Man. Dog. Sheep. This was an unlikely formula for Kiwi TV gold. Showing sheepdog trials from around the country, A Dog’s Show ran from 1977 to 1992. In each trial a farmer, armed with an array of whistles and commands, instructed a sheepdog to wrangle a flock of recalcitrant sheep along a course or into a pen while the bearded, sagacious, Swannie-clad John Gordon provided the commentary. Trivia: the opening tune is a version of the Statler Brothers song ‘Flowers on the Wall’, also used in movie Pulp Fiction.
Launched in February 1974, Spot On was an award-winning education-focused magazine programme for children. Presenters who got their break on the beloved show included Ian Taylor, Danny Watson, Phil Keoghan and Ole Maiava. Keoghan went on to global fame as host of The Amazing Race; Taylor now heads up Taylormade Productions and Animation Research Ltd. The show was created by Murray Hutchinson. Producer Michael Stedman later became head of the Natural History Unit. Peter Jackson and Robert Sarkies entered Spot On’s annual Young Filmmaker competition.
Gibson Group production Public Eye was inspired by the British series, Spitting Image. Latex puppets caricature topical personalities, mostly drawn from the world of politics (Ruth Richardson, Helen Clark, Winston Peters etc). Their foibles are duly skewered in fast-moving comic skits such as the 'Ruatoria Rasta' segment, 'The White Way' and 'Honky Tanga'. The wickedly grotesque puppets were based on drawings by cartoonist Trace Hodgson, and built by a team headed by future Weta FX maestro, Richard Taylor.
This was a beloved six-part children’s drama about the adventures of skateboarding 12-year-old Terry Teo, based on a 1982 graphic novel comic by Stephen Ballantyne and Bob Kerr. The Auckland-set series honoured the comic’s distinctive New Zealand landscapes, people and humour, and gave them a cartoonish feel with larger-than-life acting, animated arcade game style sequences, bright costumes and oversized props. Former Goon Michael Bentine headed the cast which also featured Billy T James as a bikie, and a cameo from former PM Sir Robert Muldoon.
This staple of Māori Television has been on the hunt for over a decade. Host Howard Morrison Junior’s amiable way with his fellow hunters as they head to the best spots to stalk deer or pigs, connected with camo-clad viewers. No hyped up Bear Grylls types here: just good, keen Kiwi hunters getting kai the old-fashioned way for their whānau, bagging trophies or helping protect native wildlife. In the eighth season (2012) Morrison handed the presenter's rifle to ex-rugby star Matua Parkinson; ex All Black Glen Osborne took over for the eleventh season, before Morrison's return.
Broadcast in the early 1970s — back when local television spanned just a single channel — Living in New Zealand was built around short documentary items. Current affairs was rarely on offer; instead there were pieces on novice skydivers, jetboat adventures, shopping, preparations for Expo 70 in Japan, and singer Phil Garland's search for unrecorded folk songs. An item on national talent quest Search for Stars featured an early screen appearance as interviewer by Ernie Leonard — the future Head of TVNZ's Māori Programming Department.
Shazam! rode the 1980s music video boom created by the advent of MTV and the renaissance in NZ music. Aimed at a younger audience than Radio with Pictures, it played in a late afternoon, weekday time slot, and featured artist interviews and live concerts as well as sponsoring a Battle of the Bands and a music video competition. Presenters were Phillip Schofield (later a presenter with the BBC and ITV), Phillipa Dann (who moved to London with husband and future head of MTV Europe Brent Hansen) and, finally, Michelle Bracey (who became a documentary director).
Before he was a British MP, Austin Mitchell spent time downunder, where he was a political science lecturer and a well known NZBC broadcaster in the 60s. On heading north he wrote classic 1972 book The Half Gallon Quarter Acre Pavlova Paradise, a satirical commentary on all things Kiwi from an ‘outsider’s’ perspective. In this three-part series, he returned on a length of the country tour to see how things are going in Godzone. “Cook discovered New Zealand, I discovered my pavlova paradise and now I’m going back there to see how it’s changed 40 years on.”
Is the Sport of Kings headed for the knackers’ yard? As the racing industry attempts to combat declining numbers of punters, falling stake monies and increasing competition for the betting dollar, the Auckland Racing Club — New Zealand’s oldest — allows a TV crew behind-the-scenes access to its headquarters at the Ellerslie Race Course. This seven part series follows the asset-rich, cash-poor club’s new CEO, young and unproven in the racing industry, as he embarks on a mission to modernise its image and operations, and turn its fortunes around.
NZBC series On Camera was an afternoon magazine show. It screened separately on each of the regional channels, but shared items and interviews. Subjects ranged from Rolf Harris and Alfred Hitchcock to VSA and ballet, and topics “of particular appeal to women”. Presenters included Julie Cunningham (Christchurch), Irvine Lindsay (Wellington) and Sonia King (Auckland), with Max Cryer reporting from Hollywood. Future head of TVNZ Māori programming Ernie Leonard (reporter) got early experience on the show, and future Quiet Earth composer John Charles was a director.