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.
In this satire series presenter Jeremy Wells — channelling Kenneth B Cumberland (of Landmarks fame) — examines NZ history in a mock-revisionist manner, poking fun at the pretence of the past. From the makers of Eating Media Lunch, the show is self-described as “the most important series in the history of history”. Each episode tackles the big issues, including ‘Crime’, ‘Visitors’, ‘Trouble’ and ‘Evil’. The show draws its material mostly from television archive basements, with the odd piece of fakery and animation thrown in. Michael King this defiantly ain't!
Debuting in 2002, Moon TV parodied talk shows, soaps and almost every type of reality television, occasionally leaving viewers wondering if they were watching truth or take off. Created by Leigh Hart — aka That Guy on SportsCafe — it mixed written and improvised material, roadtesting sketches which later spawned their own series, including talk show Late Night Big Breakfast and Leigh Hart's Mysterious Planet. Nominated twice for Best Comedy Programme, Moon TV 's sketches included a regular book slot featuring writer Joe Bennett, a medical spoof and Hamsterman from Amsterdam.
In this series about living sustainably, comedian Te Radar swaps the farm for town to transform a quarter acre overgrown lawn into a lush garden. Using recycled materials and organic methods, Te Radar faces a mission to clear the jungle that is his property and make a profit selling his produce. Throughout the series he visits eco-friendly businesses, including a firm that converts waste cooking oil into biodiesel, and turns to locals to help with his challenge. The series followed on from Off the Radar, in which Te Radar aimed to live solely off produce from his farm.
Homegrown Profiles was a spin-off from music channel C4's local music series Homegrown. Screened in 2005, the interview-based show featured episodes devoted to the Finn Brothers, Dave Dobbyn, Bic Runga, Anika Moa, Shihad and Che Fu. The hour-long programmes were based around an extended interview with each artist, intercut with music videos and other performance material— all held together with a well-scripted narration by researcher/ interviewer/ director Jane Yee. Yee writes about making the show here.
Infamous, short-lived, and arguably unfairly maligned, The Neville Purvis Family Show was hosted by the occasionally foul-mouthed and very Kiwi Neville Purvis — in reality, writer and musician Arthur Baysting (Sleeping Dogs). The series is best known for containing possibly the first use of the f-word on New Zealand television. The full episode containing the controversial utterance has likely been lost; surviving material from the show includes appearances by PM Rob Muldoon, actor Marshall Napier as Neville's mechanic mate, and Limbs Dance Company.
This 2012 JAM TV series followed media personality Jaquie Brown as she confronted the travails of 21st Century motherhood, raising her first child Leo. Directed by Jane Andrews, the series mixed a video diary (sleep deprivation, poop and occasional joy), with reenactments, interviews, and archive material. Brown had earlier written a cheeseburger crotch n’all chronicle of her pregnancy, I’m Not Fat, I’m Pregnant. The six-part series was filmed for two half-days a week, over a year. It screened on TV One on Wednesdays at 8pm.
National treasures The Topp Twins (aka twins Lynda and Jools Topp) have performed as a country-music singing and yodelling comedy duo for more than 25 years. In the late 90s they created their own TV series which ran for three seasons and showcased their iconic cast of Kiwi characters, including Camp Mother, the Bowling Ladies and cross-dressing Ken and Ken. The series, travelling from a Highland Games to a Tauranga triathlon, won the twins - out-and-proud lesbians - several gongs at the NZ Film and TV Awards and screened on the ABC and Foxtel in Australia.
After turning "Jeez Wayne" into a national catchphrase with the sketch show A Week of It, comedy duo David McPhail and Jon Gadsby (plus third writer AK Grant) followed with McPhail & Gadsby, which aired on TVNZ for seven seasons — plus a reprise in 1998 and 1999. After a sometimes controversial debut season in which each episode was devoted to a specific theme (religion, sex etc), the show settled into a steady diet of political satire, spoofs and impersonations of public figures — including McPhail's famous caricature of PM Robert 'Piggy' Muldoon.
Why is New Zealand's landscape and flora and fauna so unique? In four-part series Moa's Ark, renowned English naturalist David Bellamy, with his impassioned enthusiasm and trademark beard (of "old man's beard must go" fame) goes on a journey to discover the answer. Directed and produced by Peter Hayden, this 1990 TV series was produced by Television New Zealand's award-winning Natural History Unit (now independent production company NHNZ). Read more about the series here.