This edition of Prime TV’s history of New Zealand television looks at 50 years of entertainment. The smorgasbord of music, comedy and variety shows ranges from 60s pop stars to Popstars, from the anarchy of Blerta to the anarchy of Telethon, from Radio with Pictures to Dancing with the Stars. Music television moves from C’mon and country, to punk and hip hop videos. Comedy follows the formative Fred Dagg and Billy T, through to Eating Media Lunch and 7 Days. A roll call of New Zealand entertainers muse on seeing Kiwis laugh, sing and shimmy on the small screen.
Music is Peter Blake's passion. Blake's career has encompassed jazz, Hendrix covers, keyboards for Hello Sailor – and quite a lot of television. After time at radio station 2ZA he began working on TV music show Grunt Machine, then got the job of musical director, and later producer of the high-rating, hit-making Ready to Roll. Soon he was commanding a stable of music shows that included RTR, Radio with Pictures, Heartbeat City, and stereo simulcasts of rock concerts.
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.
For a generation of music fans before the internet, show Radio with Pictures was a vital link to local and international music — and essential viewing before TV2's Sunday night horror movies. Following on from Grunt Machine in 1976, its presenters included Karyn Hay, Dr Rock (Barry Jenkin), Dick Driver Phil O'Brien. RWP's extended run coincided with the rise of MTV and the music video, and a burgeoning 1980s New Zealand music scene. Videos were a staple, but artist interviews also featured. The show also staged a number of Mainstreet concerts featuring leading local artists.
After-school show Nice One was a popular classic of NZ childrens television, with the show's signature theme tune ("Nice one Stu-y!") and Stu's thumbs-up salute, totemic for kids of the 70s. Host Stu Dennison played a cheeky, long-haired schoolboy who delighted children and infuriated adults with his irreverent antics. But Dennison developed the persona in short live segments for Ready to Roll (shot live at Avalon Studios, excerpted here). Prototype Stu is seen being a truant, reciting rude poetry, singing 10cc and ribbing Roger Gascoigne and 70s metrosexuals.
Peter Blake introduced more local content to popular music shows Ready to Roll and Radio with Pictures at a time when covers of overseas songs were the norm. The longtime musician began in television via 1970s music programme; Grunt Machine, and ended up in charge of a stable of shows. He has also composed music for everything from TV One's nightly News theme to drama Shark in the Park.
Andrew Hagen began composing for film while in band Schtung. Hagen and fellow bandmember Morton Wilson provided music for a quartet of Kiwi movies, including Kingpin and The Scarecrow, then moved to Hong Kong and set up studios in Asia. In 1992 Hagen headed to LA, establishing himself as an award-winning composer, sound designer and sound supervisor. In 2011 he launched a branch of Schtung back in Wellington.
Andy Anderson began drumming and singing as a Hutt Valley teenager. Since then his diverse trans-Tasman performing career has included playing in rock bands, starring as Sweeney Todd and the Pirate King on-stage — plus more than 50 acting roles on-screen, often playing rogues and diamonds in the rough, in shows from Roche, Gloss and Marlin Bay, to The Sullivans.
Paul Holmes, KCNZM, helped change the face of New Zealand broadcasting. In 1989 the actor turned radio host began presenting primetime news and magazine show Holmes in spectacular style, when guest Dennis Conner walked out of his interview. Holmes balanced the TV show and a popular radio slot for 15 years, followed by a stint with Prime TV and current affairs show Q+A. He passed away on 1 February 2013.
John Day rolled film on a wide range of screen projects before establishing company Matte-Box Films in 1980. He went on to mix a busy trans-Tasman commercials career with directing gigs on a number of non-fiction titles (The Power of Music, The Hunt for the Pink and White Terraces), plus ghost movie The Returning. Day passed away on 7 January 2015.