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Every Second Counts - 8 October 1987

Television, 1987 (Full Length Episode)

This late 80s game show features couples attempting to build time credits by answering a series of questions. The prices include household appliances and a holiday to “exotic Tahiti”. Hosted by Paul Henry — in his TV debut — Every Second's’ gentle pace is decades removed from the accelerating insistency of Who Wants to be a Millionaire or Weakest Link. Henry fronts with more groaning Granddad jokes than the PC-baiting cheek he’d later become famous for, but early warning signs are there, disguised in a formidable 80s suit and white loafers.

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Network New Zealand

Television, 1985 (Full Length)

To mark its first 25 years, TVNZ commissioned independent producer Ian Mackersey to chronicle a day in its life as the national broadcaster. Coverage is split between the often extreme lengths (and heights) gone to by technicians maintaining coverage, and the work of programme makers — including the casts and crews of McPhail and Gadsby and Country GP. The real drama is in the news studio during the 6.30 bulletin (with light relief from the switchboard) in this intriguing glance back at a pre-digital, two channel TV age during the infancy of computers.  

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Two Cars, One Night

Short Film, 2003 (Full Length)

Youngsters Romeo, Ed, and Polly wait in two cars after dark while their parents are inside drinking. It’s a situation many Kiwis would recognise: cars in loco parentis outside the bar or rugby club. Soon cross-car rivalry warms to budding friendship. Winning performances, and the tender mix of comedy and romance saw the tale of a Te Kaha pub carpark become an international hit. Two Cars won a boot-full of awards, launched Waititi’s career, and was the second NZ short to gain an Oscar nod (Waititi infamously feigned sleep during the 2005 Academy Awards ceremony).

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Series

Sea Urchins

Television, 1980–1984

This TVNZ kidult drama is a saltwater Swallows and Amazons, where the plucky "urchins" stumble upon villainous plots (from missing treasure to wildlife smuggling) on their seaside adventures. Over three series, locations like Mahurangi Peninsula in the Hauraki Gulf — where the youngsters holidayed with their uncle — and the Marlborough Sounds allowed for much floatplane, launch and navy frigate chase action. The cast included an array of experienced talent and featured a young Rebecca Gibney (the Packed to Rafter’s star’s first major TV role) and Robert Rakete.

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The Video Dispatch - 15 December 1983

Television, 1983 (Full Length Episode)

Kids of the 80s will fondly recall this after school current affairs show. Presenter Lloyd Scott was a national celebrity at the time as ‘Scotty’, Barry Crump’s hapless companion in a popular series of ads for Toyota. Items in this last edition for 1983 include traffic safety with radio hosts Lindsay Yeo and Buzz O’Bumble, and the arrival at Auckland Zoo of a pair of Galapagos tortoises (whose faces reporter Jane Dent guesses were inspirations for E.T.). Backed by children from Taita Central School, Scott signs off with ‘Merry Christmas’ in English, Māori and Samoan.

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Series

Fallout

Television, 1994

Written by Tom Scott and Greg McGee, South Pacific Pictures-produced Fallout was an award-winning two-part mini-series dramatising events leading up to NZ’s 80s anti-nuclear stand. PM Robert Muldoon (Ian Mune) calls a snap election when his MP Marilyn Waring crosses the floor on the ‘no nukes’ bill, but his gamble fails, and David Lange's Labour Party is elected. Lange (played by Australian actor Mark Mitchell) is pressured from all sides (including a bullish US administration) to take a firm stance on his anti-nuclear platform. He finally accepts there is no middle ground.

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The Beginner’s Guide to Prisons

Television, 1983 (Full Length Episode)

Broadcaster Ian Johnstone was an intrepid explorer for TVNZ's 80s Beginner's Guide documentary series; the series embedded personal guides to lift the veil on everything from marae protocol to the Freemasons. This edition sees a crime (embezzlement of TVNZ money) pinned to 47-year-old Johnstone by the CIB and so begins his (fictional) experience of judicial process and imprisonment. A humbled Johnstone aims to convey what life behind bars is like, and bust some myths en route, from "they only serve half their time don’t they?" to "it's like a four star hotel".

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Loose Enz - Free Enterprise

Television, 1981 (Full Length Episode)

This teleplay from writer Greg McGee is a satire of prejudice and the market economy set in the grey, divisive atmosphere of early 80s NZ. Kate Harcourt plays the proprietor of Dot's Terminal Cafe, a cantankerous spinster who rails against 'bludgers' and 'foreigners'. One rain-soaked Wellington night, her lumpen clientele decide to stage a small but telling uprising — with the help of a dead mouse. It screened in early 1982, following the breakout success of McGee’s confrontational take on Kiwi conformity: rugby player losing-his-religion play Foreskin’s Lament.

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Heroes - First Episode

Television, 1984 (Full Length Episode)

Long before the comedy of Flight of the Conchords, Heroes followed the triumphs and pitfalls of a band trying to make it in the mid-80s NZ music biz. It marked the first major role for Jay Laga’aia,  and early lead gigs for Michael Hurst and Margaret Umbers. In this first episode the band gets together as Dave (Hurst) ditches his covers band, flunks a TV audition, and hooks up opportunist flatmate Ron (Laga’aia), synth player Peter (John Gibson, who co-wrote the series music) and bass player Maxine (Umbers). Synth and leopard skin abound.

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The Billy T James Collection - Episode Four

Television, 1992 (Full Length Episode)

This posthumous series — produced by Ginette McDonald — collects segments from Billy T’s long running skit based comedy series. Some of his most cherished creations are here: the giggling Te News newsreader, Cuzzy in his black shorts, and the chief bemused by Captain Cook. Support comes from a seasoned cast including Peter Rowley, David Telford and Roy Billing (with cameos from Bob Jones and Barry Crump). Some of these skits are essentially elaborate setups for one line jokes but Billy T’s infectious warmth and good humour inevitably carry the day.