Debuting in 2003, this Touchdown series followed 2001's Pioneer House, a similar show from the same company. The new show transported an Otago family (policeman Ross, music teacher Dorothy, and their four kids) back to 1852 to recreate the challenges of life as English immigrants to New Zealand — including the clothing, housing and toiletries of settler life. It was executive produced by Julie Christie, who in a 2006 Listener interview mentioned the experience of pitching the show to NZ On Air as a key driver in deciding to make television that wasn’t reliant on public funding.
In this fascinating social experiment, a 21st century Kiwi family is transported back in time to live as a typical family would have — 100 years ago. Their house and garden is restored to its 1900 state with electrical fittings, modern plumbing and all traces of modern living removed. The family have to deal with the challenges of turn of the last century manners, dress, morals, work and a lack of conveniences (including a regular outside trip to the long drop toilet). Based on a UK format, the series was followed in New Zealand by Colonial House (2003).
Greenstone is the tale of a beautiful, missionary-educated Māori woman (Simone Kessell) whose romantic life is subject to the shifting loyalties of her father, Chief Te Manahau (George Henare). The cross-cultural elements of this ambitious colonial bodice-ripper were reflected off-screen as well: created by Greg McGee in response to a call by TV One for a local drama 'saga', the series saw major English creative input through being developed as a co-production with the BBC. After the withdrawal of BBC funding, the Tainui Corporation helped fund the eight-part series.
This classic kids’ adventure tale follows a 13-year-old boy on a quest to find his father, missing amidst the 1860s Otago gold rush. When it launched in September 1976, the 13 part series was the most expensive local TV drama yet made. Under the reins of director Tom Parkinson, the series brandished unprecedented production values, and panned the Central Otago vistas for all their worth. Its huge local popularity was matched abroad (BBC screened it multiple times); it showed that NZ-made kids’ drama could be exported, and helped establish the new second television channel.
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.
The award-winning Pioneer Women series was producer Pamela Meekings-Stewart’s response to her perception that histories on NZ television, like The Governor, hadn’t adequately recognised the role played by women in shaping the nation. The initial series of six episodes focussed on the lives of Nurse Maude, Ettie Rout, Hera Ngoungou, Princess Te Puea, Elizabeth Colsenso and Ellen Hewett; it celebrated women who not only had to face hardship and deprivation but were charged with raising the next generation. A second series of three episodes screened in 1990.
Children's adventure series Gather Your Dreams follows Kitty, a teenager who dreams of stardom while travelling with her family's vaudeville troupe in Depression-era 1930s New Zealand. The troupe's impresario (and Kitty’s father) was played by Mortimer’s Patch star Terence Cooper. Mostly shot in the Coromandel, the half hour 13-part series was one of a run of kidult dramas made in the late 70s by South Pacific Television. Like its predecessor — colonial scamp saga Hunter's Gold — it had international sales success. Dreams was helmed by Hunter's Gold director Tom Parkinson.
This 2016 Māori Television series mixes history and the action stylings of 300, The Dead Lands and kung fu movies, to dramatise pre-Pākehā Māori martial arts and those who practised them. As the publicity put it: "ancient heroes of yesteryear, re-discovered, re-examined and re-imagined". The anthology series was created by Rangi Rangitukunoa, and choreographed by kapa haka champ Wetini Mitai-Ngātai. Nine 30-minute episodes were made. Kairākau was praised by Duncan Greive on website The Spinoff, for evoking "a pre-colonial New Zealand in a convincing and evocative style."
This ambitious reality show saw Kiwis living 1850s style for six weeks — "three families from two very different cultures sharing one land". The first Māori family communicates in te reo; two other families, one Māori and one Pākehā, don't. The One Land team researched and recreated a hilltop pā and a colonial house for the participants to live in. Executive producer Bailey Mackey praised TVNZ for playing a te reo-heavy reality show in prime time. Named Best Constructed Reality Series at the 2010 Qantas TV Awards, One Land was made by Mackey's Black Inc Media and Eyeworks.
While convalescing down under Sir Charles Pemberton (Terence Cooper) schemes to build a thermal spa in the town of Wainamu c.1900. Conflict ensues as the spa’s planned location is on Māori land. The action is seen through the eyes of youngsters: hotelier’s son Tom, and Pemberton’s granddaughter Sarah Jane; who — along with an erupting volcano — eventually impart on Sir Charles a lesson about colonial hubris. The 13-part series was a marquee title from a golden age of Kiwi kidult telly-making: it won multiple Feltex awards, and screened on the BBC in 1980.