American scientist Jared Diamond described Aotearoa’s animal life as the “nearest approach to life on another planet” because of its distinctive evolution. With few mammals, New Zealand before people was ‘birdland’. This 2009 series sees presenter Jeremy Wells (Eating Media Lunch) train his binoculars on birds, and meet the flocks of human Kiwis (twitchers, bird nerds, conservationists) who follow them. Produced by company Great Southern Television, Birdland screened in a primetime slot on TV One. Steve Braunias (author of How to Watch a Bird) was one of the scriptwriters.
This four-part 1986 series offered a lively musical survey of the history of soul. Each episode focussed on a United States city, and its influence on the evolution of the genre. Presented by Dalvanius, the show was built around performances of soul classics by Kiwi performers (Bunny Walters, Peter Morgan, The Yandall Sisters), filmed in a nightclub style setting at Auckland’s Shortland Street Studios. The series writer was Rip It Up editor and future record label owner Murray Cammick (Southside, Wildside).
This major documentary series chronicles the first half century of Kiwi television. Made for the Prime network (after being declined by TVNZ), it examines the medium’s evolution across seven episodes. After an opening 70 minute overview, individual programmes covered the stories of sport, entertainment, drama and comedy, protest coverage, New Zealand identity and Māori television — with an impressive array of interviews, and 50 years worth of telly highlights. John Bates was nominated for Best Documentary Director at the 2011 Aotearoa Film and TV Awards.
Why is New Zealand's landscape and flora and fauna so unique? In four-part series Moa's Ark, renowned English naturalist David Bellamy, with his impassioned enthusiasm and trademark beard (of "old man's beard must go" fame) goes on a journey to discover the answer. Directed and produced by Peter Hayden, this 1990 TV series was produced by Television New Zealand's award-winning Natural History Unit (now independent production company NHNZ). Read more about the series here.
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.