Hitting television screens in 1961, just a year after the launch of regular TV services in New Zealand, this 30 minute talent show was spawned from Ian Watkins’ popular radio show (on which he memorably used a gun to signal the end of performances). Initially screening on Auckland channel AKTV-2, it became a national talent quest in 1962, with auditions in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. The following year, 30,000+ viewers used postal voting. Have a Shot was a noted platform for new amateur talent. After a four year run, it was replaced by New Faces.
Studio One belongs to a long line of talent shows stretching back to the earliest days of NZ television. In two parts, it featured an original song competition which attracted leading songwriters; and 'New Faces'. The latter was for newcomers to TV, and it introduced novelty acts and brass bands, but was also instrumental in launching the careers of Split Enz, Shona Laing and Space Waltz. Later judges including Howard Morrison, Nick Karavias and Phil Warren could be brutal when they wanted to be — and their catch-cry of "no lurex" became a national mantra.
Skitz was a popular long-running sketch-based comedy that screened for four series. Populated with memorable characters and catch-phrases, and broad, take-no-prisoners humour, it won Best Entertainment Programme at the 1996 NZ TV and Film Awards. A particular favourite in its arsenal of regular characters was the Semisi family with their 'fresh off the boat' antics inspiring mirth and groans in equal measure. Skitz featured seasoned comedians such as Jackie Clarke, as well as new faces at the time, including Jemaine Clement of future Flight of the Conchords fame.
The Great Depression — the biggest social upheaval ever faced by New Zealand — is the subject of this very well-received three part NZBC drama series. Based on an award-winning script by Michael Noonan, The Longest Winter focuses on the experiences of politicians, the middle class family of a jewellery shop owner, a boot maker and an unemployed workers’ group. It examines the inter-related forces that combined in the early 30s to plunge New Zealand into some of its darkest days — and left the nation and many of its citizens scarred for decades after.
Face Value was a trilogy of monologues written by Fiona Samuel (Marching Girls, Home Movie), produced in 1995 for TV One’s Montana Sunday Theatre series. Featuring stellar performances by all three female leads, Carol Smith, Davina Whitehouse and Ginette McDonald (also the producer), the series is cleverly scripted and uses a simple, subtly changing domestic setting to emphasise the emotional states of the characters. The three women are very different, but as they tell their stories their experiences are parallelled.
Award-winning Māori current affairs show The Hui sets out “to increase understanding and awareness among mainstream New Zealand about the issues facing Māori and the unique aspects of our culture.” The format includes interviews, investigative reports and panel discussions. Fronted by journalist Mihingarangi Forbes, it screens on Sunday mornings on Three. An April 2017 Hui report on the experiences of men who were abused in state boys' homes won acclaim, and led to a government inquiry. The Hui is produced by Great Southern Television.
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).
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.
Nothing Trivial was a dramedy that kept score on the lives and loves of five friends in a pub quiz team called Sex on a Stick. The cast of City Lifers shifted to the suburbs and nearing middle age was led by Shane Cortese, Tandi Wright, Nicole Whippy, Debbie Newby-Ward and Blair Strang. Created by Rachel Lang and Gavin Strawhan, (the veteran writers behind Go Girls, Maddigan’s Quest, and Mercy Peak) the popular South Pacific Pictures production screened for three seasons on TV ONE. A fan-driven campaign saw NZ On Air fund a tele-movie to wrap up the series.
With five series and close to 100 episodes, Frontseat, produced by The Gibson Group, was the longest-running arts programme of its time. Billed by TVNZ publicity as a "topical and provocative weekly arts series investigating the issues facing local arts and culture", and hosted by actor Oliver Driver, it (sometimes controversially) took a broad current affairs approach to the arts of the day, covering "all the big events, reporting the stories, and interviewing the personalities."