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.
Stories behind 100 of more than 2 million pieces in Te Papa’s collections are investigated in this series of mini-documentaries commissioned by digital channel TVNZ6. Presenters Simon Morton and Riria Hotere talk to the museum’s curators and researchers about items ranging from the quirky to the nationally, and internationally, significant. Subjects include artworks by Colin McCahon and John Reynolds, a Fijian war club, a Samoan cricket bat, a “murder house” dental nurse’s equipment, the Playschool toys, an Egyptian mummy and the fate of the Huia.
Homegrown Profiles was a spin-off from music channel C4's local music series Homegrown. Screened in 2005, the interview-based show featured episodes devoted to the Finn Brothers, Dave Dobbyn, Bic Runga, Anika Moa, Shihad and Che Fu. The hour-long programmes were based around an extended interview with each artist, intercut with music videos and other performance material— all held together with a well-scripted narration by researcher/ interviewer/ director Jane Yee. Yee writes about making the show here.
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)
South Pacific Pictures series High Country Rescue follows search and rescue volunteers as they respond to crises across Wanaka and Fiordland. Cameras follow the team from briefings at headquarters to daring recovery missions, as adventurers are rescued from remote spots on the surrounding hills. It’s not all serious though: for many the worst injury is to their pride. Neither are the rescuers immune from trouble — one episode sees a rescuer getting a ute stuck up a hill, and having to be saved by a bloke who recently put his truck in a river.
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.
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!
This ambitious reality show saw Kiwis living 1850s style for six weeks — "three families from two very different cultures sharing one land". The first Māori family communicates in te reo; two other families, one Māori and one Pākehā, don't. The One Land team researched and recreated a hilltop pā and a colonial house for the participants to live in. Executive producer Bailey Mackey praised TVNZ for playing a te reo-heavy reality show in prime time. Named Best Constructed Reality Series at the 2010 Qantas TV Awards, One Land was made by Mackey's Black Inc Media and Eyeworks.
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.
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).