In 2005 director Stuart McKenzie brought a camera crew into the studios and rehearsal spaces of Toi Whakaari, New Zealand's top drama school, to follow the progress of its first-year acting students. The class included future names like Dan Musgrove and Sophie Hambleton (Westside) and Matt Whelan (Go Girls). Tough Act was nominated for Best Reality Show at the 2007 Qantas Television Awards and the 2007 NZ Screen Awards. The concept was custom-made for reality TV: tough auditions to find 22 diverse young people, who chased the same dream and faced a multitude of challenges.
Among a number of high profile acting parts, Temuera Morrison is most indelibly associated in New Zealand with his 1994 role as Once Were Warriors’ abusive husband ‘Jake the Muss’. In 2013 he became the subject of a reality show. Made for TV One by producer Bailey Mackey, The Life and Times of Temuera Morrison follows the actor for six months as he attempts to breathe life into an acting career that has spanned 35 years, beginning as an 11-year-old. The Listener’s Diana Wichtel called the seven-part series “entertaining, good-hearted stuff, cut with an arch but sympathetic eye”.
City Life follows a tight-knit group of apartment-dwelling twenty-somethings (lawyers, bartenders, drug dealers, art dealers, et al) on the emotional merry-go-round of urban living. Created by James Griffin, the television series was an effort to create popular drama relevant to contemporary Auckland city life and to appeal to a Gen X demographic – to inject Melrose Place into Mt Eden. A bevy of Kiwi acting talent drink, dramatise and prevaricate to a soundtrack of contemporary NZ pop.
This was a beloved six-part children’s drama about the adventures of skateboarding 12-year-old Terry Teo, based on a 1982 graphic novel comic by Stephen Ballantyne and Bob Kerr. The Auckland-set series honoured the comic’s distinctive New Zealand landscapes, people and humour, and gave them a cartoonish feel with larger-than-life acting, animated arcade game style sequences, bright costumes and oversized props. Former Goon Michael Bentine headed the cast which also featured Billy T James as a bikie, and a cameo from former PM Sir Robert Muldoon.
This early 1980s all-singing, all-dancing, music theatre show ran for three series. It featured a 12-strong core cast — seven of whom had never previously danced, and five of whom weren't trained singers. Only one had acting experience. Members included Maggie Harper (later of Shortland Street), Richard Eriwata, Suzanne Lee, Vicky Haughton (Whale Rider) and actor Darien Takle. Regular features included stage show tributes, special guests, and a segment which created a new production out of apparently unrelated songs. A number of performers later won their own shows.
This children's post-apocalyptic fantasy series follows a circus troupe, Maddigan's Fantasia on their quest to save the world's only remaining city, Solis. The show was created by children's writer Margaret Mahy, developed for television by writers Gavin Strawhan and Rachel Lang for South Pacific Pictures, who produced the 13 x 30min series for TV3. Award-winning and successfully exported, it marked a debut lead performance from Rose McIver (future Tinker Bell in US TV show Once Upon a Time) acting with Michael Hurst, Peter Daube, Tim Balme and Danielle Cormack.
The Insiders Guide to Happiness follows the interconnecting lives of eight 20-something characters — one of them dead — as they search for happiness. Dramatic, comic, sexy, surreal, the drama won critical acclaim and was a ratings success. An ambitious chaos theory-derived 'meta' concept is underpinned by strong performances from the ensemble of burgeoning acting talent, and stylishly-shot Wellington city locations. The Gibson Group production won seven awards at the 2005 NZ Screen Awards, including Best Drama and Best Director (Mark Beesley)
The Cult follows two groups: the members of a commune, who have renounced all contact with the outside world, and a loose-knit team of 'liberators', keen to reestablish contact with commune members they care about. The first prime time drama from Great Southern Film and Television won six of its 11 nominations at the 2010 Qantas Film and Television Awards — including for the acting of Lisa Chappell and Danielle Cormack (as a devious doctor). It was nominated for Best Drama. The moody 13-part thriller was created by Kathryn Burnett and Peter Cox.
The Hothouse centres on five flatmates. Three are in the police force, the fourth is a lawyer, and the fifth is the wildcard: "ultimate hedonist" Levi (Kip Chapman). Series creator David Brechin-Smith explores what happens when outwardly good people "either break the law, or their morality is compromised in some way". The Hothouse was nominated for a run of 2007 Qantas TV Awards for acting; director Nathan Price and cinematographer Simon Baumfield won gongs. The cast includes Ryan O'Kane, Tania Nolan and Hannah Gould. The series ran for one season on TV One in 2007.
With its mix of quirky characters, lush scenery, and medical drama, Mercy Peak proved to be a winning formula. Produced by John Laing for South Pacific Pictures, and starring a host of NZ acting talent (Tim Balme, Jeffrey Thomas, Renato Bartolomei, et al), Mercy Peak follows the highs and lows of Dr Nicky Somerville (Sara Wiseman), who leaves the big city after discovering her partner’s infidelity. Taking up her new role at the hospital in the tiny town of Bassett, Nicky soon learns that life is full of complexities no matter the population.