In 1985 Television New Zealand went all out to celebrate the 25th anniversary of local TV. Three specials marked the occasion. Two-parter 25 Years of Television was the most comprehensive: in part one, newsreader Dougal Stevenson chronicled the path from the one channel days of the 1960s, to a second channel in 1975 (TV3 didn't launch until 1989). A variety show (see musical excerpts below) — also called 25 Years of Television — featured performances by everyone from Dinah Lee to Ray Woolf. Lastly Network New Zealand went behind the scenes at TVNZ.
Established in 1989, NZ On Air has funded many of the television shows featured on NZ On Screen. Compiled to mark the 25th anniversary in 2015, this collection features a range of TV content funded in the agency's first year. With one representative from each genre, there’s the self-titled Billy T James sitcom, Richard Driver documentary Hokonui Todd and kids puppet show Bidibidi. Tainui Stephens' classic Māori Battalion documentary represents Māori programming, while long-running TVNZ series Tagata Pasifika tags ‘minority interests’.
This special report from late 80s/early 90s current affairs show Frontline looks at the Wahine disaster, on its 25th anniversary. Fifty-one people died on 10 April 1968 after the interisland ferry struck Barrett Reef near Wellington, in a huge storm. The first part ('From Reef to Ruin') features archive footage and interviews with survivors and rescuers. In the second part ('Fatal Shores'), reporter Rob Harley examines whether the ferry could have been better equipped, and more lives saved. A third part ('Strait Answers') is not shown here due to copyright issues with some of the footage.
The 1974 Christchurch Commonwealth Games were a huge event for New Zealand, and for local television (they helped launch colour telly). The Games needed a song; young performer Steve Allen was commissioned to provide it, after winning a 1973 contest on music show Studio One. The catchy song became synonymous with the event, and a huge hit; later it was reprised to promote the 1990 Commonwealth Games. Here Allen performs the song at a 1985 gala celebrating 25 years of Kiwi television: belting out the "peace and love" message, backed by a large choir and orchestra.
By the mid 1980s, performer Ray Woolf had been a pop star, Play School presenter, Entertainer of the Year winner, presented his own TV show, and promoted Bic lighters in an ad campaign with Howard Morrison. Here, accompanied by dancers, he performs an abbreviated version of the Paul McCartney penned classic 'Penny Lane' (a rare Beatles single not to top the British charts). The song's nostalgic "blue suburban skies" are transplanted from Liverpool to Wellington’s Michael Fowler Centre, as part of a variety show celebrating 25 years of television in New Zealand.
November 2014 marks 25 years since New Zealand TV’s third channel began broadcasting. This 25th birthday sampler pack looks back at iconic drama (Outrageous Fortune), upstart news shows (Nightline), fresh youth programming (Ice TV, Being Eve) and comedy high watermarks (bro’Town, Jaquie Brown, 7 Days). As the launch slogan said "come home to the feeling!"
Longtime country music collaborators Brendan Dugan and Jodi Vaughan covered American singer Townes Van Zandt's ‘If I Needed You’ on a 1982 single. Here they perform the song for a 1985 variety show celebrating the 25th anniversary of television in New Zealand. Vaughan shows no signs of vocal chord surgery she had undergone months earlier. The duo had recently decided to go it alone after success on — and Dugan's high profile departure from — TV show That’s Country. Dugan was named Entertainer of the Year by the NZ Entertainment Operators’ Association in 1985.
No television special would be complete without a bloopers reel. 1985 marked the 25th anniversary of television in New Zealand, and one of the events celebrating it was a variety show at the Michael Fowler Centre. In this short excerpt, host Roger Gascoigne introduces a montage of humorous TV moments from across the years, some planned and others probably not — from turkeys in gumboots, Bill McCarthy’s exploding piano, and Relda Familton being judo-flipped, to Tom Bradley losing his script, and presenter Peter Sinclair disappearing in dry ice at the 1983 Feltex Awards.
It was third time lucky for twice-engaged Nick (Karl Burnett) and Waverley (Claire Chitham) to finally make it to the altar. Since first getting together in 1994, viewers had followed Nick (who joined Shortland Street on episode two) and Waverley through sickness and health, estrangement, and even a kidnapping during a previous marriage attempt. Their union was dubbed the TV wedding of 2002. The nuptials saw the return of Marj (Elizabeth McRae) and Jenny Harrison (Maggie Harper). In May 2017 the couple were set to return from Taranaki, for Shortland's 25th anniversary.
Shortland Street is a fast-paced serial drama set in an inner city Auckland hospital. The long-running South Pacific Pictures production is based around the births, deaths and marriages of the hospital's staff and patients. It screens on TVNZ’s TV2 network five days a week. In 2017 the show was set to celebrate its 25th anniversary, making it New Zealand’s longest running drama by far. Characters and lines from the show have entered the culture — starting with “you’re not in Guatemala now, Dr Ropata!” in the very first episode. Mihi Murray writes about Shortland Street here.