Craig Busch aka The Lion Man is a self-taught big cat handler who has brought Barbary lions and white Bengal tigers to New Zealand. With both species extinct in the wild, Busch launched a breeding programme to add to limited numbers remaining in captivity. Great Southern Television produced three series following the often controversial Busch and his giant feline charges, from the early days of his Zion Wildlife Gardens park near Whangarei (later relaunched as The Kingdom of Zion). An international sales success, the show has played in more than 120 countries.
The idea for this popular series came when Northland fisherman Matt Watson decided that – piqued by "boring" fishing shows – he’d make what he wanted to watch. A SportsCafe fishing video competition win led to The Fishing Show on Sky/Prime in 2004, before it moved to TVNZ in 2005 and became The ITM Fishing Show. The series relocated to TV3 for six years, then returned to TV One in 2014. A YouTube clip of Watson jumping from a helicopter to bag a marlin led to a 2009 appearance on David Letterman's the Late Show. In 2017 the show morphed into ITM Hook Me Up on Prime.
Nia’s Extra Ordinary Life follows the adventures of Nia (Shania Gilmour), a 10-year-old girl living in the seaside town of Tinopai in Northland. “Nothing exciting ever happens here” begins Nia, but the ordinary soon becomes extra ordinary thanks to the power of her imagination — brought to life via onscreen animation. Made by the team behind Auckland Daze (writer/producer Kerry Warkia, and writer/director Kiel McNaughton), Aotearoa’s first web series for children also screened on Māori Television. Listener critic Fiona Rae called it “heavy on imagination and creativity and very cute”.
This 16 episode, 30 minute series from Jam TV (This Town, Intrepid Journeys) gave “courageous, honest, heroic and inspirational Kiwis a chance to tell their tale.” Subjects ranged from broadcaster Mark Staufer to Christchurch Student Volunteer Army founder Sam Johnson, Gisborne mayor Meng Foon, and Northland doctor Lance O’Sullivan. The first episode explored irrepressible former C4 presenter Helena McAlpine’s experiences with terminal breast cancer. Listener critic Diana Wichtel praised the TVNZ show as “an increasingly vital corrective to the rest of prime time".
This six-part series about Aotearoa's flora and fauna marked the first set of documentaries to be made by the BCNZ's freshly born Natural History Unit. The 15 minute episodes showcase White Island, bird life in Ōkārito, the flightless takahē, Waipoua Forest in Northland, wetlands near Dunedin and winter wildlife in Central Otago. Many of the filmmakers went on to make a mark — including directors Neil Harraway and Robin Scholes, and cameraman Robert Brown (The Living Planet). Hidden Places - Ōkārito was named Best Documentary at the 1979 Feltex Television Awards.
Tangata Whenua was a groundbreaking six-part documentary series that screened (remarkably in primetime) in 1974. Each episode chronicled a different iwi and included interviews by historian Michael King with kaumātua. These remain a priceless historical record. The Feltex Award-winning script was by King and director Barry Barclay. The NZBC said the series had "possibly done more towards helping the European understand the Māori people, their traditions and way of life, than anything else previously shown on television". Paul Diamond writes about Tangata Whenua here.