In the 2000s mockumentary realism (led by The Office) was making its mark in television comedy. Series The Pretender gave Kiwi politics the embedded camera treatment, with expat comedian Bob Maclaren playing overconfident property developer-turned-MP Dennis Plant. The first episode of the second series sees Plant cause political chaos, with the launch of his Future New Zealand party. This season was nominated for three Qantas TV awards in 2009, including best comedy. The show was created by Peter Cox (Insider’s Guide to Happiness) and Great Southern TV’s Philip Smith.
This posthumous series — produced by Ginette McDonald — collects segments from Billy T’s long running skit based comedy series. Some of his most cherished creations are here: the giggling Te News newsreader, Cuzzy in his black shorts, and the chief bemused by Captain Cook. Support comes from a seasoned cast including Peter Rowley, David Telford and Roy Billing (with cameos from Bob Jones and Barry Crump). Some of these skits are essentially elaborate setups for one line jokes but Billy T’s infectious warmth and good humour inevitably carry the day.
The debut episode of McPhail and Gadsby plunged into religion as the object of satire, and the result spawned death threats and annoyed letters to the editor. The pair dress up as angels, devils, monks, nuns, priests and Moses, and also make the first of many appearances as the smug Denny (McPhail) and not so clever Ron (Gadsby). McPhail argued later that a simple sketch involving an Anglican vicar dispensing communion unexpectedly caused the most offence. The thematic approach was soon abandoned in favour of shorter episodes, and a more familiar style of topical satire.
A Week of It was a pioneering political satire series. This episode from the first series tackles topical issues — many of which will seem bewildering to a 21st Century audience. Ken Ellis and David McPhail discuss the great NZ work of fiction and Jon Gadsby presents Māori news. Annie Whittle and McPhail act out how babies are made; there's a Justice Department recruitment film; interviewer (and future royal PR man) Simon Walker is sent up; the sex habits of the 1977 Lions rugby tour are covered, as is wisdom of sheilas on racehorses. McPhail writes about the show's launch here.
Early Days Yet, directed by Shirley Horrocks, is a full-length documentary about New Zealand poet Allen Curnow, made in the last months of his life. The poet talks about his life and work, and visits the places of some of his most important poems. It includes interviews with other New Zealand poets about Curnow's significance as an advocate for New Zealand poetry. As Curnow famously mused in front of a moa skeleton displayed in Canterbury Museum: "Not I, some child, born in a marvellous year / Will learn the trick of standing upright here."
"I get around. I know everything. Except your name." Kevin Smith made his television debut (in a speaking part) on this episode from the third series of Gloss, playing smirking DJ and man-about-town Damien Vermeer. Keen to rise above his working class origins, the character sets his sights on rich brat Chelsea Redfern within moments of meeting her. Smith left work at Christchurch's Court theatre for the role, when the decision was made to up the show's male quotient. Mikey Havoc also appears in this scene, as a member of his real-life band Push Push.