Broadcast in the early 1970s — back when local television spanned just a single channel — Living in New Zealand was built around short documentary items. Current affairs was rarely on offer; instead there were pieces on novice skydivers, jetboat adventures, shopping, preparations for Expo 70 in Japan, and singer Phil Garland's search for unrecorded folk songs. An item on national talent quest Search for Stars featured an early screen appearance as interviewer by Ernie Leonard — the future Head of TVNZ's Māori Programming Department.
The Insiders Guide to Happiness follows the interconnecting lives of eight 20-something characters — one of them dead — as they search for happiness. Dramatic, comic, sexy, surreal, the drama won critical acclaim and was a ratings success. An ambitious chaos theory-derived 'meta' concept is underpinned by strong performances from the ensemble of burgeoning acting talent, and stylishly-shot Wellington city locations. The Gibson Group production won seven awards at the 2005 NZ Screen Awards, including Best Drama and Best Director (Mark Beesley)
This series of five stand-alone, observational documentaries was made by TVNZ and screened in late 1988. According to producer Alan Thurston, the aim of its fly on the wall approach was to let the story unfold without reporter presence so the audience could “share the experience rather than be told about it”. The subjects were adoption and a birth mother’s search for her daughter, the changing face of Auckland’s Ponsonby Road, life on Pitt Island, a Graham Dingle trek for young offenders and a community centre in the Wellington suburb of Porirua.
In this early 2000s teen series skaters Jeff and Noodle stumble upon an alien conspiracy in the town of Middledon. Terry Teo’s slacker successors are the only ones who can resist being mind controlled, save the town, and stop their beloved skate park being 'wasted' and turned into a mall. In the Ritalin-fuelled caper, future World fashion designer Benny Castles plays Jeff, Rawiri Paratene is Gran (!) Pekapeka, and Antony Starr's Stevo channels teen slacker icon Jeff Spicoli. The Screenworks production featured dream segments from Animation Research Limited.
Late night music show Space launched on TV2 in 2000, with a pair of hosts introducing live performances, interviews, music videos and occasional silliness. The show marked the first ongoing screen gig for Jaquie Brown, who appeared with future X Factor New Zealand host Dominic Bowden. When Bowden left in 2002, he was replaced by Hugh Sundae. The final season was helmed by Jo Tuapawa and ex Space researcher Phil Bostwick. Space was made by production company Satellite Media, whose credits include many shows involving music (Ground Zero, Rocked the Nation).
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.”
Christchurch's The Mainland Touch began, with other regional news shows in Auckland, Wellington and Dunedin, after the amalgamation of TV One and SPTV in 1980. Early presenters of the often light-hearted Touch were Bryan Allpress and Rodney Bryant who became local institutions. Notable stories included a search for the source of the Avon (now part of the city's folk history); and a popular Christmas Cake Competition, which included a family recipe submitted by Robbie Deans. The regional news shows had bowed out by 1990, having yielded to the Holmes era.
From a pre-Mythbusters era when science didn’t need explosions to merit primetime Saturday night screening, but after NZBC's blackboards and pointers, this series took a current affairs approach to reporting contemporary scientific research. Produced in Christchurch’s Studio 4, it was presented by Ken Ellis; Allanah James was a long-time reporter. Subjects ranged from volcanoes, underwater welding, talking lifts, STDs, mutant spiders, mussel extracts, and nude rats to the mysteries of tuatara and concert hall acoustics. The series was succeeded by Fast Forward.
Launched in February 1974, Spot On was an award-winning education-focused magazine programme for children. Presenters who got their break on the beloved show included Ian Taylor, Danny Watson, Phil Keoghan and Ole Maiava. Keoghan went on to global fame as host of The Amazing Race; Taylor now heads up Taylormade Productions and Animation Research Ltd. The show was created by Murray Hutchinson. Producer Michael Stedman later became head of the Natural History Unit. Peter Jackson and Robert Sarkies entered Spot On’s annual Young Filmmaker competition.
Count Homogenized, the vanilla-clad vampire with a lust for milk made his debut on this ghost-flavoured children's series, before moving on to star in his own show. Russell Smith's portrayal of the mischievous The Count has lodged itself in the hearts of many Kiwi kids of a certain vintage and has become an — absolute original — icon of NZ TV. True Blood has nothing on The Count and his unending search for bovine liquid sustenance!