Leading criminal barrister and QC Mike Bungay offers a lawyer’s perspective on nine of New Zealand’s most notable police investigations and criminal trials, in this series of dramatised documentaries. In each episode, Bungay explores a different legal theme and they include circumstantial evidence, forensics, immunity deals and the validity of confessions. Featured cases include the Margaret Bell 'Mainstreet' murder, the disappearance of Milton Harris, Karl Sim’s Goldie forgeries and the William Sutch espionage trial. Mike Bungay died in 1993.
Over four seasons, Street Legal’s slick Kiwi take on urban crime and law genres racked up a stack of award nominations - including a 2003 NZ TV Award for best drama series. Although initially wary that the Auckland setting might alienate viewers, writer Greg McGee chose a Samoan lawyer (Jay Laga’aia) as his main character, to exploit the show’s inner-city Ponsonby setting (where cafe society bumps into Pacific Island immigrant culture). Other key characters included Silesi’s lawyer ex-girlfriend Joni, and her new partner Kees, an overstressed sergeant.
This was New Zealand's first big historical drama after the controversy over the cost of The Governor almost a decade earlier. Over seven episodes — set between 1895 and 1914 — it followed the life of Dunedin barrister Alf Hanlon, focussing on six of his most important cases. British actor David Gwillim played Hanlon, while Australian Robyn Nevin was cast as convicted baby murderer Minnie Dean in the first and most celebrated episode. A major critical, ratings and awards success, it immediately recouped its budget when the Minnie Dean episode spurred a big international sale.
Taking its name from police code for "a unit has arrived at the job", Police Ten 7 is a long running TV2 show which adds elements of reality TV to the crime-fighting model pioneered by the BBC's Crimewatch (which ran on TVNZ from 1987 to 1995). Made in conjunction with the NZ Police, and fronted until 2014 by retired Detective Inspector Graham Bell, the series profiles wanted criminals, asks for public help to solve crimes, and features behind the scenes policing stories. It achieved international fame after the "blow on the pie" incident. Sergeant Rob Lemoto began presenting in September 2015.
Section 7 was New Zealand’s first urban TV drama series and followed soon after Pukemanu (which was set in a logging town). Taking its name from the Criminal Justice Act section which placed offenders on probation, it focussed on a Probation Service office and addressed issues of the day including new migrants, ship girls and domestic violence. Expatriate Ewen Solon returned from England to take the lead role in a series very much based on British dramas of the time. More popular with critics than the public, Section 7 was limited to 11 half-hour episodes.
After her husband is jailed, matriarch Cheryl West (Robyn Malcolm) decides the time has come to set her family on the straight and narrow. But can the Wests change old habits? So begins the six-series long saga of the Westie dynasty. Hugely popular at home (beloved by public, critics and awards-nights alike), and imitated overseas, Outrageous Fortune has been a flag-bearer for TV3 and contemporary NZ telly drama; the series proved — in all its grow-your-own glory — that genre TV in NZ could be so much more than overseas stories pasted to a local setting.