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 this documentary Cherie James pays tribute to New Zealand’s best-loved entertainer, telling Billy T James story from a daughter’s perspective. Performers who worked with Billy in his showband The Maori Volcanics also share their memories, as do family members who reminisce about Billy's early life growing up in the Waikato. Cherie provides her perspective on the well-publicised arguments that occurred after his death and why it was so important for Billy to be buried beside his mother on the sacred Taupiri mountain overlooking Huntly.
A Wellington-only television show hosted folk comedy duo Flight of the Conchords' first TV appearance in 1999. This compilation features them performing six songs live on regional station Channel 7. The first two clips date from Newtown Salad's debut episode on 16 November 1999: the duo perform 'Nothin' Wrong', and end the evening with rare track 'Rock Beat'. The remaining songs were performed over four days in May 2000. After the 16-strong studio audience start clapping in time during 'Bowie', the duo use their hands to "protect" themselves.
In 1975 TV One launched with a flagship 6.30 news bulletin which went largely unchanged with the move to TVNZ in 1980. In a 1987 revamp, it became the Network News with dual newsreaders Judy Bailey and Neil Billington (replaced by Richard Long). In 1988, the half hour programme moved to 6pm. With the advent of TV3 in late 1989, it was rebranded One Network News; and, from 1995, extended to an hour. The ill-fated replacing of Long with John Hawkesby in 1999 saw it make headlines rather than report them. In 1999, there was another name change to One News.
Epitaphs on gravestones are the starting point for presenter Paul Gittins to unravel skeletons in cupboards, lovestruck suicide pacts, and fatal love letters. The series uses compelling personal stories to retell New Zealand history and effectively combines documentary and re-enactment. An actor and history enthusiast, Paul Gittins became a household name on Shortland Street (as Dr Michael McKenna) before he devised this series for Greenstone. Epitaph ran for three series, and won Best Factual Series at the 1999 NZ TV Awards.
This 1999 documentary see presenter Gary McCormick exploring the lives of New Zealand expats living in London. London Kiwis – including MTV Europe head Brent Hansen, Angel at My Table actor Kerry Fox, chef Peter Gordon, house-boaters Karyn Hay and Andrew Fagan, and drunk backpackers at The Church – reflect on their overseas experience and the meaning of home. Produced alongside a companion documentary on Kiwis in Ireland, London Connection was a further collaboration between McCormick, director Bruce Morrison and producer William Grieve (Heartland).
Postwar Māori, Pākehā and Pacific Island migrants made Ōtara the fastest growing area in New Zealand. But as local industries closed, it became a poster suburb for poverty and crime. This TV3 Inside New Zealand documentary sees eight successes from Ōtara telling their stories — from actor Rawiri Paretene and MP Tau Henare, to teachers and entrepreneurs. They reflect on mean streets, education, community and the Ōtara spirit. The first documentary from Ōtara-raised producer Rhonda Kite (who is also interviewed), it won Best Māori Programme at the 1999 NZ TV Awards.
For much of the 90s, hospital cafe manager Lionel Skeggins (John Leigh) was Shortland Street’s beloved nice guy. He fell in and out of love with Kirsty (their true soap romance included amnesia and a plane crash) before making this exit in March 1999. Lionel had been married to Mackenzie Choat (Ingrid Park) for just a week before learning of her dodgy past; he was fleeing her at the beach when he encountered a wave. His demise made 2016 NZ Herald and Stuff lists of the show’s memorable deaths, but the body was never recovered. Is Lionel the Street’s ultimate missing person?
In 1996 Tony Sutorius got his hands on a new digital video camera, days before the start of an election campaign in Wellington Central. Made on the proverbial shoestring, this feature-length documentary chronicles five of those battling for the crown as a new political age — MMP — dawns. Richard Prebble joins a new party called Act, the National candidate joins United New Zealand… and one of the five will be sacrificed by their own party. Sutorius sat through 55 hours of footage to forge the result, which won enthused, sellout audiences at the 1999 NZ Film Festival.
This comedy series followed the daily life of an 1800s Māori chief (Pio Terei) and his interactions with other Māori and newly-arrived Pākehā settlers. Nothing was sacred as a subject for satire, from disease to English gold lust. Created by Ray Lillis (Pio!), the series features Rachel House (Whale Rider), Jason Hoyte (Late Night Big Breakfast), William Davis (Belief) and Jonathan Brugh (What We Do in the Shadows). Guests included Dalvanius and Charles Mesure. It was produced by Terei’s Pipi Productions for TVNZ over two seasons; Terei had shifted from TV3 after his series Pio! in 1999.