Comedians Eteuati Ete and Tofiga Fepulea'i launched their stage act in 2003. For the next 13 years they toured Laughing Samoan shows through Australasia, the Pacific Islands and beyond. Skits lampooned PI life in Niu Sila; subjects ranged from 'island time' to funerals, and included popular characters like Aunty Tala (played by Fepulea'i). The eight-part series was conceived by Aaron Taouma and produced by TVNZ’s Pasifika department. Pairing sketches and interviews with excerpts from a Laughing Samoans theatre tour, it was given an 11pm timeslot on TV2.
This early 1980s all-singing, all-dancing, music theatre show ran for three series. It featured a 12-strong core cast — seven of whom had never previously danced, and five of whom weren't trained singers. Only one had acting experience. Members included Maggie Harper (later of Shortland Street), Richard Eriwata, Suzanne Lee, Vicky Haughton (Whale Rider) and actor Darien Takle. Regular features included stage show tributes, special guests, and a segment which created a new production out of apparently unrelated songs. A number of performers later won their own shows.
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.
A Week of It was a pioneering comedy series that entertained and often outraged audiences over three series from 1977 to 1979. The writing team, led by David McPhail, AK Grant, Jon Gadsby, Bruce Ansley, Chris McVeigh and Peter Hawes, took irreverent aim at topical issues and public figures of the day. Amongst notable impersonations was McPhail's famous aping of Prime Minister Rob Muldoon; a catchphrase from a skit — "Jeez, Wayne" — entered NZ pop culture. The series won multiple Feltex Awards and in 1979 McPhail won Entertainer of the Year.
The Governor was a television epic that examined the life of Governor George Grey in six thematic parts. Grey's "Good Governor" persona was undercut with laudanum, lechery and land confiscation. NZ TV's first (and only) historical blockbuster was hugely controversial, provoking a parliamentary inquiry and "test match sized" audiences. It won a 1978 Feltex Award for Best Drama. Auckland Star reviewer Barry Shaw trumpeted: "It has made Māori matter. If Pākehā now have a better understanding of the Māori point of view [...] it stems from The Governor.