Contact was introduced as TV2’s slot for local documentaries when TVNZ was established in 1980. At 7pm on Monday nights, it featured 30 minute programmes made both in-house and by independent producers. Multiple episode series within the strand included historian Les Cleveland’s archive based Not So Long Ago, and Ian Taylor Adventures, where the former Spot On presenter tried his hand at various extreme sports. The Contact brand was transferred to TV1 in 1981, as TV2 began to move towards more of an entertainment focus.
The iconic all-things-rural show is the longest running programme on New Zealand television. With its typical patient observational style (that allows stories of people and the land to gently unfold) it’s an unlikely broadcasting star, but New Zealanders continue, after 50 plus years, to tune in. Amongst the bucolic tales of farming, fishing and forestry, there are high country musters, floods, organic brewing, falconry, tobacco farming, as well as a fencing wire-playing farmer-musician, a radio-controlled dog, and Fred Dagg and the Trevs.
The Beginner's Guide... was a series of half-hour documentaries made for TV ONE, and hosted by reporters Ian Johnstone, Caroline McGrath, Judith Fyfe, John Gordon and Philip Alpers. Veteran broadcaster Johnstone described the programmes as going "into areas of life which intrigue, mystify or frighten us". Topics included visiting a marae, prisons, wealth, bankruptcy, GST, the Census, divorce, cancer and the Freemasons. Three series of six episodes and one special screened between 1983 and 1986.
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.
Maggie's Garden Show (originally Palmers Garden Show) was a popular TV One series that ran from 1992 to 2003. Featuring ‘bug man’ Ruud Kleinpaste, gardening experts Bill Ward, Jack Hobbs, Gordon Collier and Professor John Walker, and of course, the nation’s most beloved ginger gardener, host Maggie Barry. The Ellerslie Flower Show special was a perennial favourite amongst viewers; a review from the Herald notes, “In an age where TV personalities grow to be larger than life, Maggie's Garden Show has stuck to its information-based roots.”