Is the Sport of Kings headed for the knackers’ yard? As the racing industry attempts to combat declining numbers of punters, falling stake monies and increasing competition for the betting dollar, the Auckland Racing Club — New Zealand’s oldest — allows a TV crew behind-the-scenes access to its headquarters at the Ellerslie Race Course. This seven part series follows the asset-rich, cash-poor club’s new CEO, young and unproven in the racing industry, as he embarks on a mission to modernise its image and operations, and turn its fortunes around.
This 2012 comedy series follows city slicker lawyer Will (Toby Sharpe) who inherits guardianship of his half-sister Lily, a stately house, a greyhound (the notoriously named Lundydixonwatson) and its live-in trainer Marty. Will’s life goes to the dogs as he enters the low-rent world of greyhound racing. The Downlow Concept production won wide acclaim; On the Box’s Chris Philpott thought it New Zealand's best scripted TV comedy to date, as did the Herald's Chris Schulz. Hounds won Best Comedy at the 2012 NZ TV Awards. The six-part season screened at 10pm Fridays on TV3.
The iconic all-things-rural show is the longest running programme on New Zealand television. With its typical patient observational style (that allows stories of people and the land to gently unfold) it’s an unlikely broadcasting star, but New Zealanders continue, after 50 plus years, to tune in. Amongst the bucolic tales of farming, fishing and forestry, there are high country musters, floods, organic brewing, falconry, tobacco farming, as well as a fencing wire-playing farmer-musician, a radio-controlled dog, and Fred Dagg and the Trevs.
This two-part mini-series is set in an 80s 'New Auckland' world of mirror glass and murderous corporate conspiracy. British actor James Faulkner (latterly Bridget Jones' Uncle Geoffrey) plays a shady developer with a smash and burn approach to urban planning. Blocking his utopian waterfront scheme is a cafe. The inheritors of the greasy spoon — and a racehorse — are a duo of feisty femmes: working class Tammy (Annie Whittle), and art consultant Joanna (Miranda Harcourt). The Shadow Trader marked an early producing credit for Finola Dwyer (An Education).
3:45 LIVE! was an afternoon links programme for young people that screened from 1989 - 1990. As well as linking afternoon programmes on TV2, the show included interviews with prominent (local and international) music stars, sports heroes and media personalities of the time, from rapper Redhead Kingpin and Eurythmics' star Dave Stewart to newsreader Judy Bailey and All Black Gary Whetton. Presenters included a young Phil Keoghan (of future-Amazing Race fame), Hine Elder, Rikki Morris, and Fenella Bathfield.
By 1990, Billy T James, NZ’s most loved comedian, was recovering from a heart transplant - and trying his hand as a sitcom actor. His career was based on one liners and stand-up gags - but this Billy T James Show was a series of 26 half hour family based comedies with a clear debt to The Cosby Show. Billy was cast as a radio DJ with an Australian wife (Ilona Rodgers) and two daughters - but the trademark giggle was absent, the humour was gentler and the series never captured the public imagination. It was to be his last TV series — Billy T James died in 1991.
Written by Tom Scott and Greg McGee, South Pacific Pictures-produced Fallout was an award-winning two-part mini-series dramatising events leading up to NZ’s 80s anti-nuclear stand. PM Robert Muldoon (Ian Mune) calls a snap election when his MP Marilyn Waring crosses the floor on the ‘no nukes’ bill, but his gamble fails, and David Lange's Labour Party is elected. Lange (played by Australian actor Mark Mitchell) is pressured from all sides (including a bullish US administration) to take a firm stance on his anti-nuclear platform. He finally accepts there is no middle ground.
This three part mini-series is loosely based on the remarkable tour by the NZ Natives rugby team which played 107 games in Australasia and Great Britain in 1888-89. At its heart is a cross-cultural love story between Pony — the grandson of a chief and one of the side’s stars — and Charlotte: the granddaughter of an English Earl (Ian Richardson of House of Cards fame). The tour provided the first exposure to Māori for many in the UK. The interaction could be uncomfortable but even more so when affairs of the heart threatened the cultural divide.
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.
This all-singing, all-dancing variety show is remembered as one of NZ TV’s great fiascos (along with Melody Rules). Presenters Glyn Tucker and Ernie Leonard had light entertainment experience, but were better known for their expertise in horse racing and wrestling respectively. Broadcast live on Saturday night, The Club Show aspired to be the TV equivalent of an RSA talent quest — but not even the geniality of its hosts could save it. It did have ‘The Silver Shot’ — an early attempt at interactivity via a viewer on the phone and a blindfolded cameraman.