This NZ Music Month collection showcases NZ music television, spun from a playlist of classic documentaries and beloved music shows. From Split Enz to the NZSO, Heavenly Pop Hits to Hip Hop New Zealand, whether you count the beat or roll like this, there’s something here for all ears (and eyes). Plus music writer Chris Bourke gets Ready to Roll with this pop history primer.
For a small country from the edge of the world, achievements on the Olympic stage are badges — silver fern-on-black — of national pride: precious moments where we gained notice (even if it was Mum’s anthem playing on the dais). This legacy collection draws on archive footage, some rarely seen, to celebrate the stories behind Kiwis going for gold.
It seems a fascination with going fast is built into human DNA. Covering distance in the shortest amount of time has long captured our imagination. From muscle-powered freaks of nature (thoroughbred horses, falcons, Peter Snell) to motorhead mayhem, from Formula 1 legends to front-running design innovation, this collection celebrates the particularly Kiwi 'need for speed'.
"Ever wondered what the well-dressed man wears next to his skin?" In this early 60s advertisement, the bloke is a businessman — played by 30-something Peter Harcourt — and the answer is tighty whities, aka Jockey undies. An era of selfies and Dan Carter Jockey billboards was decades away, and originally the Pacific Films-made ad was rejected for television screening, before later being passed on appeal. Harcourt acted regularly in Wellington theatre; his wife was actor Kate Harcourt, and he fathered actor Miranda and journalist Gordon.
Column Comment in the 60s and News Stand in the 70s established a tradition of print media scrutiny by TV. Fourth Estate succeeded them with a brief expanded to include radio, TV and magazines. For 12 minutes on Friday nights, no media outlet (and especially not broadcaster TVNZ) was safe from the ruminations of journalism lecturer Brian Priestley, along with John Kennedy, editor of the Catholic weekly The Tablet, and guest presenters. Only brief programme excerpts and graphics of the newspaper articles under discussion provide visual relief.
People of the Waikato makes frequent pitstops along the 425 km path of NZ's longest river. Made in an era of post-war electricity shortages, the film balances requisite beautiful scenery with excursions into the Waikato's extensive hydroelectric system: including then-unfinished fourth dam Whakamaru, whose development was slowed by the discovery of clay in the foundation rock. Alongside brief glimpses of those who live and work on the river, there is footage of stunt-filled canoe races, Turangawaewae Marae, and a veteran boatman tugging coal.
The Katene Sisters were a Shortland Street creation — a vocal group from the past of nurse Jackie Manu (Nancy Brunning), who reformed for a talent quest. The other members were her cousins, but only one (Annie Crummer) appeared, allowing nurse Carrie Burton (Lisa Crittenden) to step in. Though they didn’t win, they were given a brief life outside the show when this song (written by Crummer and ex Holidaymaker Barbara Griffin) peaked at number three in the NZ charts. The video shows them getting down to business in the recording studio, with Crummer in her element.
Like many other current affairs shows in the 70s, Tonight had a fairly brief existence, but it provided the forum for this infamous battle of wills between journalist Simon Walker and Prime Minister Robert Muldoon. It is May 1976, and Walker is daring to interrogate Muldoon about his claims of a Soviet naval presence in the Pacific, and New Zealand's vulnerability to Russian nuclear attack. Muldoon grows increasingly annoyed and bullish at being asked questions that are not on his sheet: "I will not have some smart alec interviewer changing the rules half way through."
Keith Aberdein devised Epidemic after being given the brief to write a drama about “disease coming into New Zealand”. Set in a small North Island town where race relations are strained to breaking point, this four part virus outbreak thriller revolves around Māori tāpū and an archaeological dig which locals are worried will disturb the graves of their ancestors. An accomplished cast (Martyn Sanderson, Don Selwyn, Cathy Downes) helped the series break bicultural-themed TV drama ground as European education and culture, and Māori tradition and spirituality collide.
80s show Close Up had a similar brief to earlier current affairs show Compass: to present mini-documentaries on topical local issues. Stories in the primetime hour-long slot were wide-ranging, from hard news to human interest pieces, including a profile of 25-year-old foreign exchange dealer, future-Prime Minister, John Key. The show won Feltex Awards for most of the years that it was on air. Close Up is not related to the post-nightly news show of the same name, which was hosted by Mark Sainsbury until 2012.