Four-part series Revolution mapped sweeping social and economic change in New Zealand society in the 1980s and early 1990s. Described as a “journalist's assembly” by its makers, it collected together interviews with the major players and archive footage. Producer Marcia Russell: “We wanted to make Revolution because we believed that unless we re-run and re-examine our recent history we are in constant danger of forgetting, and forgetting can render us passive about the present and slaves of the future.” It won Best Factual Series at the 1997 Film and TV Awards.
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.
Pioneering series Pukemanu (the NZBC’s first continuing drama) followed the goings-on of a North Island timber town. The series was conceived by former forester Julian Dickon (who quit the series and was replaced by Listener critic Hamish Keith as writer). Producing two seasons of six episodes was a key step in industry professionalisation, and many of the cast became stars (Ginette McDonald, Ian Mune). It offered an archetypal screen image that Kiwis could relate to: rural, bi-cultural, boozy and blokey; and reviews praised its Swannie-clad authenticity.
Using interviews, reenactments and archive images, each episode of Screentime series Descent from Disaster examines a major New Zealand disaster — what happened, and what was learnt. Presenters were chosen for their connection to each topic. Sailor Andrew Fagan outlines the 1894 wreck of the SS Wairarapa off Great Barrier Island; weatherman and pilot Jim Hickey looks at a 1948 Ruapehu plane crash; Leigh Hart asks his miner father about the 1967 explosion at the Strongman mine. The first season of seven episodes screened in 2013. Another six followed in 2015.
The first series of Decades in Colour sourced home movies from over 800 New Zealanders, to look back at life from the 1950s to the 1970s. Presented by Judy Bailey, it screened on Prime. Mixing lost images and new interviews, three hour-long episodes each focussed on a different decade: from the post-war suburbia of the 50s, to rugby, racing and beer in the 60s, to emerging challenges to cultural norms in the 70s, as jet travel and TV broadened perspectives and a more independent national identity emerged. A second series debuted in October 2017, focussing on work, home and play.
Star interviewer Brian Edwards talked to the sons and daughters of well known New Zealanders in this six part series. Edwards could be a tough interrogator, but his brief here was to explore the pressures placed on the families of the famous without blindly perpetuating public images, or turning the interviews into inquisitions. The subjects (and their famous parents) were Kit Toogood (Selwyn Toogood), John Kirk (Norman Kirk), Donna Awatere (Arapeta Awatere), Barbara Basham (Aunt Daisy), Helen Sutch (Bill Sutch) and John and Hilary Baxter (James K Baxter).
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.
10AM was among the first of a run of magazine-style arts shows to screen in a morning weekend slot. Debuting on TV1 in mid 1990, it was hosted by Radio New Zealand veteran Kathryn Asare. 10AM mixed reports and studio interviews (conducted by Asare) on various topics involving the Kiwi arts scene. Producer Gil Barker felt Asare was a television natural, fighting pressure to give the role to an established “telestar”, or change Asare’s image. He also brought in writer Peter Hawes to help bring a lighter touch to the show than arts programmes from the past.
Tangata Whenua was a groundbreaking six-part documentary series that screened (remarkably in primetime) in 1974. Each episode chronicled a different iwi and included interviews by historian Michael King with kaumātua. These remain a priceless historical record. The Feltex Award-winning script was by King and director Barry Barclay. The NZBC said the series had "possibly done more towards helping the European understand the Māori people, their traditions and way of life, than anything else previously shown on television". Paul Diamond writes about Tangata Whenua here.
After turning "Jeez Wayne" into a national catchphrase with the sketch show A Week of It, comedy duo David McPhail and Jon Gadsby (plus third writer AK Grant) followed with McPhail & Gadsby, which aired on TVNZ for seven seasons — plus a reprise in 1998 and 1999. After a sometimes controversial debut season in which each episode was devoted to a specific theme (religion, sex etc), the show settled into a steady diet of political satire, spoofs and impersonations of public figures — including McPhail's famous caricature of PM Robert 'Piggy' Muldoon.