Here to Stay uses New Zealand personalities to examine key settler groups that make up the Kiwi tribe. Each show mixes personal stories with a wider view, as the presenter sets out to discover what traits and icons their ethnic group contributed to the NZ blend. In the first (of two) series Michael Hurst, Theresa Healey, Ewen Gilmour, Jackie Clarke, Frano Botica and Bernadine Lim explore the English, Irish, German, Scot, Croatian, and Chinese stories respectively. Each episode includes identity reflections from a chorus of well-known Kiwis.
Kōrero Mai ('speak to me') used a soap opera (Ākina) as a vehicle to teach conversational Māori, aided by te reo tutorials. Special segments taught song and tikanga. Multiple seasons were made for for Māori Television by Cinco Cine Productions. Cast and crew with credits on the series include presenters Matai Smith and Gabrielle Paringata; actors Calvin Tutaeo, Vanessa Rare, Jaime Passier-Armstrong, and Ben Mitchell; and directors Rawiri Paratene, Rachel House and Simon Raby. Kōrero Mai won Best Māori Programme at the 2005 Qantas TV Awards.
Dating game show Blind Date ran for more than a decade in the United Kingdom and the United States. At two seasons, the Kiwi version proved less of a long-stayer. The show’s format prioritises the importance of clever answers, over impressive looks: the person taking the hot seat asks questions of a trio of unseen contestants, before choosing who to take on a blind date. The series was presented by Dave Jamieson and Suzy Aiken (before she became Suzy Clarkson).
Based on an overseas format, Touchdown reality series Captive was based on a simple idea: five strangers move into a penthouse apartment and as long as they want to stay in the competition, they cannot leave. Luckily there is motivation, in the form of prizes worth up to $40,000. Contestants are quizzed not only on trivia, but on their fellow housemates. At the end of each episode, whoever fared worst in the quiz is evicted from the house empty-handed, and replaced. Alliances are formed and new friendships broken as they attempt to get to know each other.
When New Zealand’s second channel arrived in 1975, TV One stayed with BBC format Play School as its pre-schoolers’ programme while newcomer SPTV made a local version of American show Romper Room (initially in Auckland, then from the Christchurch studios that later made After School). Participation from a young (and sometimes startled) studio audience was a hallmark of the show. The presenters included Miss Yvonne (they were always Miss) Moore — wife of future Prime Minister Mike Moore. Romper Room disappeared in 1980 when the channels combined.
In this Māori Television series, young people aged from nine to 26 are armed with iPhones and given professional storytelling workshops, so that they can tell their own stories. The slices of life as a young Māori in the early 21st Century include sport, travel, fitness routines, pancake cooking, diet and fashion tips, kapa haka, and swimming with whales. Four series have been produced by Raukatauri Productions to date. Some of those who contributed to early episodes have stayed in screen work —including all-rounder Ngawaero Maniapoto, and actor Te Kaha Jonathan.
Hosted by television all-rounder Neil Roberts, It’s Only Wednesday was a short-lived TVNZ chat show in the late 80s. It was characterised by Roberts’ energy as host, and performances by Grant Chilcott’s swing band Wentworth-Brewster & Co. The It's Only Wednesday format saw guests staying on after their interviews, leading to some eclectic company sharing the couch. The guests included former Prime Minister Robert Muldoon, and pop group When the Cat’s Away.
Long-running travel series Intrepid Journeys took Kiwi celebrities (from All Blacks to music legends to ex-Prime Ministers) from the comfort of home to less-travelled paths in varied countries and cultures. The Jam TV series debuted in 2003 on TV One. With its authenticity and fresh, genre-changing take on a travel show (focusing on personal experience rather than objectivity), Intrepid Journeys was a landmark in local factual television. It managed to achieve the rare mix of high ratings and critical acclaim.
The Fire-Raiser pits a quartet of smalltown World War I era school kids against a mysterious figure with fire on the brain. Inspired partly by a real-life Nelson arsonist, the five-part gothic adventure was created for television by author Maurice Gee. Peter Hayden plays the town’s unconventional teacher ‘Clippy’ Hedges, while the lead role went to Royal NZ Ballet star Jon Trimmer. The Fire-Raiser won four Listener TV awards, including best overall drama and best writer. Gee’s accompanying novel was published both here and overseas. He writes about the show's birth here.
After her husband is jailed, matriarch Cheryl West (Robyn Malcolm) decides the time has come to set her family on the straight and narrow. But can the Wests change old habits? So begins the six-series long saga of the Westie dynasty. Hugely popular at home (beloved by public, critics and awards-nights alike), and imitated overseas, Outrageous Fortune has been a flag-bearer for TV3 and contemporary NZ telly drama; the series proved — in all its grow-your-own glory — that genre TV in NZ could be so much more than overseas stories pasted to a local setting.