Off the Rails was a 12-part journey through the railway memories of New Zealand, with raconteur Marcus Lush at the wheel. With a trainspotter's reverence for ways rail, the beautifully shot, and gently wry travelogue guided viewers around (with thanks to the Raurimu Spiral) the heart of Aotearoa. Off the Rails’ award-winning achievement was to show that energetic storytelling (Super 8 footage, contemporary pop score and snappy editing), combined with the homespun charms of local subject matter, could make for high-rating television.
Going further off the rails and further south, idiosyncratic TV host Marcus Lush continued his ratings-winning collaboration with Jam TV in this five-part series about the history, environment and wildlife of Antarctica. The show also investigates and celebrates New Zealand's many connections with Antarctica, from involvement in the historic quests of Scott and Amundsen, to continuing ties with Scott base on Ross Island, where Lush spends Christmas with the community of long-term residents.
This 2011 TV One series sees wry but winning host Marcus Lush explore the North Island from Auckland up. Jafa Lush said his motivations were to "see where I was from, what I liked and didn't like and what had changed." The Herald’s Deborah Hill Cone praised the show for its "gorgeous" cinematography (by Jacob Bryant), and for making everyday Kiwi characters look "otherworldly and cinematic and heroic". The series was another successful collaboration between JAM TV and host Marcus Lush, adding to Off the Rails, ICE, and lauded 2009 sister series South.
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.
Following award-winning and high rating collaborations exploring trains (Off the Rails) and Antarctica (ICE), Jam TV reteamed with presenter Marcus Lush to explore the southern tip of the South Island. Over seven 30 minute episodes, the Bluff-based Aucklander mixed wry observation and self-deprecation with clear affection for the stories, wildlife, geography and characters of his (then) adopted hometown, and its environs. At the 2010 Qantas Television Awards, Lush won Best Presenter and Melanie Rakena won Best Director – Entertainment / Factual.
Why is New Zealand's landscape and flora and fauna so unique? In four-part series Moa's Ark, renowned English naturalist David Bellamy, with his impassioned enthusiasm and trademark beard (of "old man's beard must go" fame) goes on a journey to discover the answer. Directed and produced by Peter Hayden, this 1990 TV series was produced by Television New Zealand's award-winning Natural History Unit (now independent production company NHNZ). Read more about the series here.