In an age before Rogernomics, well before The Office, there was the afternoon tea fund, Golden Kiwi, and four o'clock closing: welcome to the early 80s world of the New Zealand Public Service. Gliding On (1981 - 1985) was the first locally-made sitcom to become a bona-fide classic. Inspired by Roger Hall's hit play Glide Time, the award-winning series satirised a paper-pushing working life familiar to many Kiwis. This episode features Beryl's non-smoking campaign, Jim's efforts to kick the habit, office sexual innuendo and a much-debated fire drill. "Morning Jim!"
This episode of New Zealand's own office comedy sees John (Ross Jolly) concluding that a love of stamps makes the boss (Ken Blackburn) a natural fit for Mastermind — next thing, the stores branch staff are gathering around with imaginary cameras and desk lamps, to help him practise for the pressures of facing quiz master Peter Sinclair. Meanwhile the team try to score another victory by getting an astrological chart made for a racehorse. Roger Hall's sitcom about public servants was a bona fide hit, long before Rogernomics and Ricky Gervais in The Office.
In the course of a 32-year career, Rod Cornelius experienced seismic changes within New Zealand’s television industry firsthand. From his first job with the NZ Broadcasting Corporation through the turbulent remakings of state television in the late 80s and 90s, Cornelius held several key management roles — including TVNZ Controller of Programming and Managing Director of Avalon Studios.
From a turbulent beginning in Auckland, self-styled adventurer and traveller Shayle Gardner was regularly employed on the British stage, and managed NZ troops’ entertainment during World War I. He also played his part in UK silent film history, starring in Comin’ thro' the Rye and The Three Passions. Gardner also had a short, tantalising stay in Hollywood; but in the end he came to rest in the place of his birth.Image credit: Alexander Turnbull Library, Eph-A-DRAMA-1922-01 (Detail)
The great outdoors and the arts are what most inspires sound recordist turned documentary director John Hagen. He learnt the ropes at Avalon television studios, before venturing out on his own as a director. Alongside arts shows like Frontseat and New Artland, Hagen has celebrated Kiwi architecture in The New Zealand Home and recreated hazardous pioneer journeys in popular series First Crossings.
Tangata Whenua was a groundbreaking six-part documentary series that screened (remarkably in primetime) in 1974. Each episode chronicled a different iwi and included interviews by historian Michael King with kaumātua. These remain a priceless historical record. The Feltex Award-winning script was by King and director Barry Barclay. The NZBC said the series had "possibly done more towards helping the European understand the Māori people, their traditions and way of life, than anything else previously shown on television". Paul Diamond writes about Tangata Whenua here.
Named Head of the Internal Production Department at TVNZ while still in her late 20s, Dana Youngman first worked her way up the producing ladder on lifestyle shows like Maggie’s Garden Show and A Taste of Home. Since then she has worked on New Zealand’s Got Talent and Whānau Living, and helped create a cooking show with Annabel Langbein which screened in more than 80 countries.
The voice and face of Ian Johnstone are a familiar part of the New Zealand television landscape. Since the early 60s, his work as a reporter, presenter and producer has allowed him to document many key events from the first four decades of local television.
The son of a Canterbury mayor and lay preacher, Winter Hall turned his early love of acting into a long and steady Hollywood career. He used friendships forged in Australasian dramatic companies to gain entrée into the silent film world, and became a valuable, “poised and distinguished” supporting actor in over 100 films, including 1925 silent epic Ben-Hur. His career continued unabated through the introduction of the ‘talkies’. Image credit: Alexander Turnbull Library, B-158-009 (detail)
A clever thinker whose love of stories bridged the gap between art and commerce, producer Don 'Scrubbs' Blakeney helped set the NZ film industry on a path of rapid expansion, and financed such pioneering films as Utu and Goodbye Pork Pie.