This collection of 40 classic Kiwi TV series offers up images spanning 50 years. The titles range from Gloss to Gliding On, from Olly Ohlson to Nice One Stu, from Ready to Roll to wrestlers. In this special backgrounder, Stuff's James Croot writes about favourite moments of Kiwi TV. The list is in rough chronological order of when each series debuted.
This collection celebrates Kiwi comedy on TV: the caricatures, piss-takes, and sitcoms that have cracked us up, and pulled the wool over our eyes for over five decades. From turkeys in gumboots and Fred Dagg, to Billy T, bro'Town and Jaquie Brown. As Diana Wichtel reflects, watching the evolution of native telly laughs is, "a rich and ridiculous, if often painful, pleasure."
Hosted by television all-rounder Neil Roberts, It’s Only Wednesday was a short-lived TVNZ chat show in the late 80s. It was characterised by Roberts’ energy as host, and performances by Grant Chilcott’s swing band Wentworth-Brewster & Co. The It's Only Wednesday format saw guests staying on after their interviews, leading to some eclectic company sharing the couch. The guests included former Prime Minister Robert Muldoon, and pop group When the Cat’s Away.
After 15 years on TV One, Paul Holmes left his high-rating slot for rival network Prime. New half-hour show Paul Holmes debuted in February 2005, but poor ratings meant it lasted only six months. The following April, Prime debuted the hour-long Holmes, which concentrated on longer interviews with people from business, the arts, sports and politics. Holmes argued the format allowed him the “opportunity to find out what makes the guests tick”. He called it “a style of broadcasting that has been missing from the New Zealand television landscape for a number of years”.
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'.
This 1989 chat show saw Gary McCormick invite guests onto his sofa for a cuppa. First up is WWF wrestler Don 'The Rock' Muraco. Unfazed by being called an ugly baby, the Hawaiian warns the kids to not try his wrestling moves (or crystal meth) at home and demonstrates a hold on the host. He's joined by actor Ian Watkin who talks about being a coaster, Blerta and cricket fandom. The show was directed by Bruce Morrison (Heartland) and produced by Finola Dwyer (Oscar-nominated for An Education); who teamed with McCormick on the acclaimed Raglan by the Sea doco.
Advice show Dilemmas saw a doctor and a panel of guests responding to letters from viewers on a range of issues. In this episode, Australian GP Kerryn Phelps and guest panelists Jude Dobson, Philip Alpers and Liane Clarke deal with everything from a neighbour using a chainsaw at 6:30am on a Sunday, to violence in a relationship. The question of smacking kids as a disciplinary measure is given a children’s perspective, and Liane Clarke suggests a humorous way to deal with catcalling. Phelps went on to become the first woman elected to head the Australian Medical Association.
"I like uncovering people and getting them to fess up to **** and to be more real with themselves." So said Anika Moa to TV Guide of her late night Māori TV talk show. In the first episode, the forthright Moa has two Real Housewives of Auckland on the couch. Moa trades laughs with champagne fan Anna Batley Burton, while Gilda Fitzpatrick shows actor Madeleine Sami the high life, and Sami shows her the thug life. There’s giant knitting needles and innuendo; hip hop artist Kings performs hit 'Don’t Worry Bout It', and The Spinoff’s Alex Casey previews Sensing Murder.
Dilemmas sought to give advice to New Zealanders on how to negotiate their day to day lives. Hosted by Australian doctor Kerryn Phelps (and later by Marcus Lush) with a rotating panel of guests, the show covered everything from annoying neighbours to harassment and violence. Guests included Jude Dobson, Philip Alpers, Ginette McDonald and Genevieve Westcott. A regular media commentator in Australia on health matters, Phelps became the first woman elected to head the Australian Medical Association; in 2011 she received an Order of Australia, for services to medicine.
Speakeasy was an early 80s chat show hosted by broadcaster Ian Johnstone. Each episode explored a theme and invited a trio of subjects “who could talk well about their own experiences and views” (as Johnstone put it in his 1998 memoir Stand and Deliver). Produced by David Baldock, the subjects were “New Zealand events and issues but not news and politics”, and ranged from sports leadership, to returning home from overseas, to race relationships in Aotearoa. Interviewees included cricketer Glenn Turner, singer Howard Morrison and actor Ellie Smith.