This edition of Prime TV’s history of New Zealand television looks at 50 years of entertainment. The smorgasbord of music, comedy and variety shows ranges from 60s pop stars to Popstars, from the anarchy of Blerta to the anarchy of Telethon, from Radio with Pictures to Dancing with the Stars. Music television moves from C’mon and country, to punk and hip hop videos. Comedy follows the formative Fred Dagg and Billy T, through to Eating Media Lunch and 7 Days. A roll call of New Zealand entertainers muse on seeing Kiwis laugh, sing and shimmy on the small screen.
Ol’ Brown Eyes celebrates 40 years in showbiz with this variety concert, alongside some of his mates including Ray Columbus and Bunny Walters. The show is mostly live entertainment, punctuated by a few nostalgic field stories where Sir Howard acknowledges his upbringing and Māoritanga. The show ends with the Morrison whānau performing, followed by the hymn that gave Sir Howard a number one hit in 1982: ‘How Great Thou Art’. This TV special was dedicated to Sir Howard’s mother Kahu, who was an outstanding singer in her own right.
In 2010 TVNZ’s Heartland channel celebrated the 50th anniversary of television in New Zealand by producing a decade by decade survey. This interview, taken from the 1960s instalment, sees the late Ray Columbus interviewed by Andrew Shaw. The pioneer of pop music in New Zealand reflects on the role that TV played in his career, from Club Columbus to C’Mon, to co-creating That’s Country. He muses on being a pop star in front of the camera, and working behind the scenes in television. Shaw asks him to rate the best song he’s recorded and his best TV performance.
Based on the US show of the same name, This Is Your Life has been honouring famous Kiwis since 1984. This 1988 edition hosted by Bob Parker features Colin “Pinetree” Meads, whose All Black career spanned 15 years, 133 games and 55 test matches. New Zealand’s “Rugby Player of the Century,” remains modest throughout his tribute at the Avalon TV Centre, where guests include fellow All Black legends Brian Lochore, Kel Tremain and Wilson Whineray; and Irish referee Kevin Kelleher, who controversially ordered Meads off the field in Scotland in 1967.
Hosted by one-time mod Ray Columbus, That's Country was one of the highest rating shows of the early 80s. This 1982 episode features veteran Kiwi country performers (John Hore, Patsy Riggir) and trans-Tasman pop star Dinah Lee. The opening ensemble number features Canadian singer Glory-Anne Carriere and US duo the Gypsy Mountain Pickers, along with Australian Jade Hurley (who still bills himself as the King of Country Rock). Check out the rhinestone cowboys and girls as they belt out the theme song, then settle in for solo performances. Yee-ha!
Hip hop DJ/ producer P-Money (Pete Wadams) talks about a career born from very modest beginnings in this episode from a series for secondary school music students. After initial attempts at scratching on his father’s turntable were quickly rebuffed, he began making music using twin cassette decks. Success in DJ contests followed; and creating his own beats led to collaborations with acts including DLT, Scribe and Che Fu. He describes the process where his music for Scribe’s ‘I Remember’ was built up from samples from a particularly unlikely source.
NZ's first major female pop star, "Queen of the Mods", Dinah Lee is profiled in this NZBC special (one of the earliest surviving interviews with a Kiwi rock'n'roller). Her trademark pageboy-with-kiss-curls hairstyle is almost a character in its own right as she talks about the pressures of celebrity — while footage of her recording 'He Can't do the Bluebeat' reveals a singing voice that is almost a shock after the softly spoken interview. The last word goes to Lee's manager who recounts the "nightmare" repercussions of her TV appearance in Bermuda shorts.
An urban Maori trust, Te Whanau o Waipareira has developed from modest beginnings as a vegetable selling co-op into the biggest employment and training organisation in West Auckland. This documentary by Toby Mills and Aileen O'Sullivan examines its operations through the eyes of four people who have had their lives turned around by its all encompassing social, health, justice and education programmes. Interviewees include Pita Sharples and trust CEO John Tamihere (who recounts early struggles to be accepted by government, council and business sectors).
Richard Driver investigates late 80s campus radio for music show RWP, and finds stations that have outgrown modest beginnings. They have longer broadcast hours, a national co-ordinator (former Netherworld Dancing Toy Graham Cockcroft) and a profile in the industry. Further positives include their own style (a certain informality in presentation, perceived as a plus by many) and a commitment to alternative music and local talent. But there are also concerns about estrangement from student associations, and commercial success breeding advertiser pressures.
This 1978 documentary casts a critical eye over a depressed NZ music industry, and asks what has changed since its 60s glory days of pop stars, screaming fans and C’mon. By the late 70s, few musicians are earning a living and chart hits have dwindled (although the recording industry is bullish). Ray Columbus waxes lyrical about ‘She’s a Mod’. Kevan Moore and Peter Sinclair are sanguine about TV’s role, a finger is pointed at radio airplay, and the careers of Craig Scott, Mark Williams, Sharon O’Neill and John Rowles are considered. The only thing not in short supply is blame.