In the days before 24-hour television, there was Goodnight Kiwi, a short animation from Sam Harvey that bade viewers goodnight once the day's broadcasting ended. Each night the plucky Kiwi shut up shop at the TV station, put out the milk, and caught the lift up to sleep in a satellite dish with The Cat. For a generation of kids, Goodnight Kiwi became a much-loved symbol of staying up well past your bedtime. Viewers never questioned why our nocturnal national icon was going to bed at night, or sharing a bed with a cat. The tune is an arrangement of Māori lullaby 'Hine e Hine'.
New Zealand's unique accent is often derided across the dutch for its vowel-mangling pronunciation ("sex fush'n'chups", anyone?) and being too fast-paced for tourists and Elton John to understand. In this documentary Jim Mora follows the evolution of New Zealand English, from the "colonial twang" to Billy T James. Linguist Elizabeth Gordon explains the infamous HRT (High Rising Terminal) at the end of sentences, and Mora interprets such phrases as "air gun" ("how are you going?"). Lynn of Tawa also features, in an accent face-off with Sam Neill and Judy Bailey.
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.
Twenty three years after Foreskin's Lament became a Kiwi cause célèbre, writer Greg McGee brought his classic play to television. Skin and Bone "asset strips" and updates the story to reflect rugby (and society's) evolution. Here Seymour (Outrageous Fortune's Antony Starr) — falteringly pursuing a professional career — returns home to play a last game for his rural club side. The brutality he witnesses leaves him questioning the morals of the code. The role of the old guard coach is reprised by Roy Billing, in McGee's opinion "the first and definitive Tupper".
Hastings-bred former All Black Josh Kronfeld returns to the 'fruitbowl' of New Zealand to meet immigrants, in this series celebrating diversity. Adversity and sadness are key themes in this episode; an Indian "untouchable" caste family face being separated, after the parents overstayed, while Bosnian rapper Genocide draws on his war-ravaged childhood for inspiration. On a lighter note, Zimbawee-born Sandy Densem creates art using a mollusc shell design popular in her home country, and a South African family keeps tradition alive by making and selling boerewors (sausages) at markets.
New Zealand's beloved Goodnight Kiwi has been through a number of incarnations since debuting on South Pacific Television (later TV2) in the mid 1970s. TVNZ, aware that many Kiwis still held "a tremendous affection" for the kiwi and his cat, commissioned three animated spots to mark the 2008 Christmas holiday season. Auckland animator Tim Hunt was given the job of updating the originals while still retaining the hand-drawn, 2D look of the originals. Of the three clips, the one above most closely follows the original Goodnight Kiwi sign off, which ran for over a decade.
If a single word could sum up the free-wheeling flavour of alternative music and comedy in Aotearoa during the 1970s, that word would surely be ... Blerta. The 'Bruno Lawrence Electric Revelation and Travelling Apparition' included foundation members of the NZ screen industry (Lawrence, Geoff Murphy, Alun Bollinger) plus other merry pranksters. Drawing on the Blerta TV series and beyond, Blerta Revisited (aka Blerta - The Return Trip) is an anarchic collection of comedy skits, musical interludes and films culled from the Blerta archives. Costa Botes writes about Blerta here.
Following the big-screen success of Topp Twins documentary Untouchable Girls came another chronicle of a Kiwi entertainment legend: sometime Taranaki bandito, giggling newsreader and crooner Billy T James. The film uses remastered footage and an impressive cast of interviews to capture his path from cabaret singer to fame, fan clubs and eventual financial and bodily collapse. Te Movie director Ian Mune originally cast James in the classic Came a Hot Friday, as the Māori-Mexican Tainuia Kid; Te Movie co-producer Tom Parkinson played a hand in making Billy T a TV star.
Actor Michael Hurst began life in northern England, then moved to Christchurch at age eight. In this Here to Stay episode he looks at the pervasive elements of Kiwi culture that derive from mother England — from roasts, rugby, tea and the Mini, to a language and legal system. In this excerpt Hurst fries up fish'n'chips with Ray McVinnie, stalks deer with Davey Hughes, and explores how class ideals travelled south to Mt Peel and Christ's College .... A chorus of Kiwis, including ex-All Blacks' captain David Kirk and historian Jock Phillips, ponder the influence.
This episode of the series profiling creative Kiwi culture is presented by hip-hop diva Ladi6, her partner Parkes, and cousins Scribe and Matthias Luafutu. Verse 2, her act at the time (before her solo success) is profiled in her hometown of Christchurch — and Luafatu's journey from prison to drama school is explored (with glimpses of Scribe on the brink of his hugely successful recording career). Other segments visit the air guitar champs and find director Brendan Donovan in New York where he made his debut short with Six Million Dollar Man Lee Majors.