With its mix of quirky characters, lush scenery, and medical drama, Mercy Peak proved to be a winning formula. Produced by John Laing for South Pacific Pictures, and starring a host of NZ acting talent (Tim Balme, Jeffrey Thomas, Renato Bartolomei, et al), Mercy Peak follows the highs and lows of Dr Nicky Somerville (Sara Wiseman), who leaves the big city after discovering her partner’s infidelity. Taking up her new role at the hospital in the tiny town of Bassett, Nicky soon learns that life is full of complexities no matter the population.
This 80s TV series sees real estate agent Selwyn, TV producer Nardia (early turns from Temuera Morrison and Jennifer Ward-Lealand) and art student Ben (Kerry McKay) as a trio of young Wellingtonions drawn together by a mysterious invitation. At an antique shop dinner they discover they share a colourful birth mother, before becoming players in a game for a legacy of $250,000. Conceived by Brian Bell, Seekers was one of a series of teen-orientated dramas made in the mid-80s (along with Heroes and Peppermint Twist). The 16 episodes screened from February 1986.
Long before the website of the same name, Music Nation was a mid 90s television show devoted to Kiwi music. Hosted by Hugh Sundae and Bic Runga — shortly before Runga's debut album Drive conquered the nation — the show mixed video clips and interviews. Modelled loosely on legendary Sunday night music show Radio With Pictures, Music Nation was produced by former RWP hosts Karyn Hay and Richard Driver. Two seasons, each running 13 episodes, went to air.
Shot on location in Wellington, often after dark, Inside Straight helped usher in a new era of Kiwi TV dramas, far from the rural backblocks. This Minder-esque portrait of Wellington’s underworld was inspired by writer Keith Aberdein’s experiences as a taxi-driver and all night cafe worker. Phillip Gordon (soon to win fame as a conman in Came a Hot Friday) stars as the former fisherman, learning the ways of the city from veteran taxi driver Roy Billing. A solid but unspectacular rater over 10 episodes, the show was scuttled by the launch of trucker’s tale Roche.
Since debuting in 2009, award-winning panel series 7 Days has introduced a range of Kiwi comedy talents to television audiences. Three's show takes an irreverent look at the past week in the news, with regular segments like “my kid could draw that” and “what’s the taxi driver talking about”. Jeremy Corbett hosts; the two teams of regular and guest comedians have included Paul Ego, Dai Henwood, Ben Hurley and Urzila Carlson. The show echoes the format of Britain's long-running Mock the Week. Corbett has described 7 Days as the comedy show he's always wanted to make.
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.
Based on the hugely successful Got Talent franchise created by Simon Cowell, this nationwide TV talent quest first screened on Prime for one season in 2008. It was revived by TV One in 2012 and 2013. The Prime hosts were Andrew Mulligan and radio DJ Jason Reeves, with judges Miriama Smith, Paul Ellis and Richard Driver. From 2012 the host was Tamaiti Coffey, with model/actor Rachel Hunter, Opshop frontman Jason Kerrison and UB40's Ali Campbell as judges. American choreographer Cris Judd replaced Campbell for the 2013 series.
Creating and playing all of the main characters in Super City made for a "physically exhausting" experience for Madeleine Sami. But the hard yakka paid off, with the first season winning Sami a best actress gong and rave reviews. The show weaved the storylines of very different Aucklanders (five in season one, and four new characters in season two): including a ditzy Indian cheerleader, an Iranian male taxi driver obsessed with Māori culture, and a homeless woman. Taika Waititi (Boy) directed the first series; Oscar Kightley (Sione's Wedding) took over for season two.
Serial Killers pokes fun at a group of characters that write for a Shortland Street-esque TV soap called Heart of Hearts. Around the "table of pain" sit irrational Pauline (Robyn Malcolm, who claimed a 2005 Qantas Award for her performance), in the midst of a messy divorce from series co-creator Alan (John Leigh); boozy ex-nurse Simone; name-dropper Matt (Oliver Driver); and ditzy ingénue Elaine. Created by prolific writer James Griffin (Outrageous Fortune, Gloss, Mercy Peak, Shortland Street etc) and based on his award-winning play, it screened in 2005.
With five series and close to 100 episodes, Frontseat, produced by The Gibson Group, was the longest-running arts programme of its time. Billed by TVNZ publicity as a "topical and provocative weekly arts series investigating the issues facing local arts and culture", and hosted by actor Oliver Driver, it (sometimes controversially) took a broad current affairs approach to the arts of the day, covering "all the big events, reporting the stories, and interviewing the personalities."