In 1865, Wellington became the Kiwi capital. In the more than 150 years since, cameras have caught the rise and fall of storms, buildings, and MPs, and Courtenay Place has played host to vampires and pool-playing priests. Wind through our Wellington Collection to catch the action, and check out backgrounders by musician Samuel Scott and broadcaster Roger Gascoigne.
The God Boy is a portrait of a troubled teen Jimmy (Jamie Higgins) growing up in post-war small town New Zealand and wrestling with a repressive education and home front turmoil. Adapted from the Ian Cross novel by Ian Mune and directed by Murray Reece, the landmark film was the first NZ telefeature, gaining Feltex awards and front page reviews. With menace and Catholic guilt ever-present, it’s credited as a pioneer of what Sam Neill dubbed NZ’s “cinema of unease”. Higgins later starred in Australian TV show The Sullivans.
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.
Wildtrack was a highly successful nature series for children, running from 1981 through several series to the early 90s. The series was produced from Natural History New Zealand’s (then TVNZ’s Natural History Unit) Dunedin base and this final episode for 1990 looks at the natural world of the Otago Peninsula and harbour, from unique inhabitants: royal albatross, fur seals, and yellow-eyed penguin; to myth-busting explanations of the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow, lichen, and mudflat cricket. It includes the year’s bloopers reel.
Wildtrack was a highly successful nature series for children, running from 1981 through several series to the early 90s. In this episode the presenters check out “dung fungi” in cow pats and walking-on-water-insects (pond skaters) in the studio, and head outside to check out kea alpine parrots who are “too friendly for their own good” (threatened by smuggling and over eager tourists); the West Coast’s black sand beaches; Fiordland’s underwater world; and selective plant breeding that involves washing a bee.
When people think of Ginette McDonald, they often think of one of New Zealand’s most defiant and famed purveyers of Godzone English, Lynn of Tawa. But for McDonald, Lynn is only one part among many. Alongside an acting career which began when she was still a teenager, McDonald has also worked as a producer, director and presenter.
Kaleidoscope was a magazine-style arts series which ran from 30 July 1976 until 1989. Running for many years in a 90 minute format, the show tried varied approaches over its run, from an initial mix of local and international items — including live performances — to episodes which focused on a single artist or topic. In the early 80s Kaleidoscope collected three Feltex awards for Speciality Programme. Hosts over the years included initial presenter Jeremy Payne, newsreader Angela D'Audney, future Auckland music professor Heath Lees, and Warratahs fiddler Nic Brown.
Landmarks was a major 10-part series that traced the history of New Zealand through its landscape, particularly the impact of human settlement and technology. The concept was modelled on the epic BBC series America. Here a bespectacled, Swannie-wearing geography professor, Kenneth B Cumberland, stands in for Alistair Cooke, interweaving science, history and sweeping imagery to tell the stories of the landscape's "complete transformation". It received a 1982 Feltex Award for Best Documentary and the donnish but game Cumberland became a household name.
This Feltex Award-winning documentary follows a 1977 expedition where Sir Edmund Hillary and crew (including son Peter) attempted to jet boat upriver from the mouth of the Ganges to its Himalayan heart, before making the first ascent of Akash Parbat. The adventure pilgrimage was a proof of concept for the Kiwi-invented boat, and a return to action for Ed after the death of his wife and daughter in a 1975 plane crash. The mission faces epic white water, altitude sickness and tigers. Director Michael Dillon revisited the trip for his 2019 big screen documentary Hillary: Ocean to Sky.
80s show Close Up had a similar brief to earlier current affairs show Compass: to present mini-documentaries on topical local issues. Stories in the primetime hour-long slot were wide-ranging, from hard news to human interest pieces, including a profile of 25-year-old foreign exchange dealer, future-Prime Minister, John Key. The show won Feltex Awards for most of the years that it was on air. Close Up is not related to the post-nightly news show of the same name, which was hosted by Mark Sainsbury until 2012.