“After the trouble at Miss Howick I realised that life with Vanessa was going to be a roller coaster.” These immortal lines from flatmate and cameraman Chris Wright open the fourth episode of the 1997 ‘docu-soap’. Sexual strife is in the house: Craig is having doubts about whether his relationship with Vanessa is monogamous; Christian gets a rejection letter from Finland; Natasha appears to have a tiff with Nick; and too much drinking at Ceilla’s 21st results in conflict. Elsewhere, the flatties face up to vomit, cleaning, freeloading boyfriends and a game of hacky sack.
City Life follows a tight-knit group of apartment-dwelling twenty-somethings (lawyers, bartenders, drug dealers, art dealers, et al) on the emotional merry-go-round of urban living. Created by James Griffin, the television series was an effort to create popular drama relevant to contemporary Auckland city life and to appeal to a Gen X demographic – to inject Melrose Place into Mt Eden. A bevy of Kiwi acting talent drink, dramatise and prevaricate to a soundtrack of contemporary NZ pop.
Wheel of Fortune is a game show that involves the solving of Hangman-style posers. Contestants spin the wheel to accrue prizes, guess letters that may be in the answer, and earn the right to roll again. The Kiwi edition was hosted by Phillip Leishman and Lana Coc-Kroft (with Simon Barnett later replacing Leishman). In a 1992 celebrity episode, Barcelona Olympic bronze medalist boxer (and future World Heavyweight challenger) David Tua, infamously requested the letter O, “for Awesome”. The show returned briefly in 2008 hosted by Jason Gunn and Sonia Gray.
The first episode of Shortland Street starts with a pregnant woman being rushed to the clinic after an accident. Only the doctors are all missing. Visiting doctor Hone Ropata (Temuera Morrison), who is soon to join the team, makes the call to deliver the baby. Head nurse Carrie Burton (Lisa Crittenden) disagrees, and proceeds to mention that Dr Ropata is no longer in Guatemala. This first episode of the five night a week soap screened on 25 May 1992. It would go on to become New Zealand's longest running TV drama (but not our first soap — that was Close to Home).
This special 1999 edition of the youth show travels to downunder's summer music festival du jour: The Big Day Out. Mikey Havoc and Jeremy 'Newsboy' Wells slip, slop, slap and survey the "punters, munters, sights and sounds" at Mt Smart Stadium. They meet musical acts of the era, including Korn, Marilyn Manson and Fatboy Slim, and local heroes Shihad. Newsboy interviews "Nelson College old girl, grunge super bride and Big Day Out recidivist" Courtney Love, who gives him the glad eye (apparently) and he reads her a viewer question from "Doug Myers of Remuera".
This 'docu-soap' put six 20-somethings into a rented house for three months — including a beauty contestant and a live-in cameraman. It was one of a series of 90s reality shows observing homelife which were soon to become a phenomenon, thanks to Big Brother. But without a lockdown or 24-7 surveillance, Flatmate's charms were more quaint, offering a homespun twist on MTV's pioneering The Real World (which debuted in 1992). The show was broadcast on now-defunct channel TV4, and made a minor celebrity of outspoken flattie Vanessa.
Flatmates observes six Kiwi 20-somethings as they share a house for three months: four students (one a Miss Howick beauty contestant), a confident young gay financial consultant, and a cameraman (also one of the show's directors). In this first episode the flatties move in, go shopping, have a party, and end up calling the police after partygoers get out of control. Flatmates was one of a number of 90s reality shows observing 'homelife' as created for the cameras. It was broadcast on the now-defunct TV4. Straight-talking student Vanessa became a minor local celebrity.
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).
This Heartland channel series marked 50 years of television in New Zealand. Each episode chronicled a decade of screen highlights, alongside an interview with a personality who worked in that era. In this excerpt from the 1990s episode, host Andrew Shaw chats to Peter Elliott about his TV career, from painting the floor for Grunt Machine to becoming a high profile actor (Gloss, Shortland Street), and presenter (Captain’s Log). Elliott reflects on the Shortland Street (and Civil Defence advert) curse, and the screen industry’s growing confidence in telling local stories.
The second, but prequel, series to The Insiders Guide to Happiness is chaos theory in action: seven young strangers are linked together by a bizarre incident. In this excerpt from Episode Six, Marty's (Louis Sutherland's) travel writing isn't going anywhere, Nicole (Kate Elliott) gets "wild and crazy and bad" for Halloween, and there's baking romance, sun bed sex, and scratchy shoplifting. The series won several Screen Director's Guild Awards and a clutch of gongs at the 2006 Qantas Film and TV Awards, including Best Drama, Director, Script, Actor and Actress.