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.
Star interviewer Brian Edwards talked to the sons and daughters of well known New Zealanders in this six part series. Edwards could be a tough interrogator, but his brief here was to explore the pressures placed on the families of the famous without blindly perpetuating public images, or turning the interviews into inquisitions. The subjects (and their famous parents) were Kit Toogood (Selwyn Toogood), John Kirk (Norman Kirk), Donna Awatere (Arapeta Awatere), Barbara Basham (Aunt Daisy), Helen Sutch (Bill Sutch) and John and Hilary Baxter (James K Baxter).
Weddings was a real life romance series from Julie Christie’s reality TV powerhouse Touchdown Productions. It followed couples on their way to the altar — from abstinent Christians, nudists and cross-dressers, to a Days of Our Lives devotee. Among the challenges faced were obstinate mother-in-laws, and finding the cash to pay for the function. Presented by Jayne Kiely, Weddings proved a ratings success for TV2. Follow-up series Weddings: Happily ever after? (2001) caught up with couples to see if married life was wedded bliss, or something else.
A continuation of the classic 70s UK TV series cherished by herds of horse-loving girls, the New Adventures follow Vicky Denning (Amber McWilliams) who has emigrated to the antipodes with her step-mother, where she is captivated by a mystic black horse. The co-production was set in NZ, produced by Tom Parkinson and features many Kiwi names in front of and behind the camera (Illona Rodgers, Ken Catran). Key original cast and the famous original title sequence and tune are reprised, but now with Beauty galloping along a west coast beach. Two seasons were produced.
This 80s TV series sees real estate agent Selwyn, TV producer Nardia (early turns from Temuera Morrison and Jennifer Ward-Lealand) and art student Ben (Kerry McKay) as a trio of young Wellingtonions drawn together by a mysterious invitation. At an antique shop dinner they discover they share a colourful birth mother, before becoming players in a game for a legacy of $250,000. Conceived by Brian Bell, Seekers was one of a series of teen-orientated dramas made in the mid-80s (along with Heroes and Peppermint Twist). The 16 episodes screened from February 1986.
Made to commemorate the centennial of all New Zealand women winning the right to vote, Standing in the Sunshine charted the journey of Kiwi women over 100 years since 1893. Mixing interviews, archive footage and dramatic inserts, the four-part TV3 series devoted an episode to each of these topics: Freedom, Power, Work, and Sex and Family. Writer Sandra Coney also wrote tie-in book Standing in the Sunshine - A History of New Zealand Women Since they Won the Vote. Those interviewed included artists, mothers, businesswomen — and two future prime ministers.
This series of five stand-alone, observational documentaries was made by TVNZ and screened in late 1988. According to producer Alan Thurston, the aim of its fly on the wall approach was to let the story unfold without reporter presence so the audience could “share the experience rather than be told about it”. The subjects were adoption and a birth mother’s search for her daughter, the changing face of Auckland’s Ponsonby Road, life on Pitt Island, a Graham Dingle trek for young offenders and a community centre in the Wellington suburb of Porirua.
After her husband is jailed, matriarch Cheryl West (Robyn Malcolm) decides the time has come to set her family on the straight and narrow. But can the Wests change old habits? So begins the six season saga of the Westie dynasty. Hugely popular (beloved by public, critics and awards givers alike), Outrageous Fortune was a flag-bearer for TV3 and New Zealand television drama. The series proved — in all its grow-your-own glory — that television in Aotearoa could mield comedy and drama, and be so much more than overseas stories pasted to a local setting.
Seven stand-alone contemporary dramas, collected together under one umbrella. The stories in this television series showcase a fresh wave of 1980s independent filmmakers. They cross the gamut from gritty kitchen sink dramas and oddball tales of Kiwi heroes, to Jewel's Darl, an acclaimed romance staring future transsexual MP Georgina Beyer. Five of the About Face directors went on to make feature films; 23-year-old Jennifer Ward-Lealand's performance in Danny and Raewyn won a GOFTA award.