Legendary professional wrestling TV show On the Mat ran from 1975 until 1983. Each half-hour show featured wrestling matches accompanied by commentary - promoter Steve Rickard described the technical in-the-ring aspects and Ernie Leonard, and later Barry Holland, added colour. The larger-than-life wrestlers were a mix of US imports and local characters: King Curtis, Samoan Joe, Aussie Larry O'Day, Rick Martel, and Sweet William and Brute Miller (soon famous in the US as The Bushwackers). The show was the catalyst for the boom in popularity of Rickard's pro-wrestling tour.
Life on Ben is a partly-animated series for kids exploring the intricacies of life on skin. Gordon and Gloob (voiced by Flight of the Conchords’ Jemaine Clement and Boy director Taika Waititi) are two symbiotic creatures who go on an unexpected stop motion journey. When their host, 10-year-old Ben, gets an itch in his butt the Plasticine duo find themselves exiled to his nostril; on their quest to get back home they encounter a petri dish of other microbial folk. Created by Luke Nola (Let’s Get Inventin’), the 10 episodes of this two-minute show sold internationally.
The Great Depression — the biggest social upheaval ever faced by New Zealand — is the subject of this very well-received three part NZBC drama series. Based on an award-winning script by Michael Noonan, The Longest Winter focuses on the experiences of politicians, the middle class family of a jewellery shop owner, a boot maker and an unemployed workers’ group. It examines the inter-related forces that combined in the early 30s to plunge New Zealand into some of its darkest days — and left the nation and many of its citizens scarred for decades after.
In this six part TV One series, suburban Mum Jodie (Jodie Dorday) accidentially kills her ex-rock singer husband Brian (Shane Cortese) and is convinced by her friends to bury the body. The comedy drama was devised by Maxine Fleming and Gavin Strawhan, and produced for Eyeworks Touchdown by screen legends Julie Christie and Robin Scholes (Once Were Warriors). Scholes was onboard to develop drama at the production company renowned for its popular factual television. It was the first NZ television drama to use high definition cameras. A planned sequel was never made.
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.
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.
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.