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.
Off the Rails was a 12-part journey through the railway memories of New Zealand, with raconteur Marcus Lush at the wheel. With a trainspotter's reverence for ways rail, the beautifully shot, and gently wry travelogue guided viewers around (with thanks to the Raurimu Spiral) the heart of Aotearoa. Off the Rails’ award-winning achievement was to show that energetic storytelling (Super 8 footage, contemporary pop score and snappy editing), combined with the homespun charms of local subject matter, could make for high-rating television.
Led by choreographer and Young New Zealander of the Year Parris Goebel, South Auckland hip hop dance crew Royal Family have won global fame, choreographing and dancing for acts from Jennifer Lopez to Nicky Minaj. This seven part Māori Television reality series follows four dancers as they train with the crew, en route to the 2015 Hip Hop world champs. Made by Charlotte Purdy of Rogue Productions, the series was shot by Jared Leith from Hamilton's Taktix Films, who also shot and edited The Palace’s video for Justin Bieber hit 'Sorry' (watched on YouTube two billion + times).
In 1973 the focus of NZBC’s current affairs programming was under pressure to be reshaped (from the new Labour Government). Long-running show Gallery was to provide follow-up and explanation of current events, and Inquiry was to be a weekly film programme that provided more in-depth treatment of topical issues. Inquiry programmes had a three week turnaround for research, editing and broadcasting; Geoff Walker, Alan Brady and Joe Coté were the initial reporters. Topics covered included a wide-ranging 1974 survey of women in politics: ‘Nothing Venture, Nothing Gain’.
Homegrown Profiles was a spin-off from music channel C4's local music series Homegrown. Screened in 2005, the interview-based show featured episodes devoted to the Finn Brothers, Dave Dobbyn, Bic Runga, Anika Moa, Shihad and Che Fu. The hour-long programmes were based around an extended interview with each artist, intercut with music videos and other performance material— all held together with a well-scripted narration by researcher/ interviewer/ director Jane Yee. Yee writes about making the show here.
A magazine show with an edge, The Living Room did for arts television production what Radio With Pictures did for New Zealand music — it ripped open the venetian blinds, rearranged the plastic-covered cushions, and shone the light on Aotearoa’s homegrown creative culture. Often letting the subjects film and present their own stories, it was produced for three series by Wellington’s Sticky Pictures, who would go on to make another arts showcase, The Gravy. Amidst the calvacade of Kiwi talent, Flight of the Conchords and musician Ladi6 made early screen appearances.
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.
After turning "Jeez Wayne" into a national catchphrase with the sketch show A Week of It, comedy duo David McPhail and Jon Gadsby (plus third writer AK Grant) followed with McPhail & Gadsby, which aired on TVNZ for seven seasons — plus a reprise in 1998 and 1999. After a sometimes controversial debut season in which each episode was devoted to a specific theme (religion, sex etc), the show settled into a steady diet of political satire, spoofs and impersonations of public figures — including McPhail's famous caricature of PM Robert 'Piggy' Muldoon.
This two-part mini-series is set in an 80s 'New Auckland' world of mirror glass and murderous corporate conspiracy. British actor James Faulkner (latterly Bridget Jones' Uncle Geoffrey) plays a shady developer with a smash and burn approach to urban planning. Blocking his utopian waterfront scheme is a cafe. The inheritors of the greasy spoon — and a racehorse — are a duo of feisty femmes: working class Tammy (Annie Whittle), and art consultant Joanna (Miranda Harcourt). The Shadow Trader marked an early producing credit for Finola Dwyer (An Education).
Tangata Whenua was a groundbreaking six-part documentary series that screened (remarkably in primetime) in 1974. Each episode chronicled a different iwi and included interviews by historian Michael King with kaumātua. These remain a priceless historical record. The Feltex Award-winning script was by King and director Barry Barclay. The NZBC said the series had "possibly done more towards helping the European understand the Māori people, their traditions and way of life, than anything else previously shown on television". Paul Diamond writes about Tangata Whenua here.