TVNZ ventured back into country music for the first time since That’s Country with this series hosted by actor and musician Andy Anderson. Very much a down home cousin to its big budget predecessor, it bypassed glamour to focus firmly on live performances (with few retakes allowed). Music director Dave Fraser presided over a crack resident band. The guest performers included Midge Marsden, Dalvanius, John Grenell, Beaver, Sonny Day, Hammond Gamble and Brendan Dugan. The music sometimes strayed into other genres. Five episodes were made, but only four screened.
At a time when TVNZ light entertainment inevitably meant major studio productions complete with dancing girls, Live from Chips presented singers in a live, no frills environment freed from big budget distractions. The venue was Wellington nightclub Chips and each episode focussed on one singer and backing band playing a 25 minute set. Four episodes were made featuring artists from outside the pop/rock orbits of Ready to Roll and Radio with Pictures — Tina Cross, Herb McQuay, Frankie Stevens and Mark Williams (flown in from Sydney to do the show).
With five series and close to 100 episodes, Frontseat, produced by The Gibson Group, was the longest-running arts programme of its time. Billed by TVNZ publicity as a "topical and provocative weekly arts series investigating the issues facing local arts and culture", and hosted by actor Oliver Driver, it (sometimes controversially) took a broad current affairs approach to the arts of the day, covering "all the big events, reporting the stories, and interviewing the personalities."
Landmarks was a major 10-part series that traced the history of New Zealand through its landscape, particularly the impact of human settlement and technology. The concept was modelled on the epic BBC series America. Here a bespectacled, Swannie-wearing geography professor, Kenneth B Cumberland, stands in for Alistair Cooke, interweaving science, history and sweeping imagery to tell the stories of the landscape's "complete transformation". It received a 1982 Feltex Award for Best Documentary and the donnish but game Cumberland became a household name.
Wayne Anderson is a man out of time. His three and a half octave voice and undying devotion to the “evergreens” of popular music (Elvis, Engelbert and Tom) should surely have seen him in Vegas by now. However, despite the best attempts of hapless manager Orlando, Wayne’s star has never ascended higher than the rather less lucrative Manurewa rest home circuit. The cameras follow him in his quest for a show business career – along with the perfect perm and hot pie – in a series where the boundary between fact and fiction is as elusive as that big break.
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.
Duggan stars John Bach as brooding Detective Inspector Duggan, attempting to solve murders amid the tranquillity of the Marlborough Sounds. New Zealand's answer to Inspector Morse, the show was conceived by Marion McLeod, and scripted by Donna Malane and Ken Duncum. Eleven episodes of the Gibson Group series were made, following on from introductory tele-features Death in Paradise and Sins of the Father. The turquoise waters of The Sounds make for an evocative setting in this sharp, classy Kiwi whodunit. Rachel Davies writes here about Duggan's birth.
Why is New Zealand's landscape and flora and fauna so unique? In four-part series Moa's Ark, renowned English naturalist David Bellamy, with his impassioned enthusiasm and trademark beard (of "old man's beard must go" fame) goes on a journey to discover the answer. Directed and produced by Peter Hayden, this 1990 TV series was produced by Television New Zealand's award-winning Natural History Unit (now independent production company NHNZ). Read more about the series here.
This major documentary series chronicles the first half century of Kiwi television. Made for the Prime network (after being declined by TVNZ), it examines the medium’s evolution across seven episodes. After an opening 70 minute overview, individual programmes covered the stories of sport, entertainment, drama and comedy, protest coverage, New Zealand identity and Māori television — with an impressive array of interviews, and 50 years worth of telly highlights. John Bates was nominated for Best Documentary Director at the 2011 Aotearoa Film and TV Awards.
The Governor was a television epic that examined the life of Governor George Grey in six thematic parts. Grey's "Good Governor" persona was undercut with laudanum, lechery and land confiscation. NZ TV's first (and only) historical blockbuster was hugely controversial, provoking a parliamentary inquiry and "test match sized" audiences. It won a 1978 Feltex Award for Best Drama. Auckland Star reviewer Barry Shaw trumpeted: "It has made Māori matter. If Pākehā now have a better understanding of the Māori point of view [...] it stems from The Governor.