Seven stand-alone contemporary dramas, collected together under one umbrella. The stories in this television series showcase a fresh wave of 1980s independent filmmakers. They cross the gamut from gritty kitchen sink dramas and oddball tales of Kiwi heroes, to Jewel's Darl, an acclaimed romance staring future transsexual MP Georgina Beyer. Five of the About Face directors went on to make feature films; 23-year-old Jennifer Ward-Lealand's performance in Danny and Raewyn won a GOFTA award.
All Things Being Equal was an early TVNZ sitcom written by future Gloss creator Rosemary McLeod. Screening on Friday nights the 70s gender politics satire was a one-off NZ TV experiment, broadcast live-to-air from Avalon Studios (a second series ditched the live shoot). Ginette McDonald and Bruno Lawrence had made their screen debut together in Pukemanu and were reunited by series director Ross Jennings. When film director Roger Donaldson saw Bruno on the show, it led to Lawrence being cast as Al Shaw in Smash Palace — his career-defining big screen role.
The second, but prequel, series to The Insiders Guide to Happiness is chaos theory in action: seven young strangers whose lives intersect are linked together by a bizarre incident. Produced by the Gibson Group, The Insiders Guide mix of meta-tangle story-telling with fresh shooting and faces, saw Love become a hit with the same youth demographic as Happiness. The show went on to win a clutch of Screen Director's Guild Awards and most of the major drama gongs at the 2006 Qantas Film and TV Awards, including Best Drama, Director, Script, Actor and Actress.
The Insiders Guide to Happiness follows the interconnecting lives of eight 20-something characters — one of them dead — as they search for happiness. Dramatic, comic, sexy, surreal, the drama won critical acclaim and was a ratings success. An ambitious chaos theory-derived 'meta' concept is underpinned by strong performances from the ensemble of burgeoning acting talent, and stylishly-shot Wellington city locations. The Gibson Group production won seven awards at the 2005 NZ Screen Awards, including Best Drama and Best Director (Mark Beesley)
Queer Nation was a factual series made by, for and about lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender (LGBT) New Zealanders. Produced by Livingstone Productions with John A Givins at the helm, it screened on TVNZ for 11 seasons over nine years from 1996 till 2004 and was the world's longest running free-to-air TV programme made for the LGBT community. Long-serving presenters included original host (and future NZ On Screen ScreenTalk director) Andrew Whiteside, Libby Magee and Nettie Kinmott. Queer Nation won Best Factual Series at the NZ Television Awards 2003.
Dig This became NZ’s first national gardening show when it replaced a series of regional programmes in 1975. For 15 minutes, before the English football highlights on Sunday mornings, presenter Eion Scarrow (who had honed his skills fronting the Auckland show since 1971) dirtied his hands in a specially created garden in the grounds of Avalon Studios in Lower Hutt (allowing a generation of trainee directors to develop their own craft). His advice was no-nonsense and so was his wardrobe of home knitted jerseys, gumboots, overalls and towelling hats.
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.
Following award-winning and high rating collaborations exploring trains (Off the Rails) and Antarctica (ICE), Jam TV reteamed with presenter Marcus Lush to explore the southern tip of the South Island. Over seven 30 minute episodes, the Bluff-based Aucklander mixed wry observation and self-deprecation with clear affection for the stories, wildlife, geography and characters of his (then) adopted hometown, and its environs. At the 2010 Qantas Television Awards, Lush won Best Presenter and Melanie Rakena won Best Director – Entertainment / Factual.
Challenge was a series of six one-hour documentaries for Television One, exploring the theme of adventure. The challenges taken on by Kiwis included a pioneering hot air balloon flight over Aoraki-Mt Cook, an ascent of Kumbhakarna-Mt Jannu in Nepal led by Edmund Hillary and Graeme Dingle, a trek through Death Valley in Nevada, a transatlantic solo yacht race helmed by John Mansell, and a jet boat race in Mexico. The Mexican episode was directed by Challenge's executive producer, Peter Morritt. Other directors included Pamela Meekings-Stewart and Ian John.
Heartland was a long-running series where, in each episode, affable presenter Gary McCormick explored a Kiwi community. Location and local legend are relayed as McCormick (or occasionally Annie Whittle, Maggie Barry, or Kerre McIvor) interacts with the natives, most famously, tiger slipper-shod Chloe of Wainuiomata. The popular, award-winning series, was inspired by a collaboration — Raglan by the Sea — between McCormick and director Bruce Morrison; it connected mostly-urban Kiwis with faraway corners of the country, and a homely sense of shared identity.