Life on Ben is a partly-animated series for kids exploring the intricacies of life on skin. Gordon and Gloob (voiced by Flight of the Conchords’ Jemaine Clement and Boy director Taika Waititi) are two symbiotic creatures who go on an unexpected stop motion journey. When their host, 10-year-old Ben, gets an itch in his butt the Plasticine duo find themselves exiled to his nostril; on their quest to get back home they encounter a petri dish of other microbial folk. Created by Luke Nola (Let’s Get Inventin’), the 10 episodes of this two-minute show sold internationally.
Ovine raconteurs Robert and Sheepy made their short film debut in 2001, thanks to the stop motion magic of Guy Capper. Capper and Jemaine (Flight of the Conchords) Clement's comical duo — one loquacious, one laconic — stood out from the flock amidst 100s of entries in the trans-Tasman Nescafé Short Film Awards, sharing first prize in 2001. Further occasional installments of The Pen were made over the next decade and shown online, and in 2010 Robert and Sheepy’s woolly wisdom was brought to TV audiences as a segment in sketch show Radiradirah.
Legendary professional wrestling TV show On the Mat ran from 1975 until 1983. Each half-hour show featured wrestling matches accompanied by commentary - promoter Steve Rickard described the technical in-the-ring aspects and Ernie Leonard, and later Barry Holland, added colour. The larger-than-life wrestlers were a mix of US imports and local characters: King Curtis, Samoan Joe, Aussie Larry O'Day, Rick Martel, and Sweet William and Brute Miller (soon famous in the US as The Bushwackers). The show was the catalyst for the boom in popularity of Rickard's pro-wrestling tour.
The Years Back was a 13-part documentary series made for television by the National Film Unit and first broadcast in 1973. Covering six decades from 1900 to 1960, it was promoted as "people and events that shaped the New Zealand of today", and content was largely influenced by what historic film had survived. Presented by Bernard Kearns, fascinating footage (including the 1931 Napier Earthquake and Jack Lovelock’s 1936 Olympic triumph) is accompanied by interviewees recalling or commenting on past events, big and small, as they unfold on the screen.
In this satirical series presenter Jeremy Wells — channelling presenter Kenneth B Cumberland (the academic who presented 1981 history series Landmarks) — plunders New Zealand's television archives and pokes fun at the past. From the makers of Eating Media Lunch, the show promoted itself as “the most important series in the history of history”. Each episode tackles a big issue, including ‘Crime’, ‘Visitors’, ‘Trouble’ and ‘Evil’. Alongside archive footage, the odd piece of fakery and animation was thrown in. Michael King this defiantly ain't!
Well-known Kiwi chef Jo Seagar trained as a cordon bleu chef in London and France, before returning home to promote a culinary style involving “maximum effect, minimum effort.” Her 1997 best-selling book You Shouldn't Have Gone To So Much Trouble, Darling caught TVNZ’s attention and Real Food marked her TV debut. The two series covered recipes from sushi to pecan pie. In a 2012 interview with Avenue, Seagar mentioned that the show rated highly, despite Television New Zealand initially telling her that a food show would never screen in primetime.
The immortal Count Homogenized, a vampire with a white afro and cape and a lust for milk, lodged himself in the hearts of a generation of Kiwi kids. After first portraying the vampire in A Haunting We Will Go, actor Russell Smith took centre stage in 1983's It is I Count Homogenized. This follow-up series transfers proceedings from the haunted house trappings of the original to a suburban dairy, where Homogenized continues his mission to get his teeth into what matters: the milk. Trivia: the series was made in association with the NZ Milk Promotion Council.
After several years working for TV3, animator and creature creator Cameron Chittock decided to create his own children's series. Plans for a live action show involving puppets proved unfeasible; instead Oscar and his two imaginary friends were brought to life with a mixture of stop motion and traditional animation. Chittock worked with veteran Euan Frizzell, and enlisted Aardman legend Richard Starzak (Shaun the Sheep) to help train up the Kiwi animation team. The 26 five-minute episodes screened in New Zealand and abroad, including the UK, USA and Australia.
True Colours came about thanks to a 1986 dispute between record companies and TVNZ. The companies demanded payment for videos, partly because of the costs of producing them; TVNZ refused, arguing the videos were a form of sales promotion. TVNZ then took all its music shows off-air, including Radio with Pictures. They were replaced by True Colours, hosted by RWP's Dick Driver and Shazam!'s Phillipa Dann. It featured mostly live-in-the-studio NZ bands, along with music news and interviews. The dispute was resolved by year's end; True Colours ran for seven of its 10 planned episodes.
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.