A flagbearer for Māori storytelling on primetime television, E Tipu e Rea (Grow up tender young shoot) was a series of 30 minute dramas touching on a range of Māori experiences of the Pākehā world — from rural horse-back riding and eeling, to urban hostility and cultural estrangement. It marked the first anthology of Māori television plays, and the first TV production to use predominantly Māori personnel. E Tipu e Rea's mandate and achievement was to tell Māori stories in a Māori way.
Snapchat meets kapa haka in this acclaimed 2016 Māori Television series. Co-created by actor Cliff Curtis, the Rotorua-set drama follows Piki Johnson (Hinerauwhiri Paki) as she negotiates being a teenager. The cast mixed rangatahi and screen veterans (eg Temuera Morrison). Scriptwriters included Briar Grace-Smith and Victor Rodger. Eight 30-minute episodes were made by the team behind hit show Find Me a Māori Bride. Director Kiel McNaughton told The Spinoff: "what we were trying to achieve was the first soap drama from a Māori perspective."
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.
The Governor was a television epic that examined the life of Governor George Grey in six thematic parts. Grey's "Good Governor" persona was undercut with laudanum, lechery and land confiscation. NZ TV's first (and only) historical blockbuster was hugely controversial, provoking a parliamentary inquiry and "test match sized" audiences. It won a 1978 Feltex Award for Best Drama. Auckland Star reviewer Barry Shaw trumpeted: "It has made Māori matter. If Pākehā now have a better understanding of the Māori point of view [...] it stems from The Governor.
Described as a "Māori Twilight Zone", Mataku was a series of half-hour dramatic narratives steeped in Māori experience with the "unexplained". Two South Pacific Pictures-produced series screened on TV3; a later series screened on TV One in 2005. Each episode was introduced by Temuera Morrison Rod Serling-style. The bi-lingual series was a strong international and domestic success; producer Carey Carter: "Our people are very spiritual ... and here we are ... turning it into stories so that the rest of the world can get a glimpse of that aspect of our culture."
Award-winning series Aroha was born from a desire to tell contemporary love stories in te reo. The six subtitled stories by Māori writers explored love from many angles. Aroha involved established names (Temuera Morrison, Rena Owen, Paora Maxwell), and emerging talents (writer Briar Grace-Smith, actor/director Tearapa Kahi). Filming began in mid 2001; in 2002 three episodes played at the Auckland International Film Festival. Aroha was the brainchild of Karen Sidney, Joanna Paul, and the late Melissa Wikaire. The series was made in tribute to late filmmaker Cherie O'Shea.
Kaitangata Twitch follows the adventures of 12-year-old Meredith (Te Waimarie Kessell) who faces mysterious happenings on Kaitangata island. Meredith is the only one who can apprehend the island's 'twitch' and prevent tragedy repeating. The Māori Television series was adapted from a Margaret Mahy story by long-time collaborator, director Yvonne Mackay, and was filmed in Mahy's Governors Bay hometown. Newcomer Kessell stars alongside Charles Mesure and George Henare (in a Qantas-winning turn). Twitch sold to ABC Australia and won international awards.
Kōrero Mai ('speak to me') used a soap opera (Ākina) as a vehicle to teach conversational Māori, aided by te reo tutorials. Special segments taught song and tikanga. Multiple seasons were made for for Māori Television by Cinco Cine Productions. Cast and crew with credits on the series include presenters Matai Smith and Gabrielle Paringata; actors Calvin Tutaeo, Vanessa Rare, Jaime Passier-Armstrong, and Ben Mitchell; and directors Rawiri Paratene, Rachel House and Simon Raby. Kōrero Mai won Best Māori Programme at the 2005 Qantas TV Awards.
The colourful world of competitive kapa haka is the backdrop for this comedy/drama. The Ring Inz captures conflict and aroha for a hapless group of competitors trying to get it together for the national champs. Directed by onetime kapa haka performer Mahanga Pihama (Kia Ora Hola) for Enter the Dragon Productions, the seven-episode series debuted on Māori Television on Thursday nights. The cast mixes new talents with familiar screen faces like Hori Ahipene and Katie Wolfe (who originally joined the show as one of the writing team).
Keith Aberdein devised Epidemic after being given the brief to write a drama about “disease coming into New Zealand”. Set in a small North Island town where race relations are strained to breaking point, this four part virus outbreak thriller revolves around Māori tāpū and an archaeological dig which locals are worried will disturb the graves of their ancestors. An accomplished cast (Martyn Sanderson, Don Selwyn, Cathy Downes) helped the series break bicultural-themed TV drama ground as European education and culture, and Māori tradition and spirituality collide.