In this five part series presenter Peter Hayden travels through some of New Zealand's most varied, awe-inspiring and spiritual environments. Though there is superbly filmed flora and fauna, geology and other standard natural history documentary staples, it is the history of people's relationship with these sublime landscapes and a genial New Zealand passion for the environment, that makes a lasting impression. At the 1988 Listener Film and TV Awards Hayden won Best Writer in a Non-Drama Category for the series.
Qantas-nominated 'dramedy' Rude Awakenings revolved around the conflict between two neighbouring families, living in the Auckland suburb of Ponsonby. Rush family matriarch Dimity (Danielle Cormack) has her eyes on climbing the property ladder, by acquiring the house next door (occupied by solo Dad Arthur and his teenage daughters). Created by Garth Maxwell (movie Jack Be Nimble), the 2007 series was produced by Michele Fantl for TV One. The Listener’s Diana Wichtel welcomed it as a rare contemporary satire on New Zealand television, but it only ran for a single season.
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.
Among a number of high profile acting parts, Temuera Morrison is most indelibly associated in New Zealand with his 1994 role as Once Were Warriors’ abusive husband ‘Jake the Muss’. In 2013 he became the subject of a reality show. Made for TV One by producer Bailey Mackey, The Life and Times of Temuera Morrison follows the actor for six months as he attempts to breathe life into an acting career that has spanned 35 years, beginning as an 11-year-old. The Listener’s Diana Wichtel called the seven-part series “entertaining, good-hearted stuff, cut with an arch but sympathetic eye”.
Ambitious Jonathan Gunson-created children's series Space Knights pitched the King Arthur myth into a zany sci fi universe of Knights of the Round Space Station, Vader-esque villains, and laser lance jousting. The distinctive look of this early South Pacific Pictures series — like a picture book come to life — was developed by Listener cartoonist Chris Slane, and achieved by using actors in life-size puppet suits and blue screen effects. The series was 22 half hour episodes and screened internationally. The memorable 'Space Junk' theme song was by Dave Dobbyn.
The Fire-Raiser pits a quartet of smalltown World War I era school kids against a mysterious figure with fire on the brain. Inspired partly by a real-life Nelson arsonist, the five-part gothic adventure was created for television by author Maurice Gee. Peter Hayden plays the town’s unconventional teacher ‘Clippy’ Hedges, while the lead role went to Royal NZ Ballet star Jon Trimmer. The Fire-Raiser won four Listener TV awards, including best overall drama and best writer. Gee’s accompanying novel was published both here and overseas. He writes about the show's birth here.
This 16 episode, 30 minute series from Jam TV (This Town, Intrepid Journeys) gave “courageous, honest, heroic and inspirational Kiwis a chance to tell their tale.” Subjects ranged from broadcaster Mark Staufer to Christchurch Student Volunteer Army founder Sam Johnson, Gisborne mayor Meng Foon, and Northland doctor Lance O’Sullivan. The first episode explored irrepressible former C4 presenter Helena McAlpine’s experiences with terminal breast cancer. Listener critic Diana Wichtel praised the TVNZ show as “an increasingly vital corrective to the rest of prime time".
Billed as "directors' essays on great New Zealand artists", TVNZ’s four part Inspiration documentary series profiled authors Margaret Mahy and Witi Ihimaera, photographer Brian Brake and potter James Greig (who died during production of his episode). In describing his inspiration for the series, director/producer Peter Coates told The Listener, "one of the great weaknesses we have in television is the lack of in-depth material on our artists". Coates made three of the programmes, while Keith Hunter produced and directed the Margaret Mahy episode.
Debuting in 2003, this Touchdown series followed 2001's Pioneer House, a similar show from the same company. The new show transported an Otago family (policeman Ross, music teacher Dorothy, and their four kids) back to 1852 to recreate the challenges of life as English immigrants to New Zealand — including the clothing, housing and toiletries of settler life. It was executive produced by Julie Christie, who in a 2006 Listener interview mentioned the experience of pitching the show to NZ On Air as a key driver in deciding to make television that wasn’t reliant on public funding.
Magazine show Weekend dates from an era just before NZ television underwent major change: the series ended shortly before the finish of ad-free Sundays, and new competition from TV3 in 1989. The mainstay of each extended live show was journalist Gordon McLauchlan, who took the time to introduce items over a cup of tea, and handled studio interviews. Joining him at various points was Kerry Smith, Judy McIntosh, Terry Carter, and food/wine expert Vic Williams. Weekend won three Listener awards for Best Factual Series; in 1987 McLauchlan was named Best Presenter.