Shortland Street is a fast-paced serial drama set in an inner city Auckland hospital. The long-running South Pacific Pictures production is based around the births, deaths and marriages of the hospital's staff and patients. It screens on TVNZ’s TV2 network five days a week. In 2017 the show was set to celebrate its 25th anniversary, making it New Zealand’s longest running drama by far. Characters and lines from the show have entered the culture — starting with “you’re not in Guatemala now, Dr Ropata!” in the very first episode. Mihi Murray writes about Shortland Street here.
Allison Webber's series Expressions of Sexuality looks at New Zealand society in the wake of the sexual revolution, as entrenched notions of Mum, Dad and the quarter-acre paradise are slowly replaced by an array of lifestyles and values. Its candid approach to taboo subjects was controversial — Webber fought for two years to have the programme screened after TVNZ deemed it too provocative. She would be vindicated when the series was nominated for Best Documentary Programme at the 1987 Gofta Awards.
Rachel Lang and Gavin Strawhan created Go Girls out of a desire for an upbeat show about "people who liked each other". Audiences liked the characters too: the show ran five seasons, after introducing us to a group of 20-something friends, each aiming to make a major life-change in the next year. Over five series various romantic adventures ensued, and the core cast of Anna Hutchison, Alix Bushnell, Bronwyn Turei, Jay Ryan and Matt Whelan were joined by others — before finally departing altogether, with one final season revolving around a new cast of wanna bes.
Hosted by Charlotte Dawson, How's Life? was an advice show whose panel of presenters included Jude Dobson, Suzanne Paul, Paul Henry, Marcus Lush and Christine Rankin (ex head of the Department of Work and Income). Responding to viewer enquiries, the panel offered help on relationships, family and more, from the serious (abuse, disease) to the light-hearted (the best way to sneeze in a restaurant). Almost 20 panelists featured over the Greenstone show's three seasons and 100+ episodes. The production crew received as many as 60 letters and emails a day.
Twenty-four year-old barman Dave finds his life turned upside down when he meets the girl of his dreams — Cara, 14 years his senior, and the owner of three kids. Over two seasons, the light-hearted drama explored whether their live-in relationship could survive the weight of low expectations, and her unruly family. Created by Kate McDermott (This is Her), Step Dave starred Swedish emigre Sia Trokenheim (2014 film Everything we Loved) and Brit born Jono Kenyon. Interest in the format encompassed the Ukraine — which remade the show in 2016 — France, Hungary and Greece.
Frontline replaced Close Up as TVNZ’s flagship, primetime current affairs show in 1988. Fronted by Ross Stevens, and made at Avalon at a time when TVNZ management had relocated to Auckland, it produced the controversial 1990 doco For the Public Good which explored the relationship between business and the Labour Government. In the fallout, TVNZ was sued, staff were sacked and the office moved to Auckland. In 1994, a special about the Winebox tax allegations saw Frontline back in the news. Other presenters included Lindsay Perigo, Anita McNaught and Susan Wood.
Speakeasy was an early 80s chat show hosted by broadcaster Ian Johnstone. Each episode explored a theme and invited a trio of subjects “who could talk well about their own experiences and views” (as Johnstone put it in his 1998 memoir Stand and Deliver). Produced by David Baldock, the subjects were “New Zealand events and issues but not news and politics”, and ranged from sports leadership, to returning home from overseas, to race relationships in Aotearoa. Interviewees included cricketer Glenn Turner, singer Howard Morrison and actor Ellie Smith.
Multimedia web series Tragicomic follows teenager Hannah Moore (Nova Moala-Knox) as she deals with her Dad’s mysterious disappearance, and the budding relationship between her Mum and her art teacher. Along the way Hannah finds solace in the comic she is making. The comics are part of the storytelling — some of them were released as part of the series, alongside the 10 web episodes. Based loosely on Shakespeare's Hamlet, Tragicomic was made by creative collective The Candle Wasters (Bright Summer Night). It was launched via Radio New Zealand's website and YouTube.
The Elegant Shed was a six part doco series looking at NZ architecture since 1945. The influential series (and accompanying book) redefined Kiwi’s relationship to their built environment, celebrating the homespun and DIY (bach and boatshed, tramping huts, suburbia, small town main streets) as inspirations for a distinctly local architecture. Architect David Mitchell plays tour guide (replete with bohemian goatee and polyester suit), interviews key players (The Group, Ian Athfield) and surveys buildings from bespoke cribs to modernist towers.
In this five part series presenter Peter Hayden travels through some of New Zealand's most varied, awe-inspiring and spiritual environments. Though there is superbly filmed flora and fauna, geology and other standard natural history documentary staples, it is the history of people's relationship with these sublime landscapes and a genial New Zealand passion for the environment, that makes a lasting impression. At the 1988 Listener Film and TV Awards Hayden won Best Writer in a Non-Drama Category for the series.