City Life follows a tight-knit group of apartment-dwelling twenty-somethings (lawyers, bartenders, drug dealers, art dealers, et al) on the emotional merry-go-round of urban living. Created by James Griffin, the television series was an effort to create popular drama relevant to contemporary Auckland city life and to appeal to a Gen X demographic – to inject Melrose Place into Mt Eden. A bevy of Kiwi acting talent drink, dramatise and prevaricate to a soundtrack of contemporary NZ pop.
This 'docu-soap' put six 20-somethings into a rented house for three months — including a beauty contestant and a live-in cameraman. It was one of a series of 90s reality shows observing homelife which were soon to become a phenomenon, thanks to Big Brother. But without a lockdown or 24-7 surveillance, Flatmate's charms were more quaint, offering a homespun twist on MTV's pioneering The Real World (which debuted in 1992). The show was broadcast on now-defunct channel TV4, and made a minor celebrity of outspoken flattie Vanessa.
Condemned as "designer news" before it had even been to air, Newsnight was TV2's foray into late night news for a younger audience (with one eye on the success of TV3's Nightline). Strongly influenced by the celebrity and human interest focus of women's magazines, it received an unsuccessful BSA complaint for not covering a major story (a teacher's strike). Simon Dallow made his TV debut alongside Lorelei Mason and then Alison Mau — while Marcus Lush's idiosyncratic take on the world earned the show a degree of cult (if not always critical) success.
This series centred on a weekly TV current affairs programme in mid-90s Wellington. Katie Wolfe stars as stroppy journalist Amanda Robbins: lured back from Australia for her tabloid style in an effort to boost the show's ratings. Tackling timely storylines and shot ‘handheld’ in the NYPD Blue-inspired style, the TV3 series was well reviewed but faced its own ratings struggles (a later series screened on TV One). It was Gibson Group’s second foray into producing a TV drama series, after Shark in the Park. A pre-Lord of the Rings Fran Walsh was a series writer.
The feature film Topless Women Talk about Their Lives evolved out of this late night, low budget, TV3 micro-series about the lives, loves and travails of a group of 20-something Aucklanders. It was written and directed by former Front Lawn member Harry Sinclair with a cast including Danielle Cormack and Joel Tobeck. Each four minute episode was shot over a weekend with actors not sighting scripts until just before the camera rolled. Music from Flying Nun bands featured prominently; the women remained fully clothed despite the tantalising titular promise.
The Ralston Group was an anarchic early 90s TV3 political chat show. Ringmaster Bill Ralston wrangled a caucus of political and media industry insiders, ranging from broadcaster Derek Fox and writer Jane Clifton to Peter Williams QC and PR man Richard Griffin. The irreverent show offered in the moment opinions on an especially heady era in NZ politics. A 2003 issue of The NZ Herald remembered it as “the best sort of dinner party: noisy and gossipy, the guests well informed, well lubricated with lots of opinions and zero inhibition.”
Wheel of Fortune is a game show that involves the solving of Hangman-style posers. Contestants spin the wheel to accrue prizes, guess letters that may be in the answer, and earn the right to roll again. The Kiwi edition was hosted by Phillip Leishman and Lana Coc-Kroft (with Simon Barnett later replacing Leishman). In a 1992 celebrity episode, Barcelona Olympic bronze medalist boxer (and future World Heavyweight challenger) David Tua, infamously requested the letter O, “for Awesome”. The show returned briefly in 2008 hosted by Jason Gunn and Sonia Gray.