The Marching Girls is the seven-part story of a Taita social marching team who decide to have a crack at the North Island Championships. This pioneering series was conceived by actor-writer Fiona Samuel out of frustration over the dearth of challenging female roles: she declared that it was about time the Kiwi "alienated macho dickhead" shared some screen time with women. Synth-rock soundtracks, ghetto blasters, Holden Kingswood taxis and chain-smoking abound in this feminist-Flashdance-in-formation 80s classic.
This classic 70s series saw film crews follow Sir Edmund Hillary and an A-Team of mates (Dingle, Wilson, Gill, Jones, son Peter et al) on missions into the wild. The concept was dreamt up by Bob Harvey. The Kaipo Wall — an expedition to ascend for the first time Fiordland's remote Kaipo Wall — was the first, directed by Roger Donaldson. An ensuing Everest trip was unproduced. Mike Gill and Hillary then went DIY and produced two editions: a climb of the The Needles, a rock stack off Great Barrier; and Gold River, a Kawarau and Clutha river jet-boat dash.
A continuation of the classic 70s UK TV series cherished by herds of horse-loving girls, the New Adventures follow Vicky Denning (Amber McWilliams) who has emigrated to the antipodes with her step-mother, where she is captivated by a mystic black horse. The co-production was set in NZ, produced by Tom Parkinson and features many Kiwi names in front of and behind the camera (Illona Rodgers, Ken Catran). Key original cast and the famous original title sequence and tune are reprised, but now with Beauty galloping along a west coast beach. Two seasons were produced.
Our World was a long-running Sunday night slot on TV One dedicated to nature programming. Many iconic nature documentaries screened in the slot from international series such as David Attenborough’s The Living Planet, to local classics from the Wild South series, Peter Hayden-presented Journeys Across Latitude 45 South, and David Bellamy championing all things natural NZ. The shows were introduced by Gael Ludlow and the opening titles feature the fondly-remembered Jean Michel Jarre synthpop track that was Our World’s signature.
NZ Herald writer Michele Hewitson described the concept behind this series as "Popstars with jokes". Experienced comedian Paul Horan scours Aotearoa for fresh comedic talent; over the course of a month, fifteen newbies are tested in live and television settings. Each episode ends with eliminations — the "last stand-up standing" is crowned the winner. Comedians Jon Bridges and Raybon Kan join Horan as judges. The first episode features Queen St venue The Classic Comedy Club. The show was partly inspired by a stand-up contest for new acts held in the United Kingdom.
The odd couple is a longtime comic staple. In the 1970s Yorkshire emigre Craig Harrison turned the tale of a Māori and a Yorkshireman into novel Ground Level, a radio play, and this ground-breaking TV series. Joe (Stephen Gledhill) is the nervy, university-educated librarian; his flatmate is Koro (Rawiri Paratene) who works in a fish and chip shop. Running for two series, the popular chalk’n’cheese sitcom was a rare comedy amongst a flowering of bicultural TV stories (The Governor, Epidemic). Harrison’s novel The Quiet Earth later inspired a classic film.
This classic kids’ adventure tale follows a 13-year-old boy on a quest to find his father, missing amidst the 1860s Otago gold rush. When it launched in September 1976, the 13 part series was the most expensive local TV drama yet made. Under the reins of director Tom Parkinson, the series brandished unprecedented production values, and panned the Central Otago vistas for all their worth. Its huge local popularity was matched abroad (BBC screened it multiple times); it showed that NZ-made kids’ drama could be exported, and helped establish the new second television channel.
Before he was a British MP, Austin Mitchell spent time downunder, where he was a political science lecturer and a well known NZBC broadcaster in the 60s. On heading north he wrote classic 1972 book The Half Gallon Quarter Acre Pavlova Paradise, a satirical commentary on all things Kiwi from an ‘outsider’s’ perspective. In this three-part series, he returned on a length of the country tour to see how things are going in Godzone. “Cook discovered New Zealand, I discovered my pavlova paradise and now I’m going back there to see how it’s changed 40 years on.”
This four-part 1986 series offered a lively musical survey of the history of soul. Each episode focussed on a United States city, and its influence on the evolution of the genre. Presented by Dalvanius, the show was built around performances of soul classics by Kiwi performers (Bunny Walters, Peter Morgan, The Yandall Sisters), filmed in a nightclub style setting at Auckland’s Shortland Street Studios. The series writer was Rip It Up editor and future record label owner Murray Cammick (Southside, Wildside).
By the year 2000, popular TVNZ weatherman Jim Hickey had a programme with his name in the title. The motoring show looked at everything from the psychology of buying a car to road testing new editions and revisiting classics. Hickey's co-presenters were Mark Leishman and onetime MTV host Marie Azcona. After leaving in the second season, Azcona was replaced by Jeanette Thomas. Jim's Car Show was produced for TV One by Dave Mason. Hickey and Mason formed company Rustic Road productions in time for the second season, and went on to make further programmes together.