Keith Aberdein devised Epidemic after being given the brief to write a drama about “disease coming into New Zealand”. Set in a small North Island town where race relations are strained to breaking point, this four part virus outbreak thriller revolves around Māori tāpū and an archaeological dig which locals are worried will disturb the graves of their ancestors. An accomplished cast (Martyn Sanderson, Don Selwyn, Cathy Downes) helped the series break bicultural-themed TV drama ground as European education and culture, and Māori tradition and spirituality collide.
Ken Hieatt was a butcher on Auckland's North Shore when television came a knocking. The state broadcaster was looking to create fillers (short programmes to fill gaps in TV schedules), and a friend of a friend knew Hieatt. The butcher started his TV career on series Butcher's Hook, which then morphed into Home Butchery. The renamed series taught viewers how to cut up (or break down) a beef carcass. Series director Bryan Williams recalls that a key point of filler shows like these was to increase Kiwi content on screen.
Punk rock was breaking and musical styles changing, but in New Zealand country music was appointment viewing at 7pm on Saturday. That's Country ran from 1980 to 1984. Hosted by one-time pop singer Ray Columbus, the show featured both local and international talent including Suzanne Prentice, Patsy Riggir, Emmylou Harris and George Hamilton IV. An American offer to buy the show and install a US presenter were resisted. Instead the show was sold to a Nashville cable TV network, in a New Zealand first; That's Country soon had an audience of 30 million in the States.
Launched in February 1974, Spot On was an award-winning education-focused magazine programme for children. Presenters who got their break on the beloved show included Ian Taylor, Danny Watson, Phil Keoghan and Ole Maiava. Keoghan went on to global fame as host of The Amazing Race; Taylor now heads up Taylormade Productions and Animation Research Ltd. The show was created by Murray Hutchinson. Producer Michael Stedman later became head of the Natural History Unit. Peter Jackson and Robert Sarkies entered Spot On’s annual Young Filmmaker competition.
This popular series was an early NZBC "pictorial magazine" show that explored "New Zealand’s backyard". Synonymous with producer Conon Fraser, the 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."
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.
TV3's late night news show was devised in 1990 to provide a mix of credible news and entertainment. Once the serious news of the day was dispensed with, the brief was that the show could be a bit "off" with few rules - and the freedom to push boundaries. That's exactly what presenters like Belinda Todd, Bill Ralston, Dylan Taite and David Farrier proceeded to do in the show's often infamous "third break". Meanwhile, newsreaders including Joanna Paul, Janet Wilson, Leanne Malcolm and Carolyn Robinson did their best to keep a straight face. "Yo Nightliners!"
Comedians Rose Matafeo and Laura Daniel created and starred in this part sketch comedy, part sitcom. Funny Girls sees Daniels and Matafeo producing sketches for a fictional comedy series, and dealing with incompetent male bosses and a clueless producer (Breaker Upperer Jackie van Beek). In 2016 the TV3 series won attention when Comedy Central was accused of copying a season two skit about a board game for girls. The mainly female cast includes Kimberley Crossman, Brynley Stent and Alice Snedden. Madeleine Sami made her TV directorial debut in season two.
Screening in primetime at 6pm, People Like Us was built around exploring the spiritual and emotional aspects of people’s lives. Subjects ranged from interviews with leaders — religious and otherwise — to live events and the Red Cross. Mini seasons within the series were devoted to everything from menopause and breaking up, to cultural diversity (the latter fuelling a book as well). Producer Allison Webber managed to win funding from outside of state TV for some of these specials, and the show shared resources on occasion with RNZ’s former Continuing Education Unit.
The odd couple is a longtime comic staple. In the 1970s Yorkshire emigre Craig Harrison turned the tale of a Māori and a Yorkshireman into novel Ground Level, a radio play, and this ground-breaking TV series. Joe (Stephen Gledhill) is the nervy, university-educated librarian; his flatmate is Koro (Rawiri Paratene) who works in a fish and chip shop. Running for two series, the popular chalk’n’cheese sitcom was a rare comedy amongst a flowering of bicultural TV stories (The Governor, Epidemic). Harrison’s novel The Quiet Earth later inspired a classic film.