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.
In this mockumentary series, hapless property developer turned politican Dennis Plant (played by Bob Maclaren) campaigns to win a fictional Queenstown seat, then later launches party Future New Zealand. Made by Great Southern, the first season screened on TV3. A second season on TV One coincided with the 2008 election; it was thrice nominated at the 2009 Qantas NZ Film and TV Awards (Best Comedy, plus Actor and Supporting Actor, for Maclaren and Andrew King respectively). Reality met fiction when Plant's 2008 election blog appeared on the NZ Herald website.
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.
From an idea by Australian producer Brendon Lunney, Deepwater Haven was a kidult series on TV2, set in fictional community Cooks Haven. It followed the fortunes of Waitemata Harbour tugboat skipper Jack Wilson (Vince Martin of Beaurepaires ad fame) and his two kids. The 26 30 minute episodes were a co-production between South Pacific Pictures (NZ), Beyond Productions (Australia) and F Productions (France). The young actors included Jay Saussey and singer Milan Borich. The show was nominated for Best Childrens Programme at the 1994 NZ Film and TV Awards.
Skitz was a popular long-running sketch-based comedy that screened for four series. Populated with memorable characters and catch-phrases, and broad, take-no-prisoners humour, it won Best Entertainment Programme at the 1996 NZ TV and Film Awards. A particular favourite in its arsenal of regular characters was the Semisi family with their 'fresh off the boat' antics inspiring mirth and groans in equal measure. Skitz featured seasoned comedians such as Jackie Clarke, as well as new faces at the time, including Jemaine Clement of future Flight of the Conchords fame.
Land of Birds was a series of 10 films looking at Aotearoa’s manu or native birds. Produced by the National Film Unit, the series was written, directed and largely photographed by Grant Foster. It was New Zealand’s first natural history film series, showing on NZ TV and internationally. The first instalment — Bird of a Single Flight (presented by Dr Robert Falla, on the kōtuku colony at Ōkārito) — won a 1973 Feltex Award for Best Natural History Programme. Other topics included Royal Albatross (toroa), and The Honeyeaters (tui, bellbird/korimako, stichbird/hihi).
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.
Seven stand-alone contemporary dramas, collected together under one umbrella. The stories in this television series showcase a fresh wave of 1980s independent filmmakers. They cross the gamut from gritty kitchen sink dramas and oddball tales of Kiwi heroes, to Jewel's Darl, an acclaimed romance staring future transsexual MP Georgina Beyer. Five of the About Face directors went on to make feature films; 23-year-old Jennifer Ward-Lealand's performance in Danny and Raewyn won a GOFTA award.
Moana Maniapoto and Toby Mills' documentary series recorded interviews with end-of millennium Māori elders (including Maniapoto's nan Kaa Rakaupai) in four hour-long episodes, revisiting a time when tribal traditions, beliefs and customs were still strong, but when Māori children had their mouths washed with soap for speaking te reo at school. The series, filmed in te reo, was co-funded by Te Mangai Paho and screened on TVNZ and at French and Finnish film festivals. Episode tahi won Best Māori Programme at the 2000 NZ TV Awards.
These six ‘webisodes’ are an online mockumentary series about a David vs Goliath legal battle won by the titular Tararua vale against BPC, a Belgian petrochemical giant. Sid (played by Byron Coll of “Nonu, Nonu, Nonu. Boom!” Mastercard ad fame) has received Woodville Arts Council funding to document the (fictional) landmark case; a scenario that provides fodder for the makers to poke the cow prod at contemporary Kiwi life and NIMBY concerns. Funded by NZ On Air’s digital media fund Ignite, Woodville was selected for indie film festival Raindance in 2013.