A flagbearer for Māori storytelling on primetime television, E Tipu e Rea (Grow up tender young shoot) was a series of 30 minute dramas touching on a range of Māori experiences of the Pākehā world — from rural horse-back riding and eeling, to urban hostility and cultural estrangement. It marked the first anthology of Māori television plays, and the first TV production to use predominantly Māori personnel. E Tipu e Rea's mandate and achievement was to tell Māori stories in a Māori way.
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.
The iconic all-things-rural show is the longest running programme on New Zealand television. With its typical patient observational style (that allows stories of people and the land to gently unfold) it’s an unlikely broadcasting star, but New Zealanders continue, after 50 plus years, to tune in. Amongst the bucolic tales of farming, fishing and forestry, there are high country musters, floods, organic brewing, falconry, tobacco farming, as well as a fencing wire-playing farmer-musician, a radio-controlled dog, and Fred Dagg and the Trevs.
Greenstone Productions are prolific and award-winning makers of observational reality shows (The Zoo, Border Patrol, Coastwatch). This series saw their cameras go behind the scenes of Wellington Hospital's Emergency Department, to showcase the skills and compassion of medical staff as they treat patients ranging from lost diver Rob Hewitt and a near-fatally inebriated man, to the ubiquitous broken bones and beads stuck up nostrils. The 12-part series won the Best Observational Reality (non-format) Award at the 2007 Qantas Television Awards.
This long-running, hour-long Māori Television sports show saw presenters and sports stars korero in front of a studio audience. The show won a cult audience thanks to its easy-going style, mixing studio action (music, demonstrations) with light-hearted field shoots (eg Brofessionals). Catchphrase "Mean Māori Mean" entered the culture. Ringleaders included Jenny-May Clarkson (née Coffin), Wairangi Koopu, and Liam Meesam, and superstars like Sonny Bill Williams relaxed on the Code couch. The show won Best Sports Programme at the 2007 Air New Zealand Screen Awards.
This staple of Māori Television has been on the hunt for over a decade. Host Howard Morrison Junior’s amiable way with his fellow hunters as they head to the best spots to stalk deer or pigs, connected with camo-clad viewers. No hyped up Bear Grylls types here: just good, keen Kiwi hunters getting kai the old-fashioned way for their whānau, bagging trophies or helping protect native wildlife. In the eighth season (2012) Morrison handed the presenter's rifle to ex-rugby star Matua Parkinson; ex All Black Glen Osborne took over for the eleventh season, before Morrison's return.
Life in the Fridge Exists was a late 80s/early 90s teen magazine show that ranged from celebrity interviews to profiles of young artists and athletes, and health education (presented by Dr Watt, aka radio presenter Grant Kereama). The Christchurch-based show saw early appearances by comedian/actor Oscar Kightley (in his screen debut), Amazing Race presenter Phil Keoghan, future Lotto host Hilary Timmins, and broadcasters Kerre McIvor (née Woodham) and Bernadine Oliver-Kerby. Life in the Fridge Exists was also the name of a short-lived Wellington band.
After befriending Sir Edmund Hillary over Irish whiskey, Tom Scott won Hillary’s endorsement to document his life story for TVNZ. In this four-part series Scott bags the storied peaks of ‘Sir Ed’s’ adventuring and humanitarian career, but also visits the lesser-known tragedies and struggles that the “surprisingly shy” that Hillary has faced; from gangly student and beekeeper to the man who Scott calls “an icon, benchmark and metaphor in his own lifetime”. View from the Top screened in September-October 1997, and won Best Factual Series at the 1998 TV Guide Awards.
This 2016 miniseries dramatises the life of legendary Everest conquerer Edmund Hillary. Written by Hillary's friend Tom Scott (who also wrote Hillary documentary A View from the Top), the six-part drama covers Hillary's life from growing up poor with a disciplinarian father, to romance, Everest, Antarctic adventures, and tragedy and achievement in Nepal. It was directed by Danny Mulheron (The Kick). Hillary was nominated for six NZ Television Awards, including for Andrew Munro's portrayal of Sir Ed. Dean O'Gorman won Best Actor, as Hillary's friend and climbing companion George Lowe.
This 2011 TV One series sees wry but winning host Marcus Lush explore the North Island from Auckland up. Jafa Lush said his motivations were to "see where I was from, what I liked and didn't like and what had changed." The Herald’s Deborah Hill Cone praised the show for its "gorgeous" cinematography (by Jacob Bryant), and for making everyday Kiwi characters look "otherworldly and cinematic and heroic". The series was another successful collaboration between JAM TV and host Marcus Lush, adding to Off the Rails, ICE, and lauded 2009 sister series South.