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.
Iwi Ngāi Tahu turns filmmaker in this web series about mahinga kai (food gathering) in Te Waipounamu (the South Island). The 12 short episodes feature tangata whenua talking about all aspects of traditional food gathering practises, from storage (pōhā), transport (mōkihi) and making traditional medicine (rongoā), to the actual kai — such as īnaka (whitebait), kōura (crayfish), pāua and pātiki (flounder). Ngāi Tahu Mahinga Kai travels far and wide from the bush in Kaikōura to rivers in Murihiku (Southland), and moana on the east and west coasts.
Thinking that documentaries would benefit if film crews were much smaller, TVNZ producer Richard Thomas proposed that emerging directors take over much of the filming themselves, using consumer video cameras. Thomas organised camera workshops for First Hand's directors, and overcame opposition that this more intimate style of making documentaries wouldn't meet broadcast standards. The result gave early opportunities to a host of emerging filmmakers, including award-winners Leanne Pooley and Mark McNeill, and production executive Alan Erson.
Inspired by the work of Spring Hill Prison music therapist Evan Rhys Davies, Julian Arahanga convinced the Department of Corrections to allow him to film inmates making songs at Rimutaka and Arohata prisons — with mentoring from musicians Anika Moa, Warren Maxwell, Maisey Rika, and Ruia Aperahama. In later seasons Moa was joined by Don McGlashan, Annie Crummer, Laughton Kora, Ladi6, Scribe and Troy Kingi at other prisons. The Māori TV show won Best Reality Series at the 2017 NZ Television Awards, and international interest. It also spawned two albums.
For five seasons, TVNZ7's interview show was presented by journalist and columnist Finlay Macdonald, and produced by Colin Hogg (whose production company also made the digital channel's literary show The Good Word). Supported by an ornate set and title sequence, Macdonald was an affable host as he gently probed notable New Zealanders "not so much about what they do, as what makes them tick". Live music was an important part of each episode, with a rock, jazz, country or classical act (often chosen by the interview guest) playing live in the studio.
In this two-part documentary celebrating 100 years of cars in New Zealand, actor Rima Te Wiata (Hunt for the Wilderpeople) sets out to find out what makes motoring such a beloved Kiwi pastime. Part one sees her looking at the early impact of cars, with interviewees reminiscing about the first time they saw a motor vehicle and the changes they brought about. Part two fast forwards into the second half of the 1900s: Te Wiata admires the freedom that cars brought in the 60s and 70s, learns about the Ford V8s of postwar New Zealand, and takes a cruise in a muscle car.
Maria Dallas' performance of Jay Epae song ‘Tumblin’ Down’ helped make it a top 20 hit in 1966. Impressed with her versatility at the Loxene Golden Disc Award ceremony that year, TV producer Christopher Bourn invited her into a television studio five days before Christmas to perform songs for two 15 minute episodes of her own show, Golden Girl. Over the next year Dallas’ career continued to explode. In between trips to Australia, America and Asia, Bourn got her back to film further episodes, each one featuring four or five songs by Dallas, plus a guest spot by another performer.
A magazine show with an edge, The Living Room did for arts television production what Radio With Pictures did for New Zealand music — it ripped open the venetian blinds, rearranged the plastic-covered cushions, and shone the light on Aotearoa’s homegrown creative culture. Often letting the subjects film and present their own stories, it was produced for three series by Wellington’s Sticky Pictures, who would go on to make another arts showcase, The Gravy. Amidst the calvacade of Kiwi talent, Flight of the Conchords and musician Ladi6 made early screen appearances.
For two series in 1989, poet, raconteur, broadcaster and surfer Gary McCormick honed his Heartland rapport and took on that most vexed of NZ television formats — the chat show — with help from the director Bruce Morrison and producer Finola Dwyer (Oscar nominated for An Education) with whom he had made the acclaimed Raglan by the Sea doco. The Kiwiana set purported to recreate McCormick’s Gisborne house (complete with a green vinyl La-Z-boy) to make guests — who ranged from Wayne Shelford, to Don ‘The Rock’ Muraco, Eva Rickard, and PJ O’Rourke — feel at home.
Open Door was a unique form of community-based television that allowed groups or individuals to apply to make a documentary programme about an issue – be it family, social, sexual, political, religious, that involves or concerns them. Production company Morningside Productions, then worked with TV3 to select the 10 best proposals. The programmes were made using the expertise and equipment of the production team, but with participants taking editorial control. Funded by New Zealand On Air and broadcast on TV3, Open Door ran for 12 seasons.