).
The role of women in a traditionally male dominated profession is highlighted in this episode of Wellington police drama Shark in the Park. The episode was penned by Norelle Scott and directed by Ginette McDonald. New arrival 'Wally' (Joanna Briant) faces a baptism of fire from her colleagues — and a rough ride on the streets as a drunken couple's antics escalate into major problems for the thin blue line. The third episode of season one features Robyn Malcolm in her first screen role, while Mark Wright provides some late 80s colour as an inebriated yuppie.
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.
A big smoke cousin to Mortimer's Patch, Shark in the Park was New Zealand's first urban cop show. Devised by Graeme Tetley (Ruby and Rata), it portrayed a unit policing inner city Wellington, under the guidance of Inspector Brian 'Sharkie' Finn (Jeffrey Thomas). With its focus on the working lives of the officers, the show followed the character-based storytelling of overseas programmes like The Bill and Hill Street Blues. The first season marked one of the last in-house productions for TVNZ's drama department. The next two series were made independently by The Gibson Group.
Tales of the Mist was an 80s series for children that dramatised six folk stories by writer Anthony Holcroft. Narrated as a bedtime story, and imbued with animism (the belief that things in the natural world posses a ‘spirit’) each story features an otherwordly encounter. Girl in the Cabbage Tree sees a lonely farmer (Russell Smith) discover a young woman in a giant ti kouka. They marry but she remains a mystery; when she disappears he learns a lesson of freedom and love. The show was directed by NZ kids TV veteran Kim Gabara (Woolly Valley, Count Homogenized).
Roughly four years after debuting on A Haunting We Will Go, Count Homogenized made a memorable re-entrance in his own series. This fifth episode has the simplicity of a good cartoon: disguised as a movable charity bin, the vampire endeavours to trick or talk his way past the local dairy owners, on his endless mission to make it to the milk supplies. Aside from Russell Smith in full comic flight as the Count, Lynda Milligan takes the New Zild accent in dramatic new directions as no-nonsense shopkeeper Rhonda Dearsley.
In this episode of the Jon Gadsby written rural sitcom, the locals at The Rabbiter’s Rest pub attempt to take an overzealous young constable down a peg. Michael Haigh (Gliding On) has yet another of his police roles as the worldly wise local sergeant. No appearance from Gadsby in this episode, but David Telford plays the genial proprietor, Doreen the barmaid reprises the role Annie Whittle made famous in A Week of It, and Billy T James is among the regulars propping up the bar. The humour is gentle; some of the jokes are shaggier than the local sheep flock at shearing time.
The immortal Count Homogenized, a vampire with a white afro and cape and a lust for milk, lodged himself in the hearts of a generation of Kiwi kids. After first portraying the vampire in A Haunting We Will Go, actor Russell Smith took centre stage in 1983's It is I Count Homogenized. This follow-up series transfers proceedings from the haunted house trappings of the original to a suburban dairy, where Homogenized continues his mission to get his teeth into what matters: the milk. Trivia: the series was made in association with the NZ Milk Promotion Council.
The magpie quardle oodled and the narrator uttered, "Welcome to Woolly Valley", in the intro to this children's TV classic. The low-tech puppet show with its rustic charm was familiar to a generation of kids who grew up in the 80s. It follows the lives of woolly-haired farmer Wally and his long-suffering wife Beattie, who live with talking ewe Eunice. Also featured is hippie Tussock, voiced by Russell (Count Homogenized) Smith. Woolly Valley marked an early piece of screenwriting by children's writer Margaret Mahy. This compilation is the entire first series.
In this film two Kiwi larrikins, Sam and Jack (Alan Jervis and Pork Pie's Kelly Johnson) go on a road trip, seemingly fuelled by blokey banter. A pit stop at Hokonui Pub leads to shenanigans with a stolen road roller, varied shaggy dog stories and jail, before Sam has to return to the dreaded missus. The characters and scenarios were adapted from two of Barry Crump's novels featuring anti-hero Sam Cash: Hang on a Minute Mate and There and Back. Mate was made for TVNZ, and screened in late 1982. Pub spotters will appreciate the pub's high pressure hoses and five ounce glasses.
Programmes featuring the immortal Count Homogenized are among the most-requested by visitors to NZ On Screen. Homogenized - a vampire with a white afro and cape and a lust for milk - made his debut in this children's show, ultimately going on to star in his own series. In this early episode the Count turns up at Major Toom's haunted house on his unending search for bovine liquid sustenance, and befriends Toom over some wine. Shark in the Park actor Russell Smith's mischievous Count has lodged itself in the hearts of many Kiwis of a certain vintage.
