Man. Dog. Sheep. This was an unlikely formula for Kiwi TV gold. A Dog's Show was familiar as a homespun in its long-running Sunday slot. The show featured sheepdog trials from around the country, with commentary provided by the wise, bearded John Gordon. In the final from a 1981 series, four farmers wield sticks and whistles, and put their dogs through their paces to wrangle the "sticky sheep". It's 1981, but the only riots here are ovine. Trivia: the opening tune is a version of the song 'Flowers on the Wall', also used in the film Pulp Fiction.
Jon Neilson and Bob Parker host the 13th annual Young Farmer of the Year final, broadcast live from Trillos nightclub in Auckland in 1981. The show includes pre-recorded items showing the seven finalists on their farms, as well as competing in the "rural activities" part of the contest, which consists of such tests as hanging a gate, changing a tyre, and determining defects in sheep carcasses. The presentation of the "cloak of knowledge" to the winning farmer at the end of the night is delightfully cheesy.
Chic Littlewood’s afterschool show for children featured skits performed by Chic and his puppets to link cartoons and other overseas programming. Chic should be in control — but the real star here is the somewhat wayward Willie McNabb (from a Scottish family of mice courtesy of Auckland theatre doyenne Alma Woods). Chic and Willie are never quite on the same wavelength — and Chic’s Gramps character has even less chance of matching wits with him. Mother McNabb appears briefly — while the apparently ogre-like producer is an ominous but unseen presence.
This live TV spectacular documents an 18 October 1981 Royal Variety performance in front of the touring Queen Elizabeth and Duke of Edinburgh. Performers in St James Theatre included Ray Columbus (in That's Country mode), Sir Howard Morrison and John Rowles. Dance is represented by Limbs and the Royal New Zealand Ballet, while McPhail and Gadsby and Billy T James deliver pre-PC gags. There’s a show stopping all-singing all-dancing finale, and what seems like the entire roster of NZ showbiz of the time lines up to greet the Queen, including Lynn of Tawa.
This episode of the legendary professional wrestling series screened in March 1981. Barry Holland and the late Steve Rickard host (Ernie Leonard has moved behind the scenes into a producer role). Rickard welcomes locals and viewers from Kenya, Hong Kong and Malaysia. On the Mat mainstay Mark Lewin features prominently, appearing in tag action before reminiscing about a fiery battle with King Curtis in Japan. Things don't improve as he's attacked by the Voodoo-crazed Big Mullumba. The main event sees local star Johnny Garcia and Samoan Joe battling it out.
TVNZ's long running quiz show pitted four-member teams from the country’s universities against each other for egghead bragging rights. Host Peter Sinclair (C'mon, Happen Inn) poses the "starter for 10" and presides over this second semifinal from the fifth series. Sinclair is typically sharp — "Lake Taupō. A very hesitant answer to what I thought was a very easy question" — as teams from Victoria and Canterbury (eventual series winners) compete for a finals place. Subjects range from The Decalogue to Dire Straits. Calculators and encyclopedia are at stake.
Telethon was a widely popular 24-hour live television spectacular aimed at securing donations from viewers for a charitable cause. The feel-good vibe of Telethon was infectious, appealing to both adults, kids (who were allowed to stay up in front of the telly) and willing celebs. This selection covers highlights from the 1981 Wellington Telethon (for International Year of the Disabled). Bob Parker, Selwyn Toogood, Ian Johnstone and host Peter Sinclair get goofy amongst smurfs, bagpipes, and talking belly-buttons. "Thank you very much for your kind donation!"
Some argue that if the 1981 Springbok rugby tour of New Zealand had been halted from the outset, the impact on the hearts and minds of South Africans would not have been as profound. This Leanne Pooley-directed film aims to show how events in Aotearoa (captured in Merata Mita's documentary Patu!) played out in South Africa; how the tour protests energized blacks, shamed the regime, and provoked democratic change. Says Archbishop Desmond Tutu: "You really can't even compute its value, it said the world has not forgotten us, we are not alone."
Poet, activist and soon-to-be Mayor of Waitemata, Tim Shadbolt explores the often-maligned art of graffiti in this 1981 special for documentary slot Contact. Shadbolt searches for wit and inspiraton from school desks and court holding cells, to the bathrooms of trendy restaurants. Some of these scribbled sentiments — like “Rob Muldoon before he robs you” — have passed into legend. The best material however, comes from a group of high school girls, encouraged by their right-on English teacher during a class of well-supervised rebellion: “castrate rapists — have a ball!”
Merata Mita’s Patu! is a startling record of the mass civil disobedience that took place throughout New Zealand during the winter of 1981, in protest against a South African rugby tour. Testament to the courage and faith of both the marchers and a large team of filmmakers, the feature-length documentary is a landmark in Aotearoa's film history. It staunchly contradicts claims by author Gordon McLauchlan a couple of years earlier that New Zealanders were "a passionless people".