Kiwi telly showed it could do sly as well as it could show the shearing of a sheep when, in a 1968 Wellington edition of regional news show Town and Around, reporter Erin Sinclair investigated an innovative farmer whose turkeys were shod in gumboots. The legendary hoax apparently fooled two executives from Skellerup who flew to Whanganui to secure a contract to manufacture the boots' lining. The wool-pulling is often wrongly remembered as a Country Calendar spoof — but that show’s first hoodwinker (a fence-plucking musical farmer) was nearly a decade away.
This star-studded short features Kiwi icon Colin ‘Pinetree’ Meads, plus Melanie Lynskey (Heavenly Creatures), 7 Days comics Dai Henwood and Steve Wrigley, Olympic shot putter Valerie Adams and All Black first five Beauden Barrett. The celebs reflect on a radical reboot of beloved Red Band gumboots by Denise L'Estrange-Corbet, from fashion label World. A deadpan Meads is alarmed by this affront to farming fashion. Co-produced by Millie Lynskey (sister of Melanie), the film took away the Viewer's Choice award at the local arm of short film event Tropfest.
In this 1987 Radio with Pictures excerpt, visiting English singer Billy Bragg performs a song in the Victoria University Student Union Hall. The Bard of Barking is intercut with Wellington street scenes: pensioners, punks, and pigeon feeding in a pre-bus lane Manners Mall. Taken from album Workers Playtime (1988), Bragg’s Valentine’s Day song is far from a Hallmark card, with droll rhyming couplets telling of a bruised, but defiant lover: “For the girl with the hour glass figure time runs out very fast / We used to want the same things but that's all in the past.”
Hayley Robertson picked up Best Actress at Tropfest 2013 for her role as a mysterious young woman in this thoughtful short drama set in a bus stop somewhere in rural New Zealand. In gumboots and flannel shirt, her character arrives at the stop to find a confident well-dressed young law student, turning over a $20 bill in his hand. Passing time while waiting, she challenges him to a game; the playing of which slowly reveals their differing approaches to life, and the ourcome leads to the film’s shocking conclusion. Director Nick Garrett also composed the score.
Nightly magazine-style show Town and Around played on New Zealand screens during the second half of the 60s. Hosted by Peter Read, this end-of-1968 special from the Wellington edition showcases highlights from over 500 items that year. The concentration is on lighter material, most famously a hoax piece on a farmer who puts gumboots on his turkeys. In another piece reporter John Shrapnell discovers that locked cars in the city tend to be the exception. Also featured: an interview with entertainer Rolf Harris, and an impromptu Kiwi street-Hamlet.
No television special would be complete without a bloopers reel. 1985 marked the 25th anniversary of television in New Zealand, and one of the events celebrating it was a variety show at the Michael Fowler Centre. In this short excerpt, host Roger Gascoigne introduces a montage of humorous TV moments from across the years, some planned and others probably not — from turkeys in gumboots, Bill McCarthy’s exploding piano, and Relda Familton being judo-flipped, to Tom Bradley losing his script, and presenter Peter Sinclair disappearing in dry ice at the 1983 Feltex Awards.
In director Grant Lahood's 2013 Tropfest NZ entry a young boy takes Kiwi ingenuity to the next level by creatively adapting his gumboots to net sporting victory. But it’s a risky move. Sprung marks a return for Lahood to his dialogue free short film beginnings (eg. Cannes award-winner The Singing Trophy, and his debut Snail’s Pace). Like those shorts, Sprung has a devilish sense of humour, and a crisply edited contest of wills. The ode to the courage of the young and the unpredictability of science was scored by veteran film and TV composers Plan 9.
A jandal-shod journey through Kiwi pop culture. Kiwiana takes a light-hearted look at the fashion, art, architecture, attitudes, and icons (Buzzy Bees, Edmonds, Swanndri, Pavlova etc) we call our own. Directed by Shirley Horrocks, and shot by Leon Narbey, it featured personalities Gary McCormick, Ginette McDonald, John Clarke, Peter Jackson, and others. Screening at a time (1996) when New Zealanders were just beginning to appreciate these neglected everyday objects as ‘collectibles,' it rated highly, and inspired a sequel, Kiwi As.
Ask Country Calendar viewers which shows they remember and inevitably the answer is "the spoofs" — satirical episodes that screened unannounced. Sometimes there was outrage but mostly the public enjoyed having the wool pulled over their eyes. Created by producer Tony Trotter and Bogor cartoonist Burton Silver, the first (in late 1977) was the fencing wire-playing farmer and his "rural music". This special episode collects the best of the spoofs, from the infamous radio-controlled dog, to the gay couple who ran a "stress-free" flock, and more malarkey besides.
In March and April 2001 slippers met gumboots when The Royal New Zealand Ballet went on a five-week long heartland tour. The ballerinas performed in community theatres and halls in places like Twizel, Putaruru, Taihape, and Alexandra. This Gibson Group TV One documentary chronicles the challenges – injuries, fatigue, motel life, provincial performance diets (junk food, baking), dodgy stages and wiring, romance on the road – and receptive locals. The programme includes work from local choreographers to famous ballets, with music from classical to Head Like a Hole.