After countless romances, breakups and revelations — plus the odd psycho and crashing helicopter — Shortland Street turned 25 in May 2017. Made on the run, sold round the globe, the Kiwi soap opera juggernaut has provided a launchpad for dozens of actors and behind the scenes talents. Alongside best of clips, the very first episode, musical moments and favourite memories from the cast, Shortland star turned director Angela Bloomfield writes about how the show has changed here, while Mihi Murray backgrounds how it began — and how it reflects New Zealand.
The final Asia Downunder for 2006 is a special about the Friends of Fiji Heart Foundation, a team of Kiwi doctors who each year spend two weeks providing life-saving heart operations in Fiji. A number of the team grew up there. The inadequacies of the Fijian health system are touched on, and the effects of poverty on health are examined. A man in the street gives his assessment of how the poor are treated in Fiji, and the Health Minister provides a surprising response.
Tele-movie Clare is based on Clare Matheson's autobiographical book Fate Cries Enough. It recreates the experiences of the author (played here by Robyn Malcolm, then fresh from Shortland Street) who for 15 years was an unwitting part of a disastrous gynaecological study at Auckland's National Women's Hospital. The study would later become known as ‘The Unfortunate Experiment', after a Metro article by Sandra Coney and Phillida Bunkle. It was also the subject of a Commission of Inquiry, whose official report led to major changes in law around health consumers' rights.
In Million Dollar Tumour Dave Bowman narrates the “very personal tale” of his battle with cancer. The small town policeman was diagnosed with a brain tumour in 2005, aged 35. Bowman took on funding agency Pharmac and the bureaucracy of the public health system to try to get a treatment drug subsidised for himself and other sufferers. Although his efforts partly prevailed, Bowman died in mid 2006, after this Inside New Zealand documentary screened. Directed by Dave Crerar (Here to Stay), Million Dollar Tumour won Best Documentary at the 2006 Qantas TV Awards.
Four-part series Revolution examined radical changes in New Zealand society in the 1980s and 1990s. This final episode sums things up, after examining "the second wave" of neoliberal reform when National took power in 1990, shortly after Telecom was sold to American interests. Incoming finance minister Ruth "mother of all budgets" Richardson oversaw a reduction of welfare payments, a shake-up of the health system, and a curbing of union powers. Richardson: "in a human sense I understood that [community outrage], but that wasn't going to deflect me".
In 2012 Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement sat down with some Kiwi children. They wanted to get back in touch with what the kids were about. Flight of the Conchords were creating a special song for health research charity Cure Kids; the children supplied them with lyrical ideas involving bowls, bubbles and a major overhaul of the banking system. A superstar team of Kiwi singers and rappers joined the Conchords in the studio. The chart-topping song's mix of deep concern and nonsensical rhyming celebrates and parodies previous charity efforts like ‘We are the World’.
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.
As Close to Home’s stern Don Hearte, Tony Currie became one of local television’s best known faces in the mid-1970s. The Scottish-born ex policeman got his start in historical dramas, including an award-winning portrayal of prime minister Richard Seddon. After signing on for Close to Home, Currie stayed with the soap for all of its eight years and 818 episodes, turning his hand to writing scripts along the way.
Toby Mills began as an actor (eg. short films Mananui and The Find). After managing theatre company Te Rakau Hua o te Wa o Tapu, he took up directing, and in 2000 was awarded for series Nga Morehu, which profiled Māori elders. Mills works often with his partner Moana Maniapoto; together they have won awards for docos on Syd Jackson and carver Pakaariki Harrison. Mills also helmed te reo short Te Po Uriuri.
Mike King has spent his life cracking people up, although it hasn't always been easy to laugh himself. Starting out in stand-up, he began a long TV career as a comedian, chat show host, reality star and presenter of the acclaimed Lost in Translation. From the face of New Zealand Pork to animal rights activist, from addict to suicide prevention campaigner, King's progression has been nothing if not eclectic.