Craig Busch aka The Lion Man is a self-taught big cat handler who has brought Barbary lions and white Bengal tigers to New Zealand. With both species extinct in the wild, Busch launched a breeding programme to add to limited numbers remaining in captivity. Great Southern Television produced three series following the often controversial Busch and his giant feline charges, from the early days of his Zion Wildlife Gardens park near Whangarei (later relaunched as The Kingdom of Zion). An international sales success, the show has played in more than 120 countries.
This six-part All Blacks history showpiece series was commissioned by TVNZ in time for the lead-in to the 1999 Rugby World Cup. Broadcaster Keith Quinn and a six-person crew set off on "one of the most enjoyable and stimulating experiences" of Quinn's career. With Quinn as a genial guide (as both fan and expert), the episodes are framed around the All Blacks’ great rivalries with Britain, South Africa, and Australia; the Rugby World Cup; All Black captains and coaches, and a fascinating episode dedicated to the shift to professionalism after the 1995 World Cup.
Shortland Street is a fast-paced serial drama set in an inner city Auckland hospital. The long-running South Pacific Pictures production is based around the births, deaths and marriages of the hospital's staff and patients. It screens on TVNZ’s TV2 network five days a week. In 2017 the show was set to celebrate its 25th anniversary, making it New Zealand’s longest running drama by far. Characters and lines from the show have entered the culture — starting with “you’re not in Guatemala now, Dr Ropata!” in the very first episode. Mihi Murray writes about Shortland Street here.
This quirky, upbeat comedy-drama looked at teen life through the eyes of 15-year-old Eve (Fleur Saville). Something of an amateur teen anthropologist, Eve questions everything in her world, musing on life to the camera. The series' fresh, self-aware style appealed directly to media-savvy teenagers. The TV3 series launched Saville's TV career, fostered young directing and producing talent, won many awards (including Best Drama Series at the 2002 NZ TV Awards) and was nominated for an International Emmy. It sold to over 40 territories, including the United States.
Extraordinary Kiwis screened on Prime TV. Each episode showcases a New Zealander in their natural habitat and looks at what makes them extraordinary; subjects ranged from household names (Scott Dixon, Colin Meads) to unsung heroes. The third season introduced an on-screen presenter, with Clarke Gayford willingly stepping up to the plate Paper Lion-style to experience the subject's world: from trying to keep up with All Black star Dan Carter, to duck shooting with a fashion designer, fishing in Antarctica, and playing for laughs as a stand-up comedian.
Presented by Phil Keoghan shortly before he left for the US (later to achieve fame as host of Amazing Race) Short Sportz was a early 90s TV3 sports show encouraging kids to get involved in sports. It looked at sports news and science and profiled established and rising stars (including young Wainuiomata rugby league star Tana Umaga). Keoghan often kitted up himself Paper Lion-style, to capture the thrill of the game, including hurtling down the luge, paragliding, taking pitches from the Black Sox, and cycling with future ironman champion Cameron Brown.
Made during Kiwi television's golden age of light entertainment, Rock Around the Clock set out to recreate the golden days of early rock'n'roll. Lifelong rock'n'roller Tom Sharplin took the lion's share of time behind the microphone, with Paul Holmes introducing occasional guests as fictional compere Wonderful Wally Watson. Completing the 50s vibe were a bevy of rock'n'roll dancers, and an elaborate set which incorporated both dance floor and milk bar.