The debut episode of McPhail and Gadsby plunged into religion as the object of satire, and the result spawned death threats and annoyed letters to the editor. The pair dress up as angels, devils, monks, nuns, priests and Moses, and also make the first of many appearances as the smug Denny (McPhail) and not so clever Ron (Gadsby). McPhail argued later that a simple sketch involving an Anglican vicar dispensing communion unexpectedly caused the most offence. The thematic approach was soon abandoned in favour of shorter episodes, and a more familiar style of topical satire.
Play School (1972 - 1990) was an iconic educational show for pre-school children. The opening sequence — "Here's a house ..." — and the toys (Big Ted, Little Ted, Jemima, Humpty, Manu) were the stars. This compilation reel of various presenters features two excerpts from 1980: Barry Dorking and Jacqui Hay (future National MP), and Dorking solo; one from 1982: actor Rawiri (Whale Rider) Paratene with Winsome Dacker; and two from 1987: Eilish Wahren with Kerry McCammon, and Russell (Count Homgenized) Smith and actress Theresa (Shortland St) Healey.
Count Homogenized, the vanilla-clad vampire with a lust for milk made his debut on this ghost-flavoured children's series, before moving on to star in his own show. Russell Smith's portrayal of the mischievous The Count has lodged itself in the hearts of many Kiwi kids of a certain vintage and has become an — absolute original — icon of NZ TV. True Blood has nothing on The Count and his unending search for bovine liquid sustenance!
This final episode of pioneering A Week of It ("NZ's longest running comedy programme — discounting parliament") features a three wise men parody (lost without a Shell road map); pirate Radio Hauraki; and a parliament-themed Cinderella Christmas pantomine, with David McPhail's Muldoon playing the stepmother. Jon Gadsby appears as Dr Groper, an un-PC GP; and God is a guest at an Anglican church in Fendalton. British comic legend Dudley Moore appears briefly in the extended 'best of' credits reel, alongside (Jeez) Wayne and the rest of the Gluepot Tavern lads.
This episode from the second series of pioneering comedy show A Week of It takes a light-hearted look at issues of the day: sporting contact with South Africa, the 1978 election, traffic cops against coupling in cars, dawn raids in Ponsonby, weather girls struggling with te reo, and bread and newspaper strikes. Censorship campaigner Patricia Bartlett struggles with a French stick, and beer baron Sir Justin Ebriated is interviewed. John Walker, "current world record holder for selling cans of Fresh Up", is sent up, and there's a racing-themed "geegees Wayne" sign off.
Long before he became the stuff of nostalgia and t-shirts, Count Homogenized debuted on this pilot episode of A Haunting We Will Go. Made in 1977 but unscreened till 1979, this pilot follows Major Tooms and his long-suffering butler as they take the audience on an extended tour of their haunted house. In the second half, scene-stealing Homogenized (Russell Smith) appears, a vampire whose raison d'etre - an endless quest for milk - proves as ridiculous as it is delightful.
A Week of It was a pioneering satire series that entertained and often outraged audiences from 1977 to 1979, with its irreverent take at topical issues. The debut episode opens with an investigation into what Labour politician Bill Rowling is like in bed, and then Prime Minister Muldoon gets a lei (!). McPhail launches his famous Muldoon impression, Annie Whittle does Nana Mouskouri; and the Nixon Frost interview is reprised as a pop song. The soon to be well-known Gluepot Tavern skit wraps the show: "Jeez Wayne". McPhail writes about first launching A Week of It here.
A Week of It was a pioneering comedy series that entertained and often outraged audiences over three series from 1977 to 1979. The writing team, led by David McPhail, AK Grant, Jon Gadsby, Bruce Ansley, Chris McVeigh and Peter Hawes, took irreverent aim at topical issues and public figures of the day. Amongst notable impersonations was McPhail's famous aping of Prime Minister Rob Muldoon; a catchphrase from a skit — "Jeez, Wayne" — entered NZ pop culture. The series won multiple Feltex Awards and in 1979 McPhail won Entertainer of the Year.
Play School was an iconic educational programme for pre-school children, which was first produced in Auckland from 1972, then Dunedin from 1975. The format included songs, a story, craft, a calendar, a clock and a look outside Play School via the shaped windows. But the toys, Big Ted, Little Ted, Jemima, Humpty and Manu, were the real stars of the show. The title sequence ("Here's a house ...") and music were a call to action recognised by generations of Kiwis. Presenters included actors Rawiri Paratene and Theresa Healey, Russell Smith and future MP Jacqui Hay.