In 1988 Entertainment This Week’s host Leeza Gibbons and Coronation Street’s Christopher Quinten found love while taking part in a New Zealand Telethon. The pair starred in two of New Zealand’s favourite TV shows and the sight of them falling for each other live in the Christchurch studios was the talk of the country; viewers — like the couple — were literally agape. This 6.30PM News segment re-caps the romance and follows the duo to Arrowtown for a winter stroll. A year later they were married, but by 1991 it was all over. Warning: includes a deep pash.
This collection celebrates the legendary moments that New Zealanders — huddled around the telly — gawked at, chortled with, and choked on our Choysa over as they played out on our screens. "There's a generation who remember where they were when JFK was shot", but as Paul Casserly asks in his collection primer, "where were you when Thingee's eye popped out?"
Zoo Babies - Raising Baby Iwani was a spin-off from long-running Greenstone series The Zoo. Capitalising on the cute charisma of baby animals, it highlights the inherent dramas of animal breeding programmes at zoos. Filmed at Auckland Zoo, this documentary follows the story of surviving twin Baby Iwani, a Siamang gibbon, whose mother rejected him at six weeks of age. Senior primate keeper Christine Tintinger takes on the role of surrogate Mum, hand-raising Iwani for a year before giving him back to his mother. The documentary originally screened in two parts.
This turn of the century comedy series follows the daily life of fictional colonial Māori chief Te Tutu (Pio Terei). In the first episode, 'Welcome', it’s 1838 and Te Tutu meets a shipload of newly-arrived New Zealand Company settlers. Ngāti Pati elders debate whether or not to eat them. Tama (Dalvanius) wants to, but Te Tutu pushes for the vegetarian option by outlining the threat of Pākehā diseases to Māori private parts. The boys can’t decide but when Tama’s wife arrives everything is ka pai, and the kōrero turns to real estate. The script is by series creator Ray Lillis.
Made in 2008, this documentary chronicles the Wahine disaster, from the ship leaving Lyttelton to the last survivor being pulled out of the water. Interviewees share their experiences — some make it ashore in life rafts at Seatoun, others are washed up on the “battlefield” of the Pencarrow coast. The Wahine’s crew offer insight into the conditions the ship was sailing in, and of their gradual realisation that it couldn’t be saved. The TV One programme also features animated scenes of the ill-fated journey, which mimic the black and white news footage of the disaster unfolding.
Episode two of comedian Mike King’s acclaimed Treaty of Waitangi series travels to the Bay of Islands, to talk to historians and signatory descendants, and explore the background to the Treaty's original signing: from debaucherous colonial Russell to Governor Busby’s Declaration of Independence, and William Hobson’s drafting (and controversial translation) of the Treaty. Constitutional lawyer Moana Jackson, author Jenny Haworth and MP Hone Harawira give their takes on the Treaty's birth, and its reception by Māori during this pivotal time in NZ history.
Filmmaker Tom Reilly went to Graham Gordon’s West Auckland wrecker’s yard to buy car parts. He soon found himself chronicling Gordon’s battle with the former Waitakere Council trying to clear his 100 acre property (nicknamed Gordonia) of car wrecks, and a small army of colourful but largely destitute men camping there. The result was a documentary capturing the gulf between Gordon’s cheerful but dogged non-conformity and a council determined to enforce its by-laws at all costs. The soundtrack is by guitar legend and occasional resident Billy TK Senior.
Hosted by Charlotte Dawson, How's Life? was an advice show whose panel of presenters included Jude Dobson, Suzanne Paul, Paul Henry, Marcus Lush and Christine Rankin (ex head of the Department of Work and Income). Responding to viewer enquiries, the panel offered help on relationships, family and more, from the serious (abuse, disease) to the light-hearted (the best way to sneeze in a restaurant). Almost 20 panelists featured over the Greenstone show's three seasons and 100+ episodes. The production crew received as many as 60 letters and emails a day.
One of New Zealand television's more notorious episodes, the 1987 Gofta Awards start promisingly with an extended montage of Auckland scenes (just before the sharemarket crash). It's downhill from there. Presenters Nic Nolan and Leeza Gibbons (Entertainment This Week) look bizarre in silver suits; an underfed and overexcited audience grows more and more vocal; special guest John Inman (Mr Humphries from English sitcom Are You Being Served?) is heckled; and things come badly unstuck as timing issues see winners turned away as they try to collect their awards.
Telethon was a 24-hour live television spectacular aimed at securing donations from viewers for a charitable cause. The first, in 1975, launched the second channel (TV2) and raised over half a million dollars for St John's Ambulance. By 1981 Telethon had hit the $5 million mark. Along with willing local celebrities, volunteers and a receptive public, it attracted overseas stars: Basil Brush, Entertainment Tonight's Leeza Gibbons and Coronation Street's Christopher Quinton (who famously got together after the 1988 show). "Thank you very much for your kind donation!"