From an idea by Australian producer Brendon Lunney, Deepwater Haven was a kidult series on TV2, set in fictional community Cooks Haven. It followed the fortunes of Waitemata Harbour tugboat skipper Jack Wilson (Vince Martin of Beaurepaires ad fame) and his two kids. The 26 30 minute episodes were a co-production between South Pacific Pictures (NZ), Beyond Productions (Australia) and F Productions (France). The young actors included Jay Saussey and singer Milan Borich. The show was nominated for Best Childrens Programme at the 1994 NZ Film and TV Awards.
Tonight with Cathy Saunders saw host Saunders taking the reins solo, following short-lived talk show Saunders and Sinclair, which she co-presented with radio personality Geoff Sinclair. Both shows debuted in 1985. Among Saunders' guests were Māori activist Donna Awatere Huata, Australian actor Vince Martin, and female impersonator Marcus Craig (aka Diamond Lil). Saunders combined PR and marketing jobs with her television gigs— including time as a panelist on Selwyn Toogood's advice show Beauty and the Beast.
On the heels of Issues (1990), More Issues offered more of the same satirical takes on local and international current affairs. It pokes fun at the advent of news-presenting personalities like Judy Bailey, Richard Long and Paul Holmes - such a prominent feature of NZ TV at the time. Politicians Ruth Richardson and Robert Muldoon also featured regularly, and celebs such as Oprah Winfrey and Rachel Hunter made appearances. Issues of the day included Martin Crowe's upcoming nuptials, the first Gulf War, and Māori land claims.
In this 2005 series Once Were Warriors star Temuera Morrison interviews and hangs with his entertainment whānau, at home and in Hollywood. Celebs featured including Adrien Brody, Sam Neill, Ioan Gruffudd, Martin Henderson, Keisha Castle-Hughes and Cliff Curtis. A notable edition was a 'revenge of the bros' episode that saw Tem korero with Kiwis involved in the Sydney-shot Star Wars chapters; he also meets George Lucas and gets cloned at Skywalker Ranch. This was Prime TV's first publicly funded local programme, and replayed on Māori Television.
SpottyWot and DottyWot are young alien siblings exploring life on earth in this made-for-wee-kids TV series. In each 10 minute episode, the CGI-animated SpottyWot (blue) and DottyWot (pink) inhabit live action environments, like the zoo and the beach. The show was the second production (after Jane and the Dragon) for Pūkeko Pictures, a partnership between children’s author Martin Baynton and Richard Taylor and Tania Rodger (of Weta Workshop and Lord of the Rings fame). Two series were made of the Annie-nominated show, and it screened around the globe.
The "kids stumble on crims" premise of this kidult thriller series was practically an NZ TV staple in the 80s (Terry and the Gunrunners, The Fire-Raiser); here it's realised with a script by author Margaret Mahy and the director/producer team of Peter Sharp and Chris Bailey (vying with a schedule disrupted by Cyclone Bola). Mahy creates a world of masks, disguises and intrigue for a young cast including Martin Henderson (his screen debut), Hamish McFarlane (fresh from Vincent Ward’s The Navigator), Joel Tobeck (an early role) and deaf seven-year-old Sonia Pivac.
Landmarks was a major 10-part series that traced the history of New Zealand through its landscape, particularly the impact of human settlement and technology. The concept was modelled on the epic BBC series America. Here a bespectacled, Swannie-wearing geography professor, Kenneth B Cumberland, stands in for Alistair Cooke, interweaving science, history and sweeping imagery to tell the stories of the landscape's "complete transformation". It received a 1982 Feltex Award for Best Documentary and the donnish but game Cumberland became a household name.
This classic kids’ adventure tale follows a 13-year-old boy on a quest to find his father, missing amidst the 1860s Otago gold rush. When it launched in September 1976, the 13 part series was the most expensive local TV drama yet made. Under the reins of director Tom Parkinson, the series brandished unprecedented production values, and panned the Central Otago vistas for all their worth. Its huge local popularity was matched abroad (BBC screened it multiple times); it showed that NZ-made kids’ drama could be exported, and helped establish the new second television channel.
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.
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.