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 2011 TV One series sees wry but winning host Marcus Lush explore the North Island from Auckland up. Jafa Lush said his motivations were to "see where I was from, what I liked and didn't like and what had changed." The Herald’s Deborah Hill Cone praised the show for its "gorgeous" cinematography (by Jacob Bryant), and for making everyday Kiwi characters look "otherworldly and cinematic and heroic". The series was another successful collaboration between JAM TV and host Marcus Lush, adding to Off the Rails, ICE, and lauded 2009 sister series South.
Off the Rails was a 12-part journey through the railway memories of New Zealand, with raconteur Marcus Lush at the wheel. With a trainspotter's reverence for ways rail, the beautifully shot, and gently wry travelogue guided viewers around (with thanks to the Raurimu Spiral) the heart of Aotearoa. Off the Rails’ award-winning achievement was to show that energetic storytelling (Super 8 footage, contemporary pop score and snappy editing), combined with the homespun charms of local subject matter, could make for high-rating television.
In this Jam TV series, comedian Te Radar ditches 21st Century consumer luxuries and the city rat race to see if he can live sustainably for 10 months on a remote patch of land west of Auckland. His back-to-basics mission requires him to exist on only what he can hunt, grow and fish himself — putting delights like goat salami and home-made feta on the menu. He also explores topical green issues like the viability of solar power and whether simple steps such as composting and starting a worm bin can reduce landfill. The series also bred a book and a live show.
Going further off the rails and further south, idiosyncratic TV host Marcus Lush continued his ratings-winning collaboration with Jam TV in this five-part series about the history, environment and wildlife of Antarctica. The show also investigates and celebrates New Zealand's many connections with Antarctica, from involvement in the historic quests of Scott and Amundsen, to continuing ties with Scott base on Ross Island, where Lush spends Christmas with the community of long-term residents.
Company JAM TV have made a speciality of successfully mixing idiosyncratic hosts with travel destinations (Intrepid Journeys, Off the Rails). For this series, comedian Te Radar explores "big picture questions" (pollution, power, waste and water), while visiting people "making a difference" everywhere from Blenheim to Brunei, from Tonga to Rwanda. Global Radar had two seasons on TV One (in 2011 and 2013) and won a NZ Television Award for Best Information Series (it was nominated for Best Presenter). Radar picked Rwanda's 'goats for gorillas' programme as a personal highlight.
Freaky creator Thomas Robins’ second horror anthology for kids makes use of a sophisticated story structure. Years ago Room 21 at Killian High was cursed by its satanic school founder. A new principal dismisses warnings and opens the space, unleashing the curse onto new students. Each episode is split into three parts as three students battle demons. The number 21 plays an important role; the 21 students of Room 21 must overcome an eclectic range of demons or else the evil Killian claims their souls ‘forever’. A second season followed in 2008.
Rocked the Nation launched in 2008 with six one hour-long shows. Production company Satellite Media ransacked the archives and interviewed protagonists, to survey 100 key moments in Kiwi music history: including smash hits, riots, TV talent shows, and sex, drugs and rock’n’roll. Hosted by Karyn Hay, the series screened on C4 during NZ Music Month, and was the channel’s highest-rating series to that date. Follow-up series counted down 100 New Zealand Pop Culture Stories (2009, hosted by Rhys Darby) and 100 New Zealand Sporting Moments (2011, hosted by Dai Henwood).
This Māori Television series aimed to celebrate Aotearoa’s "favourite party songs", through showband renditions led by the Modern Māori Quartet. Inspired by the great Kiwi garage party, each week the quartet (Francis Kora, Maaka Pohatu, Matariki Whatarau and James Tito) host special guests — some famous, some not — who are invited to perform their favourite track. They include Temuera Morrison, Tina Cross, Ria Hall, Jan Hellriegel and Troy Kingi. The members of the "Māori rat pack" met at drama school Toi Whakaari. They were the houseband on short-lived variety series Happy Hour.
Pioneering soap opera Close To Home first screened in May 1975. For just over eight years, middle New Zealand found their mirror in the life and times of Wellington’s Hearte clan. At its peak in 1977, nearly one million viewers tuned in twice weekly to watch the series, which was co-created by Michael Noonan and Tony Isaac. They initially only agreed to make it on condition they got approval for The Governor. The popular family saga carved a regular niche for local drama on screen; the demands of creating a regular show helped develop the skills of Kiwi actors and crew.