After her husband is jailed, matriarch Cheryl West (Robyn Malcolm) decides the time has come to set her family on the straight and narrow. But can the Wests change old habits? So begins the six-series long saga of the Westie dynasty. Hugely popular at home (beloved by public, critics and awards-nights alike), and imitated overseas, Outrageous Fortune has been a flag-bearer for TV3 and contemporary NZ telly drama; the series proved — in all its grow-your-own glory — that genre TV in NZ could be so much more than overseas stories pasted to a local setting.
Inspired by the work of Spring Hill Prison music therapist Evan Rhys Davies, Julian Arahanga convinced the Department of Corrections to allow him to film inmates making songs at Rimutaka and Arohata prisons — with mentoring from musicians Anika Moa, Warren Maxwell, Maisey Rika, and Ruia Aperahama. In later seasons Moa was joined by Don McGlashan, Annie Crummer, Laughton Kora, Ladi6, Scribe and Troy Kingi at other prisons. The Māori TV show won Best Reality Series at the 2017 NZ Television Awards, and international interest. It also spawned two albums.
Keen to preserve the stories of those who went to war, filmmaker David Blyth (Our Oldest Soldier) teamed up with RSA historian Patricia Stroud. The result is Memories of Service, a series of interviews with veterans from World War II, Vietnam and Korea. They recall comradeship, high risk bombing runs over Europe, blackmailing guards at prisoner of war camps (Ernest Davenport), and 16-hour days working the infamous Burma Railway (James Easton). Inbetween arranging further interviews, Blyth also put together compilation reels, culled from the conversations.
Skitz was a popular long-running sketch-based comedy that screened for four series. Populated with memorable characters and catch-phrases, and broad, take-no-prisoners humour, it won Best Entertainment Programme at the 1996 NZ TV and Film Awards. A particular favourite in its arsenal of regular characters was the Semisi family with their 'fresh off the boat' antics inspiring mirth and groans in equal measure. Skitz featured seasoned comedians such as Jackie Clarke, as well as new faces at the time, including Jemaine Clement of future Flight of the Conchords fame.
This series of 25 half hour documentaries made for TVNZ uses individual stories to explore diversity in NZ in areas including ethnicity, age, gender and religion. Among the locations are earthquake ravaged Christchurch, the WOMAD festival in New Plymouth, a fire fighters’ competition in Port Macquarie and slums in Manila. Subjects include a Malaysian born plastic surgeon, Wellington grannies offering cooking and budgeting tips for council tenants, a prison choir, a Burmese expatriate waiting for heart surgery and a middle-aged male mid-wife.
The Beginner's Guide... was a series of half-hour documentaries made for TV ONE, and hosted by reporters Ian Johnstone, Caroline McGrath, Judith Fyfe, John Gordon and Philip Alpers. Veteran broadcaster Johnstone described the programmes as going "into areas of life which intrigue, mystify or frighten us". Topics included visiting a marae, prisons, wealth, bankruptcy, GST, the Census, divorce, cancer and the Freemasons. Three series of six episodes and one special screened between 1983 and 1986.
Town Cryer was New Zealand's first live talk show to play to a national audience (Peter Sinclair had earlier hosted a late night regional chat show). Although enthused, local audiences took a while to believe it wasn't prerecorded. Over 64 episodes, Max Cryer persuaded both local and international names to join him, including actors, sports stars, Robert Muldoon — and an emotional appearance by singer Larry Morris, hours after finishing a prison sentence for drugs. In 1977 Town Cryer morphed into an afternoon show, shorn of its musical performances; by year's end it was gone.
This popular reality series follows the lives of dogs and their handlers, who work for the Departments of Conservation and Corrections, plus the Police, Civil Aviation and Search and Rescue. The canine squads help protect Kiwi streets, prisons, borders and mountains. Made for TVNZ by Cream Media and then Greenstone TV, nine series had been made up until 2018. Dog Squad also screens in Australia on Channel 7 (under the title Dog Patrol). Dominion Post writer Jane Clifton praised the show's “doggy-adorableness factor” and the “sheer novelty of the situations encountered.”
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.
Mortimer’s Patch was a popular drama series following Detective Sergeant Doug Mortimer (Terence Cooper) at work in the town of Cobham. Mortimer plays a city cop returning to his rural roots; Don Selwyn is Sergeant Bob Storey. The series was NZ’s first police drama, and a rare local drama to top ratings. Mortimer's Patch was made when the archetype of the ‘community cop’ everyone knew was still a powerful one, and it was a counterweight to the faceless riot policing of the Springbok Tour. Three series were made.