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.
Weddings was a real life romance series from Julie Christie’s reality TV powerhouse Touchdown Productions. It followed couples on their way to the altar — from abstinent Christians, nudists and cross-dressers, to a Days of Our Lives devotee. Among the challenges faced were obstinate mother-in-laws, and finding the cash to pay for the function. Presented by Jayne Kiely, Weddings proved a ratings success for TV2. Follow-up series Weddings: Happily ever after? (2001) caught up with couples to see if married life was wedded bliss, or something else.
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 2016 Māori Television reality series follows Te Urewera-bred, Cambridge-based bushman Owen Boynton as he travels Aotearoa – from the East coast to the Chathams – exploring traditional hunting techniques and the kaupapa behind them. The focus is on hunting as a way of life and to provide kai, rather than as a recreational pursuit or paleo diet fad. Eight 30 minute episodes of hunting, fishing and bushcraft screened in 2016. Produced by Julian Arahanga and Awa Films, the series sprung from bow-maker Boynton’s large following on Facebook.
Eating Media Lunch satirised mainstream media, from "issues of the day" journalism to reality TV to the society pages (lampooned in the "celebrity share market index index"). No fish was too big or barrel too small. Presenter Jeremy Wells kept a straight face over seven seasons of often controversial episodes, while investigating issues inexplicably missed by other media (eg the porno film made in Taranaki and shot in te reo, or ritalin-fueled reality programme Medswap). EML's seventh season won Best Comedy Programme at the 2008 Qantas Film and Television Awards.
In this Jam TV series, comedian Te Radar ditches 21st Century consumer luxuries and the city rat race to see if he can live sustainably for 10 months on a remote patch of land west of Auckland. His back-to-basics mission requires him to exist on only what he can hunt, grow and fish himself — putting delights like goat salami and home-made feta on the menu. He also explores topical green issues like the viability of solar power and whether simple steps such as composting and starting a worm bin can reduce landfill. The series also bred a book and a live show.
Hunger for the Wild took Wellington chefs Al Brown and Steve Logan out of their fine dining restaurant and into the wilds of Aotearoa, on a fishing, foraging and hunting culinary adventure. Putting the local in 'locally sourced', each episode involves Al and Steve splitting up and collecting ingredients (and characters) for an end of episode meal. The homegrown and cooked dish is then toasted with a wine selected by Logan. Three series were produced for TVNZ by Peter Young's Fisheye films, winning a 2007 NZ Screen Award and Best Lifestyle Series at the 2009 Qantas Awards.
Launched on 5 April 1976, this television series heralded a new age in Kiwi screen drama. Indie talents Roger Donaldson and Ian Mune based their tales of success and failure on New Zealand short stories, after managing to negotiate funding from various government sources. Then the pair took the series to Europe, proving there was strong overseas demand for Kiwi stories. Winners & Losers became a perennial in local classrooms. In the backgrounders, Mune recalls the show's origins. There are also pieces on its place in local screen history, and its restoration in 2018.
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.
National treasures The Topp Twins (aka twins Lynda and Jools Topp) have performed as a country-music singing and yodelling comedy duo for more than 25 years. In the late 90s they created their own TV series which ran for three seasons and showcased their iconic cast of Kiwi characters, including Camp Mother, the Bowling Ladies and cross-dressing Ken and Ken. The series, travelling from a Highland Games to a Tauranga triathlon, won the twins - out-and-proud lesbians - several gongs at the NZ Film and TV Awards and screened on the ABC and Foxtel in Australia.