The father of veteran weatherman Jim Hickey was a Spitfire pilot during World War II. In this early 2000s series, made while Hickey junior was senior weathercaster at TVNZ, he channels his heritage and flies a Cessna 182 around New Zealand airstrips, taking the pulse of the people and landscapes peculiar to each region. The airborne Heartland was one of a series of programmes that he made with producer Dave Mason, under their Rustic Road Productions banner (starting with Jim’s Car Show in 2000). Hickey would later open cafes at Queenstown and New Plymouth airports.
The feature film Topless Women Talk about Their Lives evolved out of this late night, low budget, TV3 micro-series about the lives, loves and travails of a group of 20-something Aucklanders. It was written and directed by former Front Lawn member Harry Sinclair with a cast including Danielle Cormack and Joel Tobeck. Each four minute episode was shot over a weekend with actors not sighting scripts until just before the camera rolled. Music from Flying Nun bands featured prominently; the women remained fully clothed despite the tantalising titular promise.
This was a three-part series mapping the history of aviation in New Zealand: from DIY pioneers (Richard Pearse, the Walsh bros), via the formation of the RNZAF and NAC, to contemporary aviators. Flying Kiwi heroes (Sir Francis Chichester, Jean Batten) are profiled, along with innovation stirred by the NZ environment: flying boats, ski-planes and top-dressers. Presented by pilot Peter Clements, with veteran Conon Fraser (Looking at New Zealand) directing, the series was made by the National Film Unit for TV, which by the 80s had replaced cinemas as an NFU outlet.
This animated series for kids follows the adventures of germaphobic Stanley and feisty Mary-Jane. Sucked down a plughole into ‘Drainworld’, they help a plethora of plumbing creatures battle Dr Drain. Created by Jim Mora (Mucking In) and Brent Chambers, the series was NZ’s first official international animated co-production (between Chambers’ Flux Animation and Australian studio Flying Bark, run by Yoram Gross). The first series of 26 episodes screened on TV2 (NZ) and Channel Seven (Australia), and sold internationally. The NZ Herald called it “flush with fun”.
Set in a high flying PR firm, Spin Doctors was a topical, fast turnaround satire — in the tradition of John Clarke’s The Games. No client is too grasping, no issue too unsavoury for Giles Peterson and Associates, and a team including a ruthless Australian (Mark Ferguson), a boozy trout (Elizabeth Hawthorne) and the office liberal unsuccessfully battling his conscience (John Leigh). Each episode was written and produced in just five days — allowing the writers (including James Griffin, Roger Hall and Tom Scott) full license with the week’s issues.
This series of five stand-alone, observational documentaries was made by TVNZ and screened in late 1988. According to producer Alan Thurston, the aim of its fly on the wall approach was to let the story unfold without reporter presence so the audience could “share the experience rather than be told about it”. The subjects were adoption and a birth mother’s search for her daughter, the changing face of Auckland’s Ponsonby Road, life on Pitt Island, a Graham Dingle trek for young offenders and a community centre in the Wellington suburb of Porirua.