No-one else has dominated the NZ political landscape the way Sir Robert Muldoon did — or been subjected to the level of TV scrutiny he was in this controversial two part series made by Neil Roberts. It was produced with his company Communicado’s customary style: brooding music, big slow motion close-ups and a malevolent rotating bust — and Roberts, much like his subject, took no prisoners as he explored Muldoon’s career and relationship with power. Complaints of unfairness from Dame Thea Muldoon and son Gavin were later partially upheld by the BSA.
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.
After adapting the slimy transmogrifying Wilberforces of Maurice Gee novel Under the Mountain for the small screen, scriptwriter (and future sci-fi novelist) Ken Catran returned with his own tale of kids and extraterrestrial contact. The series follows holidaying teen Gretchen (Sarah Dunn) trying to unravel the mystery of a weathervane — a "daisy rod" which seems to have otherworldly powers — and curious objects found in a tapu swamp. Backing up this girl-power sci-fi adventure are Catherine Wilkin, Roy Billing and Utu star Zac Wallace.
Made to commemorate the centennial of all New Zealand women winning the right to vote, Standing in the Sunshine charted the journey of Kiwi women over 100 years since 1893. Mixing interviews, archive footage and dramatic inserts, the four-part TV3 series devoted an episode to each of these topics: Freedom, Power, Work, and Sex and Family. Writer Sandra Coney also wrote tie-in book Standing in the Sunshine - A History of New Zealand Women Since they Won the Vote. Those interviewed included artists, mothers, businesswomen — and two future prime ministers.
In this Jam TV series, comedian Te Radar ditches 21st Century consumer luxuries and the city rat race to see if he can live sustainably for 10 months on a remote patch of land west of Auckland. His back-to-basics mission requires him to exist on only what he can hunt, grow and fish himself — putting delights like goat salami and home-made feta on the menu. He also explores topical green issues like the viability of solar power and whether simple steps such as composting and starting a worm bin can reduce landfill. The series also bred a book and a live show.
Lucy Lewis (Thomasin McKenzie) just can’t lose — which is a real problem, since she's determined not to be elected school representative. But with principal Ms Palmer (played by McKenzie’s real life mum Miranda Harcourt) determined to ruin student life at the school, Lucy's position becomes a way to keep Ms Palmer's power in check. The second season of this web series sees the school overrun by Instagram, and the cyberbullying that can come with it. McKenzie later co-starred in American feature Leave No Trace. Director Paul Yates would help launch Wellington Paranormal.
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”.
Company JAM TV have made a speciality of successfully mixing idiosyncratic hosts with travel destinations (Intrepid Journeys, Off the Rails). For this series, comedian Te Radar explores "big picture questions" (pollution, power, waste and water), while visiting people "making a difference" everywhere from Blenheim to Brunei, from Tonga to Rwanda. Global Radar had two seasons on TV One (in 2011 and 2013) and won a NZ Television Award for Best Information Series (it was nominated for Best Presenter). Radar picked Rwanda's 'goats for gorillas' programme as a personal highlight.
Classic sci-fi TV series Under the Mountain follows the adventures of redheaded twins with psychic powers — Rachel and Theo — on their Auckland summer holiday. They meet the mysterious Mr Jones, an alien emissary who enlists them in the battle against the evil Wilberforces, who are plotting planetary destruction. Adapted from the Maurice Gee novel, the series' fx left their slimy imprint on a generation of NZ kids, haunted by the transmogrifying Wilberforces, who changed from humans into giant slugs slithering underneath Auckland’s volcanoes.
Five-part series The New Zealand Wars took a new look at the history of Māori vs Pākehā armed conflict. It was presented by historian James Belich, who with his arm-waving zeal proved a persuasive on-screen presence: "we don't need to look overseas for our Robin Hood, our Genghis Khan, Joan of Arc, or Gandhi". The popular series reframed NZ history, and its stories of Hōne Heke, Governor Grey, Tītokowaru, Te Whiti, Von Tempsky and Te Kooti, easily affirmed Belich's conviction. The New Zealand Wars was judged Best Documentary at the 1998 Qantas Media Awards.