Launched in October 1964, Compass was the first local programme to provide regular coverage of politically sensitive topics. Alongside the job of reporting on the news from a NZ perspective, Compass was the first to file comprehensive news reports from overseas. The controversial banning of a programme on the changeover to decimal currency became a flashpoint in 1966. This led to the high profile resignation of producer Gordon Bick. Compass can now be seen as the forerunner to Close Up, Foreign Correspondent and more recently Sunday.
A Twist in the Tale was one of a series of kidult shows launched by The Tribe creator Raymond Thompson, after he relocated to New Zealand. The anthology series spins from a storyteller (Star Trek's William Shatner) introducing a story (often fantastical) to a group of children, some of whom appear in the tales. The show featured early appearances by many young Kiwi thespians, including Antonia Prebble, Chelsie Preston Crayford, Dwayne Cameron and Michelle Ang. Although the writing team were British, some of the directors and most of the crew were New Zealanders.
Presented by broadcasting legend Selwyn Toogood, this beloved agony-aunt (and uncle!) discussion show screened on weekday afternoons, from 1976 to 1985. Toogood and four female panelists answered viewers' letters, taking on issues big and small. "We tackle every problem, be it incest, love or tatting" as panelist Liz Grant put it. Regular panellists included artist Shona McFarlane, Heather Eggleton, Catherine Saunders, and writer Johnny Frisbie.
Marlin Bay was a drama series following the comings and goings of a far-north resort and casino. Andy Anderson, Ilona Rogers, Don Selwyn, Pete Smith, Katie Wolfe and others made up the cast of earthy locals, wealthy foreigners, and city weekenders. Created by writer Greg McGee, Marlin Bay was one of the first primetime drama series from South Pacific Pictures. Kevin Smith received a 1995 Best Supporting Actor nod for his role as villain Paul Cosic.
Based on the 1950s US show of the same name, This Is Your Life first began honouring and embarrassing famous New Zealanders in 1984. Past recipients of the Big Red Book have included Sir Howard Morrison, Davina Whitehouse, John Walker and many others. Bob Parker was the original presenter of the show (later hosts were Paul Holmes and Paul Henry). Before lives and careers are celebrated there's a moment of mild excruciation as viewers wait for the presenter to surprise the soon-to-be-anointed subject with the famous words: "This is your life''. XXXX
Country GP was a major 80s drama series that charted the post-war years 1945 to 1950 in a rural central South Island town. Using fast-turnaround techniques that anticipated later series like Shortland Street, 66 episodes of Country GP were shot in 18 months at a specially built set in Whiteman’s Valley, Lower Hutt. It was groundbreaking as the first NZ series to cast a Samoan in a title role (Lani Tupu as Dr David Miller); but it also provided a nostalgic look back to an apparently kinder, gentler time than mid-80s New Zealand with its major social reforms and upheavals.
Pioneering soap opera Close To Home first screened in May 1975. For just over eight years middle New Zealand found their mirror in the life and times of Wellington’s Hearte clan. At its peak in 1977 nearly one million viewers tuned in twice weekly to watch the series co-created by Michael Noonan and Tony Isaac (who had initially only agreed to make the show on the condition they would get to make The Governor). The popular family saga carved a regular niche for local drama on screen, and the output demands were foundational in developing industry talent.
Face Value was a trilogy of monologues written by Fiona Samuel (Marching Girls, Home Movie), produced in 1995 for TV One’s Montana Sunday Theatre series. Featuring stellar performances by all three female leads, Carol Smith, Davina Whitehouse and Ginette McDonald (also the producer), the series is cleverly scripted and uses a simple, subtly changing domestic setting to emphasise the emotional states of the characters. The three women are very different, but as they tell their stories their experiences are parallelled.
By the mid 1970s, Kiwi entertainer Ray Woolf was a regular television presence as a performer and host. After a stint co-hosting chat show Two on One (with Val Lamont and later Davina Whitehouse), the show morphed in 1979 into Woolf’s own singing and talk slot: The Ray Woolf Show, where he interviewed international stars, and sung and filmed clips around the country. After a season the show was reformatted to focus on music as The New Ray Woolf Show, and ran for another two years. In this period Woolf was awarded Best Television Light Entertainer multiple times.