Heartland was a long-running series where, in each episode, affable presenter Gary McCormick explored a Kiwi community. Location and local legend are relayed as McCormick (or occasionally Annie Whittle, Maggie Barry, or Kerre McIvor) interacts with the natives, most famously, tiger slipper-shod Chloe of Wainuiomata. The popular, award-winning series, was inspired by a collaboration — Raglan by the Sea — between McCormick and director Bruce Morrison; it connected mostly-urban Kiwis with faraway corners of the country, and a homely sense of shared identity.
This iconic travelling TV game show pitted teams representing New Zealand towns against each other in a series of colourful physical challenges. Top Town was run over a series of weekly heats, staged in different towns on local sports fields. It leveraged nostalgia for a fast-fading time when NZ's population (and identity) resided in rural hub towns. The series was light-hearted light-entertainment gold, but the battle for civic bragging rights was serious stuff and it screened for 14 years from 1976 until 1990.
Made for TVNZ’s Heartland channel, this series saw veteran newsreaders looking back at memorable moments in New Zealand history, from the 1960s to the 1990s. Covering both news events and popular culture, the show combined archive content and interviews with those who were there. Each decade was covered over a week, nightly from 7.30 - 10pm. The TV legends presenting the screen nostalgia included Dougal Stevenson (covering the 60s), Jennie Goodwin (70s), Tom Bradley (80s) Judy Bailey (90s) and Keith Quinn (who joined in the second season).
From the Archives: Five Decades celebrated of 50 years of television in New Zealand. The five-part series launched TVNZ's Heartland channel on Sky TV, on 1 June 2010. The host was children's TV presenter (Hey Hey It's Andy) turned TV executive Andrew Shaw. Each slot showcased a specific decade — from the 1960s to the 2000s — and featured archival TV programmes and clips. Shaw also did a short interview with a person who had a high television profile in that decade. Those interviewed were Ray Columbus, Brian Edwards, David McPhail, Peter Elliott and Paul Holmes.
For two series in 1989, poet, raconteur, broadcaster and surfer Gary McCormick honed his Heartland rapport and took on that most vexed of NZ television formats — the chat show — with help from the director Bruce Morrison and producer Finola Dwyer (Oscar nominated for An Education) with whom he had made the acclaimed Raglan by the Sea doco. The Kiwiana set purported to recreate McCormick’s Gisborne house (complete with a green vinyl La-Z-boy) to make guests — who ranged from Wayne Shelford, to Don ‘The Rock’ Muraco, Eva Rickard, and PJ O’Rourke — feel at home.
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.
Nothing Trivial was a dramedy that kept score on the lives and loves of five friends in a pub quiz team called Sex on a Stick. The cast of City Lifers shifted to the suburbs and nearing middle age was led by Shane Cortese, Tandi Wright, Nicole Whippy, Debbie Newby-Ward and Blair Strang. Created by Rachel Lang and Gavin Strawhan, (the veteran writers behind Go Girls, Maddigan’s Quest, and Mercy Peak) the popular South Pacific Pictures production screened for three seasons on TV ONE. A fan-driven campaign saw NZ On Air fund a tele-movie to wrap up the series.