Telethon was a 24-hour live television spectacular aimed at securing donations from viewers for a charitable cause. The first, in 1975, launched the second channel (TV2) and raised over half a million dollars for St John's Ambulance. By 1981 Telethon had hit the $5 million mark. Along with willing local celebrities, volunteers and a receptive public, it attracted overseas stars: Basil Brush, Entertainment Tonight's Leeza Gibbons and Coronation Street's Christopher Quinton (who famously got together after the 1988 show). "Thank you very much for your kind donation!"
Location Location Location followed the tension, conflict and frustrations of buying and selling real estate. One of New Zealand's longest-running popular factual programmes, it rode the wave of the Kiwi housing boom. Episodes covered all aspects of the housing market, from lower-priced ‘do-ups' to multi-million dollar mansions. The high-rating show made real estate agent Michael "million dollar man" Boulgaris famous as an agent for luxury homes. It was made by now-defunct production house Ninox.
Punk rock was breaking and musical styles changing, but in New Zealand country music was appointment viewing at 7pm on Saturday. That's Country ran from 1980 to 1984. Hosted by one-time pop singer Ray Columbus, the show featured both local and international talent including Suzanne Prentice, Patsy Riggir, Emmylou Harris and George Hamilton IV. An American offer to buy the show and install a US presenter were resisted. Instead the show was sold to a Nashville cable TV network, in a New Zealand first; That's Country soon had an audience of 30 million in the States.
Pioneering soap opera Close To Home first screened in May 1975. For just over eight years middle New Zealand found their mirror in the life and times of Wellington’s Hearte clan. At its peak in 1977 nearly one million viewers tuned in twice weekly to watch the series co-created by Michael Noonan and Tony Isaac (who had initially only agreed to make the show on the condition they would get to make The Governor). The popular family saga carved a regular niche for local drama on screen, and the output demands were foundational in developing industry talent.
Hairy Maclary is a 10-part series adapted from the beloved children's books by Lynley Dodd. Animated by Euan Frizzell, the animated episodes follow Hairy and his canine mates (dachshund Schnitzel von Krumm, dalmatian Bottomley Potts and Old English Sheepdog Muffin McClay) on their Kiwi seaside adventures: from a rumpus at the vet, to the rescue from a tree of Hairy's tomcat tormenter ... Scarface Claw! Miranda Harcourt narrates, conveying the rhythms of Dodd's prose which have seen the stories sell several million copies around the world.
Stories behind 100 of more than 2 million pieces in Te Papa’s collections are investigated in this series of mini-documentaries commissioned by digital channel TVNZ6. Presenters Simon Morton and Riria Hotere talk to the museum’s curators and researchers about items ranging from the quirky to the nationally, and internationally, significant. Subjects include artworks by Colin McCahon and John Reynolds, a Fijian war club, a Samoan cricket bat, a “murder house” dental nurse’s equipment, the Playschool toys, an Egyptian mummy and the fate of the Huia.
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.
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.
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.
Tangata Whenua was a groundbreaking six-part documentary series that screened (remarkably in primetime) in 1974. Each episode chronicled a different iwi and included interviews by historian Michael King with kaumātua. These remain a priceless historical record. The Feltex Award-winning script was by King and director Barry Barclay. The NZBC said the series had "possibly done more towards helping the European understand the Māori people, their traditions and way of life, than anything else previously shown on television". Paul Diamond writes about Tangata Whenua here.