McPhail and Gadsby - First Episode

Television, 1980 (Full Length)

The debut episode of McPhail and Gadsby plunged into religion as the object of satire, and the result spawned death threats and annoyed letters to the editor. The pair dress up as angels, devils, monks, nuns, priests and Moses, and also make the first of many appearances as the smug Denny (McPhail) and not so clever Ron (Gadsby). McPhail argued later that a simple sketch involving an Anglican vicar dispensing communion unexpectedly caused the most offence. The thematic approach was soon abandoned in favour of shorter episodes, and a more familiar style of topical satire. 

Close Up - Following the Leader (Jim Bolger)

Television, 1986 (Excerpts)

This report from 80s current affairs show Close Up introduces the New Zealand public to future Prime Minister Jim Bolger — shortly after the “lightning coup” that saw him unseating urban lawyer Jim McLay, to become leader of the National Party. The  focus is on Bolger’s rural roots as a father and farmer. There is also praise from political historian Barry Gustafson, and a mini journalistic joust with ex PM Robert Muldoon, over whether he supports the new party leader. In 1987 Labour was re-elected for another term; Bolger’s party swept to victory in 1990. 

Series

The Unauthorised History of New Zealand

Television, 2005–2009

In this satire series presenter Jeremy Wells — channelling Kenneth B Cumberland (of Landmarks fame) — examines NZ history in a mock-revisionist manner, poking fun at the pretence of the past. From the makers of Eating Media Lunch, the show is self-described as “the most important series in the history of history”. Each episode tackles the big issues, including ‘Crime’, ‘Visitors’, ‘Trouble’ and ‘Evil’. The show draws its material mostly from television archive basements, with the odd piece of fakery and animation thrown in. Michael King this defiantly ain't!

It's Only Wednesday (Series One, Episode Nine)

Television, 1988 (Full Length Episode)

The first guest on this episode of the Neil Roberts hosted chat show is none other than Sir Robert Muldoon, who recounts a quiet lunch with the Queen, his confidence Winston Peters will be NZ’s first Māori Prime Minister, and his decision to perform in The Rocky Horror Show. When joined by UK actor James Faulkner (The Shadow Trader), Muldoon discusses the policies of “close personal friend” Margaret Thatcher before another Queen gets a nod, as When the Cat’s Away celebrate 'Melting Pot' hitting number one by singing the acapella opening of 'Bohemian Rhapsody'.

Close Up - Big Dealers (featuring John Key)

Television, 1987 (Full Length Episode)

This episode of current affairs show Close Up offers a fascinating portrait of the early days of New Zealand's foreign exchange market. Reporter Ted Sheehan heads into "the pit" (trading room), and chronicles the working life of a senior forex dealer, 25-year-old accountancy graduate John Key. The "smiling assassin" (and future Prime Minister) is a calm and earnest presence amongst the young cowboys playing for fortunes and Porsches, months before the 1987 sharemarket crash. As Sheehan says, "they're like addicts who eat, breathe and sleep foreign exchange dealing". 

Eating Media Lunch - Best Of Episode

Television, 2006 (Full Length Episode)

In this highlights special culled from the first four years of Eating Media Lunch, presenter Jeremy Wells manages to keep a straight face while mercilessly satirising all manner of mainstream media. Leaping channels and barriers of taste, the episode shows the fine line between send-up and target. The 'Worst of EML' tests the patience of talkback radio hosts and goes behind the demise of celebrity merino Shrek; plus terrorist blooper reels, Destiny Church protests, Target hijinks, and our first indigenous porno flick (you have been warned: not suitable for children).

The Unauthorised History of New Zealand - Sex (Episode Two)

Television, 2005 (Excerpts)

Jeremy Wells brings Kenneth Cumberland-seque authority to this 'alternative' version of Kiwi history, which was made by many of the team that worked on Eating Media Lunch. The Unauthorised History plumbs TV and history archives to poke fun at the pretence of the past (and present). This episode examines artefacts to do with sex and Aotearoa. With tongue planted in check (and in other places) Wells revisits everything from pole-dancing in the "hellhole of the Pacific" — colonial-era Russell  — to randy Hutt Valley teenagers "getting laid" in the 1950s.

The Pretender - Series Two, Episode One

Television, 2008 (Full Length Episode)

In the 2000s mockumentary realism (led by The Office) was making its mark in television comedy. Series The Pretender gave Kiwi politics the embedded camera treatment, with expat comedian Bob Maclaren playing overconfident property developer-turned-MP Dennis Plant. The first episode of the second series sees Plant cause political chaos, with the launch of his Future New Zealand party. This season was nominated for three Qantas TV awards in 2009, including best comedy. The show was created by Peter Cox (Insider’s Guide to Happiness) and Great Southern TV’s Philip Smith.

in beTWEEN - Politics

Television, 2010 (Full Length Episode)

Several years before they became leaders of the Labour and National parties, Jacinda Ardern and Simon Bridges got down with youth in this political episode of in beTWEEN. Casually dressed and fresh-faced, Bridges and Ardern discuss why they got into politics with presenters Jeremy Hollis and Julia Bloore (née Wright). Ardern jokes about kicking "Simon in the shins" during discussions. Actor Rawiri Paratene also appears; he says watching elders talk about issues on the marae inspired him to become political early on — at 16, he was in Māori activist group Ngā Tamatoa.

Nationwide: Labour Party Youth Conference

Television, 1974 (Excerpts)

A 24-year-old Helen Clark (complete with long flowing locks) features in this NZBC current affairs footage from the annual conference of Young Labour — the Labour Party’s youth division. Twenty five years before she will become NZ’s first elected female Prime Minister, Clark is a junior politics lecturer making her way in the party machine as she chairs a session about abortion law reform. The room might be smoke filled but the atmosphere is more earnest than Machiavellian; and, while commitment to the cause is strong, expectations are more finite.