This major documentary series chronicles the first half century of Kiwi television. Made for the Prime network (after being declined by TVNZ), it examines the medium’s evolution across seven episodes. After an opening 70 minute overview, individual programmes covered the stories of sport, entertainment, drama and comedy, protest coverage, New Zealand identity and Māori television — with an impressive array of interviews, and 50 years worth of telly highlights. John Bates was nominated for Best Documentary Director at the 2011 Aotearoa Film and TV Awards.
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.
Based on an overseas format, Touchdown reality series Captive was based on a simple idea: five strangers move into a penthouse apartment and as long as they want to stay in the competition, they cannot leave. Luckily there is motivation, in the form of prizes worth up to $40,000. Contestants are quizzed not only on trivia, but on their fellow housemates. At the end of each episode, whoever fared worst in the quiz is evicted from the house empty-handed, and replaced. Alliances are formed and new friendships broken as they attempt to get to know each other.
Onetime All Blacks Marc Ellis and Matthew Ridge cemented their on screen partnership with late 90s show Fresh-up in the Deep End. The Touchdown series saw the pair taking their lovable, duelling larrakin personas to a variety of locations: they did time in the armed services, the circus, flash restaurant Petit Lyon, and as butler and chauffeur to model Rachel Hunter. They also launched their own political party, did the Coast to Coast, and tried a variety of dance moves. Fresh-up in the Deep End ran for two seasons.
Coming Home chronicled Kiwi successes abroad, by profiling New Zealanders living and working overseas, then following them back to Aotearoa when they made a return visit. Each episode of the Touchdown Productions series was grouped roughly geographically, with two or three expat New Zealanders featured per episode. Among those reminiscing upon home and opportunity were businesswoman Mary Quin, motor racing legend Steve Millen, journalist Peter Arnett, model Kylie Bax, psychologist John Money, law lecturer Judith Mayhew and singer Patrick Power.
Flipping reality television on its head, this 2004 show saw Hawkes Bay vineyard worker Sam Chambers competing on a reality series, unaware he was the only real thing on it. The Kiwi take on American cable TV hit The Joe Schmo Show was produced by Touchdown Productions. Writers and cast (some of whom had never acted before) had to adapt to unexpected alliances and events, while Mark Ferguson revelled in the role of smarmy host, crossing lines of acceptable behaviour with some of the contestants. When the ruse was finally revealed, Chambers got $50,000 in prize money.
Company Touchdown Productions dominated Kiwi reality television in the early 2000s, thanks to a run of shows (Miss Popularity, The Chair, DIY Rescue). In 2004 they produced The Player, which featured a group of bachelors housed together in an apartment, exuberantly ‘playing’ the Auckland dating scene. Hosted by model Nicky Watson, the series was short-lived. Later Duncan Greive of website The Spinoff would proclaim that the show "remains one of the earthiest and most brilliantly base moments in New Zealand’s television history.”
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!
Based on the hugely successful Got Talent franchise created by Simon Cowell, this nationwide TV talent quest first screened on Prime for one season in 2008. It was revived by TV One in 2012 and 2013. The Prime hosts were Andrew Mulligan and radio DJ Jason Reeves, with judges Miriama Smith, Paul Ellis and Richard Driver. From 2012 the host was Tamaiti Coffey, with model/actor Rachel Hunter, Opshop frontman Jason Kerrison and UB40's Ali Campbell as judges. American choreographer Cris Judd replaced Campbell for the 2013 series.
Eating Media Lunch satirised mainstream media, from "issues of the day" journalism to reality TV to the society pages (lampooned in the "celebrity share market index index"). No fish was too big or barrel too small. Presenter Jeremy Wells kept a straight face over seven seasons of often controversial episodes, while investigating issues inexplicably missed by other media (eg the porno film made in Taranaki and shot in te reo, or ritalin-fueled reality programme Medswap). EML's seventh season won Best Comedy Programme at the 2008 Qantas Film and Television Awards.