Some of New Zealand's most memorable screen images have come from the genre of science fiction: Bruno wandering man alone onto Eden Park in a nightie; giant slugs living under Rangitoto. From alien hunters to futuristic fuel wars to nuclear volcanoes, this collection is a showcase of film and TV that has imagined 'what if?' versions of life in the shaky isles.
Made before websites like Airbnb spurred a massive jump in homestay-style accommodation options, this documentary from 2000 visits New Zealanders who have chosen to open their houses to tourists. From Warkworth to Stewart Island, from farm stays to a gay-friendly house in Golden Bay, Kiwis talk about the positives of homestays — and the long hours. Two of the couples mention how their own relationship benefits from having visitors. Narrated by Jim Mora, The Real New Zealand was directed by Shirley Horrocks (hit documentary Kiwiana).
Wellington’s Today Tonight was one of four regional news shows launched by TVNZ in 1980. Over the years its hosts included Roger Gascoigne, Mark Leishman and Mike Bodnar. The show covered the local news from the pre-Wellywood, pre-’Absolutely Positively’ era: from restaurateur Remiro Bresolin’s Venetian mural, and a Philip Rush midwinter swim to work (across the harbour); to show stalwart Bas Tubert doing an offbeat Lady and the Tramp number for the Botanic Gardens tulip festival, and Beehive whimsy when David Lange (PM) meets David Lange (farmer).
Mortimer’s Patch was a popular police series following detective Doug Mortimer (Terence Cooper), a city cop returning to his rural roots. In the first episode, scripted by Keith Aberdein (The Governor), a girl (Greer Robson) goes missing in sand dunes near the shack of an eccentric recluse. Fear and suspicion mounts, and Mortimer brings in help from the city: prejudiced detective Chris Knight (Ken Blackburn). Don Selwyn plays Sergeant Bob Storey. In this background piece, Mortimer's Patch producer Tom Finlayson writes about the show's birth, death and double resurrection.
Classic sci-fi TV series Under the Mountain follows the adventures of redheaded twins with psychic powers — Rachel and Theo — on their Auckland summer holiday. They meet the mysterious Mr Jones, an alien emissary who enlists them in the battle against the evil Wilberforces, who are plotting planetary destruction. Adapted from the Maurice Gee novel, the series' fx left their slimy imprint on a generation of NZ kids, haunted by the transmogrifying Wilberforces, who changed from humans into giant slugs slithering underneath Auckland’s volcanoes.
Tom Finlayson has worked in television in almost every capacity: as a reporter and producer in the cauldron of daily news, developing and producing classic drama shows (Under the Mountain, Mortimer's Patch) and movies, directing documentaries (The Party's Over) — as well as commissioning programmes, during a three year stint as TVNZ’s Director of Production.
Mortimer’s Patch was a popular drama series following Detective Sergeant Doug Mortimer (Terence Cooper) at work in the town of Cobham. Mortimer plays a city cop returning to his rural roots; Don Selwyn is Sergeant Bob Storey. The series was NZ’s first police drama, and a rare local drama to top ratings. Mortimer's Patch was made when the archetype of the ‘community cop’ everyone knew was still a powerful one, and it was a counterweight to the faceless riot policing of the Springbok Tour. Three series were made.