No-one else has dominated the NZ political landscape the way Sir Robert Muldoon did — or been subjected to the level of TV scrutiny he was in this controversial two part series made by Neil Roberts. It was produced with his company Communicado’s customary style: brooding music, big slow motion close-ups and a malevolent rotating bust — and Roberts, much like his subject, took no prisoners as he explored Muldoon’s career and relationship with power. Complaints of unfairness from Dame Thea Muldoon and son Gavin were later partially upheld by the BSA.
Like many other current affairs shows in the 70s, Tonight had a short-lived existence: in 1975 the newly-elected National government was determined to streamline television's high number of news and current affairs shows. However, the show made its mark with its infamous interview between PM Rob Muldoon and Simon (future Royal PR man) Walker, in which Walker has the temerity to ask questions not on Muldoon's sheet: "I will not have some smart alec interviewer changing the rules half way through." Tonight did well to survive two years before getting axed.
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.
Indie production house Communicado made their name with a stable of television shows that celebrated Kiwi culture. After the success of late-80s show That’s Fairly Interesting, the company began work on Magic Kiwis, a show devoted to heroes of popular culture. Mostly the cavalcade of Kiwi celebs were stars of entertainment (Howard Morrison, Split Enz) and sports (Susan Devoy, John Walker), with the odd politician thrown in. Over three series, the half hour shows combined classic clips and interview footage, all tied together in trademark upbeat style.
Hosted by broadcaster Gordon Dryden, and screening on the second television channel, The Friday Conference aimed to be a public discussion forum as Dryden quizzed newsmakers of the day in-depth. In 1977 it shifted to Thursday nights. It was the first New Zealand current affairs programme to regularly use studio audiences. Notable interviewees included Prime Minister Robert Muldoon and Abraham Ordia, president of Africa's Supreme Council for Sport (who helped spur the African boycott of the 1976 Olympics, over the All Blacks touring apartheid South Africa).
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 was a beloved six-part children’s drama about the adventures of skateboarding 12-year-old Terry Teo, based on a 1982 graphic novel comic by Stephen Ballantyne and Bob Kerr. The Auckland-set series honoured the comic’s distinctive New Zealand landscapes, people and humour, and gave them a cartoonish feel with larger-than-life acting, animated arcade game style sequences, bright costumes and oversized props. Former Goon Michael Bentine headed the cast which also featured Billy T James as a bikie, and a cameo from former PM Sir Robert Muldoon.
A Week of It was a pioneering comedy series that entertained and often outraged audiences over three series from 1977 to 1979. The writing team, led by David McPhail, AK Grant, Jon Gadsby, Bruce Ansley, Chris McVeigh and Peter Hawes, took irreverent aim at topical issues and public figures of the day. Amongst notable impersonations was McPhail's famous aping of Prime Minister Rob Muldoon; a catchphrase from a skit — "Jeez, Wayne" — entered NZ pop culture. The series won multiple Feltex Awards and in 1979 McPhail won Entertainer of the Year.
Hosted by television all-rounder Neil Roberts, It’s Only Wednesday was a short-lived TVNZ chat show in the late 80s. It was characterised by Roberts’ energy as host, and performances by Grant Chilcott’s swing band Wentworth-Brewster & Co. The It's Only Wednesday format saw guests staying on after their interviews, leading to some eclectic company sharing the couch. The guests included former Prime Minister Robert Muldoon, and pop group When the Cat’s Away.
Written by Tom Scott and Greg McGee, South Pacific Pictures-produced Fallout was an award-winning two-part mini-series dramatising events leading up to NZ’s 80s anti-nuclear stand. PM Robert Muldoon (Ian Mune) calls a snap election when his MP Marilyn Waring crosses the floor on the ‘no nukes’ bill, but his gamble fails, and David Lange's Labour Party is elected. Lange (played by Australian actor Mark Mitchell) is pressured from all sides (including a bullish US administration) to take a firm stance on his anti-nuclear platform. He finally accepts there is no middle ground.