Keen to preserve the stories of those who went to war, filmmaker David Blyth (Our Oldest Soldier) teamed up with RSA historian Patricia Stroud. The result is Memories of Service, a series of interviews with veterans from World War II, Vietnam and Korea. They recall comradeship, high risk bombing runs over Europe, blackmailing guards at prisoner of war camps (Ernest Davenport), and 16-hour days working the infamous Burma Railway (James Easton). Inbetween arranging further interviews, Blyth also put together compilation reels, culled from the conversations.
Great War Stories is a series of 35 four-minute documentaries remembering New Zealanders in World War l. The first season debuted in 2014, a century after the war began. Screening during TV3's prime time news, the bite-sized docos chronicle Kiwi experiences in the conflict, from soldiers, pilots, nurses, rugby players and war horses, to tragedies on land and sea. NZ Herald writer Greg Dixon praised the series as "an object lesson in how a tiny part can speak for the whole". Great War Stories was directed and produced by Anna Cottrell (Children of Gallipoli).
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.
The last drama to be made in-house by TVNZ, The Champion was written by author Maurice Gee at the behest of producer Ginette McDonald after the success of their collaboration on The Fire-Raiser. Set in Henderson, West Auckland over three weeks in early 1943, it centres on 12 year old Rex (Milan Borich — later the lead singer in Pluto) and a black American GI billeted with his family. This tough, accomplished drama looks unflinchingly at racism and prejudice — both imported and local — and is ample testimony to the skills of its writer, cast and crew.
This miniseries was made for the centenary of New Zealand’s involvement in the Gallipoli campaign. Created by Gavin Strawhan and Briar Grace-Smith, the six one hour episodes explored the impact of World War l on characters connected to a Pākehā family. Each episode was framed around a letter written home. The characters include a nurse and doctor caring for wounded in Egypt, a lawyer turned officer in Gallipoli and his wayward brother, and a Māori preacher turned soldier and his sister. Directed for TVNZ by Peter Burger, the series was produced by Robin Scholes.
The father of veteran weatherman Jim Hickey was a Spitfire pilot during World War II. In this early 2000s series, made while Hickey junior was senior weathercaster at TVNZ, he channels his heritage and flies a Cessna 182 around New Zealand airstrips, taking the pulse of the people and landscapes peculiar to each region. The airborne Heartland was one of a series of programmes that he made with producer Dave Mason, under their Rustic Road Productions banner (starting with Jim’s Car Show in 2000). Hickey would later open cafes at Queenstown and New Plymouth airports.
The Motor Show ran for three seasons, with legendary broadcaster Dougal Stevenson and Islay Benge (aka Islay McLeod) at the wheel. The show marked Stevenson's transition from newsreader to TV host, after a restructure of state television saw him choosing to remain in Wellington. The brainchild of producer Bill Earl, the series featured motor racing legend Chris Amos test driving vehicles (including a tractor), and Stevenson and Benge travelling the country to cover all things automotive. The theme music was taken from Jeff Wayne's 1978 album War of the Worlds.
A flagbearer for Māori storytelling on primetime television, E Tipu e Rea (Grow up tender young shoot) was a series of 30 minute dramas touching on a range of Māori experiences of the Pākehā world — from rural horse-back riding and eeling, to urban hostility and cultural estrangement. It marked the first anthology of Māori television plays, and the first TV production to use predominantly Māori personnel. E Tipu e Rea's mandate and achievement was to tell Māori stories in a Māori way.
Launched in 1992, Marae is the longest running Māori current affairs programme. It aims to keep its audience in touch with the issues — political or otherwise — that affect Māori, and explain kauapa Māori from a Māori perspective. The Marae Digipoll is seen as a respected barometer of matters Māori. Marae was relaunched briefly in October 2010 as Marae Investigates, presented by Scotty Morrison and Jodi Ihaka Marae (and later Miriama Kamo) . Screening on TV One, Marae is presented half in english and half in te reoi. It is now made by company Pango Productions.