After countless romances, breakups and revelations — plus the odd psycho and crashing helicopter — Shortland Street turned 25 in May 2017. Made on the run, sold round the globe, the Kiwi soap opera juggernaut has provided a launchpad for dozens of actors and behind the scenes talents. Alongside best of clips, the very first episode, musical moments and favourite memories from the cast, Shortland star turned director Angela Bloomfield writes about how the show has changed here, while Mihi Murray backgrounds how it began — and how it reflects New Zealand.
Shortland Street is a fast-paced serial drama set in an eponymous inner city Auckland hospital. A South Pacific Pictures production, the iconic show is based around the births, deaths and marriages of the staff, family and patients. Screening five days a week on TV2 it is New Zealand’s longest running drama. Characters and lines from the show have entered the culture, most famously, "you're not in Guatemala now, Dr Ropata!". This 2007 promo, set to the theme song, collects together highlights from the first 15 years of the show.
Trapped in a storage locker, shorn of her appendix, nurse Alice Piper (Toni Potter) turns the tables on her captor: psycho Joey Henderson (Johnny Barker). When Doctor Craig Valentine encounters Henderson, he finds himself caught between anger and duty. Finally marking the end of the Ferndale Strangler's reign, this March 2008 Shortland Street episode climaxed an eight-month long plotline which saw five members of the cast falling victim. Earlier three leaked videos each revealed a different killer (none of them Joey), upping the suspense as to the strangler's real identity.
In these short clips from our ScreenTalk interviews, Shortland Street actors talk about the show. - Michael Galvin on doing a rap - Martin Henderson on fast-paced TV - Robyn Malcolm on "the slut in the cardy" - Tem Morrison on medical terms - John Leigh on his exit - Danielle Cormack on leaving first - Antony Starr on acting under pressure - Angela Bloomfield on her first day - Craig Parker on forgetting ego - Shane Cortese on his dark role - Theresa Healey on playing "sassy" - Ido Drent on memorising fast - Stephanie Tauevihi on ravaging Blair Strang - Dean O'Gorman on relaxing on TV - Amanda Billing on farewelling her character - Mark Ferguson on playing his own brother - Stelios Yiakmis on stumbling into the set - Elizabeth McRae on being warned away - Rob Magasiva on nerves - Nancy Brunning on her first six months - Peter Elliott on thugs and idiots - Paul Gittins on advice - Blair Strang on sleeping with his sister - Geraldine Brophy on her role - Joel Tobeck on wheelchair jokes
Arguably one of the most heartbreaking deaths in Shortland Street history was that of Doctor Sarah Potts (Amanda Billing) in August 2014; it spawned online tribute pages and widespread grief from fans. Potts’ struggles with multiple sclerosis on the show had helped spread awareness of the condition, but it was research on a superbug cure that spelt the end of her decade on the show (she had contracted the bug from a contaminated syringe). These excerpts include her tearful farewell to partner TK Samuels (Ben Mitchell) and their daughter Tillie (Leila Eketone).
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).
Running an impressive four series, stylish crime show Street Legal centred around a struggling Auckland law firm, home base for unorthodox lawyer David Silesi (Jay Laga'aia), and sometime girlfriend Joni Collins (Kathleen Kennard). 'Ellis's Restaurant', the first episode made following the pilot, sees Silesi defending an ex-junkie on a possession charge, and facing off for the first time on screen against Sergeant Keens Van Dam (Charlies Mesure). The episode also sees the debut of Silesi's beloved 1944 Ford Jailbar, after his Ute unexpectedly ends up in pieces.
On Valentine's Day 2006 Shortland Street featured its first civil union, between lesbians Jay Copeland (Jaime Passier-Armstong) and Maia Jeffries (Anna Jullienne). The ceremony was aptly flush with pink decor and took place in Parnell’s Rose Gardens. Alas it was picketed by Serenity Church protestors and the union later ended — after Jay had an affair … with a man! In 1994 Shortland Street had earlier broken mainstream ground for the LGBT community with a lesbian kiss, between Dr Meredith Fleming (Stephanie Wilkin) and nurse Annie Flynn (Rebecca Hobbs).
Although there have been many moments of gold across Shortland Street's 6000 plus episodes, this scene shines worryingly bright and loud. The clip comes from a 2001 episode where the hospital staff put on a live musical. Shortland longtimer Chris Warner (Michael Galvin) dons a sparkly suit, so he can trade raps and swords with a dreadlocked figure in black (aka Doctor Victor Kahu, played by Calvin Tuteao). But when the villain refuses to die, Warner is not amused. Galvin has expressed relief that the episode screened so soon after the events of September 11, and few people saw it.
Over a two year stint from 2003, the devious Dominic 'Dominator' Thompson (Shane Cortese) did plenty to earn his place in the pantheon of Kiwi soap opera super villains. When his affair with a 16-year-old was revealed, he resorted to drugging his wife, two murders, framing others, and feigning insanity to cover it up. In December 2004, on the cusp of finally being sprung, the show’s evil bad boy lured his rival Chris Warner (Michael Galvin) to a remote barn and prepared to incinerate them both. But as the spectacular second clip reveals, it can be unwise to play with fire ...