Ngaio Marsh Theatre was based on four murder mysteries by crime writer Dame Ngaio Marsh: Vintage Murder, Died in the Wool, Colour Scheme, and Opening Night (the latter was the only one not set in her homeland). UK actor George Baker (The Ruth Renell Mysteries, I, Claudius) starred as Inspector Roderick Alleyn — the rational Englishman solving murderous crimes in the green and pleasant colony. The series successfully leveraged the international appeal of Marsh's novels. Ngaio Marsh Theatre was the first New Zealand television drama to screen in the US (on PBS).
This three-part documentary series was made to mark International Women's Year in 1975; it provides rare and precious interview footage with three of New Zealand's most celebrated writers; Sylvia-Ashton Warner, Janet Frame and Dame Ngaio Marsh; who each reflect on their life and philosophy. In the case of Ashton-Warner and Marsh, these documentaries were filmed in the last decade of their lives. Three New Zealanders was produced by John Barnett for Endeavour Films.
Children's adventure series Gather Your Dreams follows Kitty, a teenager who dreams of stardom while travelling with her family's vaudeville troupe in Depression-era 1930s New Zealand. The troupe's impresario (and Kitty’s father) was played by Mortimer’s Patch star Terence Cooper. Mostly shot in the Coromandel, the half hour 13-part series was one of a run of kidult dramas made in the late 70s by South Pacific Television. Like its predecessor — colonial scamp saga Hunter's Gold — it had international sales success. Dreams was helmed by Hunter's Gold director Tom Parkinson.
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.
Launched in 2005, Artsville was a long-running documentary slot showcasing New Zealand art and artists. The subjects ranged from painters and comic artists, to theatre and dance companies. Pieces varied from hour-long documentaries to multiple items compiled together, all for a late night slot on TV One. Among the directors commissioned were Mark Albiston (award-winner Magical World of Misery), Shirley Horrocks (Questions for Mr Reynolds) and Andrew Bancroft (Book to Box Office). Artsville was repeated on Freeview channel TVNZ 6 (now defunct).
Debuting on 6 May 1991, this TV3 comedy show saw sketches tested out before a live (unseen) audience — and dropped from the episode if no one laughed. The performers were a mixture of rising standup comics (Jon Bridges) and theatre talents (Danny Mulheron, Carol Smith), plus late actors Kevin Smith and Peta Rutter. Producer Dave Gibson wanted to avoid satire and politics, in favour of the challenge of broad social comedy. Among the regular sketches were a pair of gormless skateboarders and ingratiating priest Phineas O’Diddle. Another season followed in 1992.
One of two much loved children’s shows written and presented by English born entertainer Chic Littlewood in the late 70s and early 80s. The other was Chic-a-boom — and more than 500 episodes were made of the two programmes in what now looks like a much gentler era of children’s television. Littlewood was aided and abetted by various puppets including Nowcy the Dog and the McNabb family of Scottish mice (including the mischievous and contrary Willie). Assisting with the puppets was actor, and stalwart of Auckland theatre, Alma Woods.
TVNZ publicity described Ngā Reo like this: “Each episode of Ngā Reo features the story of a Māori person or people and their unique kaupapa: the reason they have been put on this earth, their individual stories and also our national stories." The series soon widened its scope, with episodes on Rastafarianism, performances in Greece by Taki Rua theatre group, and the story behind Napier's Pania of the Reef statue. The episode on activist Syd Jackson won the 2003 NZ TV Award for Best Māori Programme.
Over ten episodes, Ghost Hunt crisscrossed Aotearoa on a mission to find ghosts — or at least signs they might have been in the building. Presenters Carolyn Taylor (What Now?), actor Michael Hallows and actor/director Brad Hills visited locations with a reputation for hauntings, usually arriving after dark. The locales included Dunedin's Larnach Castle, Waitomo Caves Hotel, and the Fortune and St James Theatre — plus cemeteries and abandoned psychiatric hospitals. The 2006 Screentime show is not to be confused with the anime series which premiered in Japan the same year.
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.