They came, they battered, they bickered. Peter Hudson and David Halls were as famous for their on-screen spats as they were for their recipes. The couple ("are we gay - well we're certainly merry") turned cooking into comedy. Their self-titled show ran for a decade on New Zealand TV and it attracted a cult following when they moved the show to the UK. The duo won Entertainer of the Year at the 1981 Feltex Awards. Microwaves, little roasted nuts and great dollops of innuendo: the sometimes fusty genre of TV culinary demonstration would never be the same.
Over four seasons, Street Legal’s slick Kiwi take on urban crime and law genres racked up a stack of award nominations - including a 2003 NZ TV Award for best drama series. Although initially wary that the Auckland setting might alienate viewers, writer Greg McGee chose a Samoan lawyer (Jay Laga’aia) as his main character, to exploit the show’s inner-city Ponsonby setting (where cafe society bumps into Pacific Island immigrant culture). Other key characters included Silesi’s lawyer ex-girlfriend Joni, and her new partner Kees, an overstressed sergeant.
After her husband is jailed, matriarch Cheryl West (Robyn Malcolm) decides the time has come to set her family on the straight and narrow. But can the Wests change old habits? So begins the six-series long saga of the Westie dynasty. Hugely popular at home (beloved by public, critics and awards-nights alike), and imitated overseas, Outrageous Fortune has been a flag-bearer for TV3 and contemporary NZ telly drama; the series proved — in all its grow-your-own glory — that genre TV in NZ could be so much more than overseas stories pasted to a local setting.
TVNZ ventured back into country music for the first time since That’s Country with this series hosted by actor and musician Andy Anderson. Very much a down home cousin to its big budget predecessor, it bypassed glamour to focus firmly on live performances (with few retakes allowed). Music director Dave Fraser presided over a crack resident band. The guest performers included Midge Marsden, Dalvanius, John Grenell, Beaver, Sonny Day, Hammond Gamble and Brendan Dugan. The music sometimes strayed into other genres. Five episodes were made, but only four screened.
Long-running travel series Intrepid Journeys took Kiwi celebrities (from All Blacks to music legends to ex-Prime Ministers) from the comfort of home to less-travelled paths in varied countries and cultures. The Jam TV series debuted in 2003 on TV One. With its authenticity and fresh, genre-changing take on a travel show (focusing on personal experience rather than objectivity), Intrepid Journeys was a landmark in local factual television. It managed to achieve the rare mix of high ratings and critical acclaim.
This mid '70s ad campaign, made by the National Film Unit for the Tourist and Publicity Department, was aimed at the domestic market and offers nostalgic delights aplenty. 'Nightlife' focused on city bars and clubs, and 'Oldies' showcased options for retirees (scenic bus tours). Another version urged families to ditch the car (amidst the oil crisis) and take public transport to see the country; and in a classic of the genre pop star Craig Scott was a beach pied piper for adoring young Kiwis: "We're in God's own country, we gotta take the tiiiime ...".
This reality television series set out to show that “you don’t have to be extreme to be green” by putting households through a green audit. Each week journalist Francesca Price gave a new family the WA$TED! treatment, gifting them in cash what their planet-friendly conversion had cut from bills. Created by producer Carthew Neal, the eco twist on the DIY/home makeover genre screened for two seasons on TV3 and the format sold globally (a US version screened on Planet Green). The show’s production walked the sustainable talk by eg. reusing props and crew carpooling.
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).
Mortimer’s Patch was a popular drama series following Detective Sergeant Doug Mortimer (Terence Cooper) at work in the town of Cobham. Mortimer plays a city cop returning to his rural roots; Don Selwyn is Sergeant Bob Storey. The series was NZ’s first police drama, and a rare local drama to top ratings. Mortimer's Patch was made when the archetype of the ‘community cop’ everyone knew was still a powerful one, and it was a counterweight to the faceless riot policing of the Springbok Tour. Three series were made.
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.