Peppermint Twist’s pastel-tinted portrait of 60s puberty floated onto New Zealand television screens in 1987. Despite winning a solid teen following, it only lasted for one series. Set amongst a group of teens in small town Roseville (in reality the outdoors set on the edge of Wellington, originally used for Country GP), the show’s stylised look and sound had few Kiwi precedents — though its links to American perennial Happy Days are clear. Peppermint made liberal, and increasingly confident use of period music, with each episode named after a pop song of the day.
In the Cold War 60s, thrillers peopled with jetsetting spies with shifty figures standing behind pillars in sunnies were all the rage (Danger Man, The Man from Uncle). Kiwi entry The Alpha Plan revolves around a British security agent who finds himself downunder, on the run, investigating strange disappearances amongst a Mensa-like society made up the planet's brightest brains. The ambitious six-part mystery thriller was the first Kiwi TV drama designed to go beyond one episode; positive reaction to the show paved the way for NZBC’s in-house drama department.
In the Nature of Things saw Christchurch zoologist Ron Walton deliver science lessons to children. Walton (along with Night Sky presenter Peter Read) made made science pop, and was one of NZ’s best known broadcasting personalities of the 60s and 70s, fondly remembered by a generation of Kiwi kids. His fame saw him endorse everything from microscopes to Pye TV sets. From a gentler time, well prior to the pyrotechnics of MythBusters, Things was one of the few NZBC products from the era that screened internationally, selling to the US and a host of other countries.
Before he was a British MP, Austin Mitchell spent time downunder, where he was a political science lecturer and wrote 1972 classic The Half Gallon Quarter Acre Pavlova Paradise. He was also a well known NZBC broadcaster in the 60s, fronting current affairs show Compass, and this parliamentarian interview series, which analysed Kiwi politicians, “in a manner that New Zealand audiences had never seen before” (Robert Boyd-Bell, New Zealand Television - The First 25 Years). The six subjects included PM Keith Holyoake; it was produced by future Hutt mayor John Terris.
C’mon brought the hits of the day into New Zealand living rooms for three years in a tightly scripted, black and white frenzy of special effects, pop art sets, go-go girls and choreographed musicians while host Pete Sinclair kept the pace cracking with breathless hipster charm. Most of the stars of the day appeared at one time or another but sadly only two episodes have survived. As the 60s finished C’mon fell victim to the fragmenting of the music world and the arrival of darker music that the show could no longer turn into family friendly viewing.
The first series of Decades in Colour sourced home movies from over 800 New Zealanders, to look back at life from the 1950s to the 1970s. Presented by Judy Bailey, it screened on Prime. Mixing lost images and new interviews, three hour-long episodes each focussed on a different decade: from the post-war suburbia of the 50s, to rugby, racing and beer in the 60s, to emerging challenges to cultural norms in the 70s, as jet travel and TV broadened perspectives and a more independent national identity emerged. A second series debuted in October 2017, focussing on work, home and play.
This popular series was an early NZBC "pictorial magazine" show that explored "New Zealand’s backyard". Synonymous with producer Conon Fraser, it was a staple of Sunday night 60s TV. Subjects ranged from Chatham Islands lobster fisheries, to Central Otago frost fires, to Miss New Zealand contestants. The show was praised in a 1968 NZ TV Weekly review as breaking new ground in relying more on imagery and interviewees' reflective voice-overs than (then usual) omniscient narration: "one of the few pure television productions to have originated within the NZBC."
A Girl to Watch Music By was a six-part series, with each episode showcasing a popular female singer or singing act. Among those featured were recent chart-topper Allison Durbin, perennial Pat McMinn, Yolande Gibson, Eliza Keil from the Keil Isles, and The Chicks. Hosted by Ray Columbus — by 1969, already well on the way to becoming a television veteran — the series also featured a fondly remembered sketch where Columbus played puppet to a much taller Max Cryer. The show's title was likely a variation on 60s instrumental hit 'Music to Watch Girls By'.
The Benson & Hedges Fashion Design Awards were the big fashion event of the year from the mid 60s through to the 90s. The show was organised by Josephine Brody, with a TV version screening later. Model turned agent Maysie Bestall-Cohen organised the ‘B&H’ from 1982. An early 80s screen hiatus ended with TVNZ screening a live-to-air show from 1984 to 1998 — the Michael Fowler Centre event was one of its biggest outside broadcasts. In the later 90s the show was known as the Smokefree Fashion Design Awards (after tobacco company sponsorships were outlawed).
The Country Touch was a widely popular country and western music show from the 60s, that screened on Saturday nights. Produced by Bryan Easte for NZBC the show was filmed on an Auckland hay barn set and featured musical numbers, from folk, fiddles, and banjos to bluegrass, introduced by the legendary Tex Morton. Regulars included The Hamilton County Bluegrass Band, Brian Hirst’s Country Touch Singers (with a team of 20 square dancers), and Kay and Shane. Has Auckland ever been this close to the Appalachians?