True Colours came about thanks to a 1986 dispute between record companies and TVNZ. The companies demanded payment for videos, partly because of the costs of producing them; TVNZ refused, arguing the videos were a form of sales promotion. TVNZ then took all its music shows off-air, including Radio with Pictures. They were replaced by True Colours, hosted by RWP's Dick Driver and Shazam!'s Phillipa Dann. It featured mostly live-in-the-studio NZ bands, along with music news and interviews. The dispute was resolved by year's end; True Colours ran for seven of its 10 planned episodes.
Current affairs show Gallery took on controversial topics of the day, most famously in a Brian Edwards interview which solved a Post Office industrial dispute live on-air. Produced by Des Monaghan, it began as a studio-based programme that discussed political issues, but was soon expanded. Edwards’ confrontational style of interrogating public figures was new to New Zealand TV, and polarised viewers. It saw Edwards (the "mad mauler") become a household name, and earned him a reputation as a hardline interviewer. He was succeeded as host by David Exel.
Neighbours at War was a popular reality show that ran for 10 years and eight seasons on TV2. Narrated by long-serving director Bill Kerton, it offered a quirky Kiwi take on a UK concept: take a seemingly unsolvable dispute over a boundary/ fence/driveway, and get a famous Kiwi to mediate the neighbours who can’t agree. Mediators included Mark Sainsbury, Tom Bradley, Police Ten 7's Graham Bell, and John Key. The purposefully cheesy music, and emotion worn on the sleeve, helped make the Greenstone TV show a “much-loved New Zealand staple” (The Spinoff's Duncan Greive).
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.
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.