The award-winning Pioneer Women series was producer Pamela Meekings-Stewart’s response to her perception that histories on NZ television, like The Governor, hadn’t adequately recognised the role played by women in shaping the nation. The initial series of six episodes focussed on the lives of Nurse Maude, Ettie Rout, Hera Ngoungou, Princess Te Puea, Elizabeth Colsenso and Ellen Hewett; it celebrated women who not only had to face hardship and deprivation but were charged with raising the next generation. A second series of three episodes screened in 1990.
In this fascinating social experiment, a 21st century Kiwi family is transported back in time to live as a typical family would have — 100 years ago. Their house and garden is restored to its 1900 state with electrical fittings, modern plumbing and all traces of modern living removed. The family have to deal with the challenges of turn of the last century manners, dress, morals, work and a lack of conveniences (including a regular outside trip to the long drop toilet). Based on a UK format, the series was followed in New Zealand by Colonial House (2003).
In the Cold War 60s, thrillers peopled with jetsetting spies with shifty figures standing behind pillars in sunnies were all the rage (Danger Man, The Man from Uncle). Kiwi entry The Alpha Plan revolves around a British security agent who finds himself downunder, on the run, investigating strange disappearances amongst a Mensa-like society made up the planet's brightest brains. The ambitious six-part mystery thriller was the first Kiwi TV drama designed to go beyond one episode; positive reaction to the show paved the way for NZBC’s in-house drama department.
Islands of the Gulf was (narrowly) New Zealand’s first locally made TV documentary series — written, presented and produced by the country’s first female producer, Shirley Maddock. Intended as a one-off programme about the islands of the Hauraki Gulf, it ran to five half-hour episodes examining everyday life in the area, at a time when Kiwi faces were still a novelty on screen. Aviation legend Fred Ladd provided aerial footage. Maddock’s tie-in book was extensively reprinted and, in 1983, she revisited the area in a documentary for TVNZ. in 2018 Maddock's daughter presented an updated series.
This seven-part documentary series examines New Zealand as a nation of migrants. The original idea behind the show was to concentrate on upbeat personal stories. But many of the completed episodes go wider, balancing modern day interviews with a broader historical view of each group's immigrant experience down under. Immigrant Nation saw camera crews travelling to Europe, China, Sri Lanka and Samoa. Stories of escape, longing and prejudice are common - along with a feeling of having a foot in two worlds. An Immigrant Nation screened on TV One.
Pioneering series Pukemanu (the NZBC’s first continuing drama) followed the goings-on of a North Island timber town. The series was conceived by former forester Julian Dickon (who quit the series and was replaced by Listener critic Hamish Keith as writer). Producing two seasons of six episodes was a key step in industry professionalisation, and many of the cast became stars (Ginette McDonald, Ian Mune). It offered an archetypal screen image that Kiwis could relate to: rural, bi-cultural, boozy and blokey; and reviews praised its Swannie-clad authenticity.
In TVNZ’s Journeys Across Latitude 45 South, writer and presenter Peter Hayden traverses east to west from Otago’s Waitaki Plains to George Sound in Fiordland. Hayden walks, hitches, cycles, paddles a mōkihi (a traditional Māori canoe made of reeds) and white water rafts along the 45 south line. Along the way he builds a social, industrial and natural history of latitude 45 south. From the lonely wilds of Fiordland to the tourist Mecca Queenstown, Hayden encounters the quixotic and gruff, and pioneer species of the past, present in a changing world.
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.
This was a three-part series mapping the history of aviation in New Zealand: from DIY pioneers (Richard Pearse, the Walsh bros), via the formation of the RNZAF and NAC, to contemporary aviators. Flying Kiwi heroes (Sir Francis Chichester, Jean Batten) are profiled, along with innovation stirred by the NZ environment: flying boats, ski-planes and top-dressers. Presented by pilot Peter Clements, with veteran Conon Fraser (Looking at New Zealand) directing, the series was made by the National Film Unit for TV, which by the 80s had replaced cinemas as an NFU outlet.
Web series The Factory is the tale of a South Auckland family and their love of music — and one another. The Saumalus compete at a $50,000 talent contest, on behalf of the textile factory where their father and grandfather Tigi work. But the family are keen to play something more modern than the traditional Samoan music Tigi favours. The 20-part web series features the Kila Kokonut Krew team, who originally created The Factory for the stage. The pioneering Pasifika musical went on to headline the 2013 Auckland Arts Festival, and was performed at the 2014 Edinburgh Fringe Festival.