Every now and then here at NZ On Screen, we like to stick our necks out and choose a Top 10. And our collective opinion is that these are the funniest New Zealand television series to date: from bro' Town to Billy T, from Gliding On to the tag team hijinks of 7 Days. Plus 10 runners-up that we couldn't agree on. Read on to find out more.
Australian diva Kylie Minogue is in New Zealand to promote her 1997 Impossible Princess album in this interview for the Queer Nation TV series. Filmed in an Auckland hotel room, Libby Magee asks the pint-sized gay icon why ‘the boys’ love her and whether she’s ever kissed a girl. Kylie talks about Royal Albert Hall collaborations with Nick Cave and Elton John, what it’s like to snog Jason Donovan, and needing to wear heels while performing at Sydney’s Mardi Gras: “Most of the Kylies here are about seven feet tall!”. Kylie finishes by coming out of the closet.
This collection showcases Aotearoa Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender screen production. The journey to Shortland Street civil unions, rainbows in Parliament and the Big Gay Out is one of pride, but also one of secrets, shame and discrimination. As Peter Wells writes in his introduction, the titles are testament to a — joyful, defiant — struggle to "fight to exist".
Part One looks at lesbian relationships - how different are they? A light-hearted romp through subjects such as butch and femme, monogamy, lesbian bed death, and raising children. Two gay farmers feature next, and talk about farming in the Waikato, and their jobs as horse trainer and shearer. Part Three takes us inside Mt Eden Prison where we meet a lesbian prison officer. She talks about working in this tough, testosterone-filled environment and reveals how observing men living in these conditions has made her a more compassionate person.
On Valentine's Day 2006 Shortland Street featured its first civil union, between lesbians Jay Copeland (Jaime Passier-Armstong) and Maia Jeffries (Anna Jullienne). The ceremony was aptly flush with pink decor and took place in Parnell’s Rose Gardens. Alas it was picketed by Serenity Church protestors and the union later ended — after Jay had an affair … with a man! In 1994 Shortland Street had earlier broken mainstream ground for the LGBT community with a lesbian kiss, between Dr Meredith Fleming (Stephanie Wilkin) and nurse Annie Flynn (Rebecca Hobbs).
Takatāpui was the world's first indigenous gay, lesbian and transgender series. This 2005 Takatāpui Gay Xmas Special was hosted by the show's presenters Taane Mete, Tania Simon and Ramon Te Wake. It included guest performances from transgender MP Georgina Beyer, dancer Taiaroa Royal, designer and singer Linda E, the late Māori diva Mahinaarangi Tocker, Dee Za Star and many more. The show was produced by Front of the Box Productions for Māori Television.
National treasures The Topp Twins (aka twins Lynda and Jools Topp) have performed as a country-music singing and yodelling comedy duo for more than 25 years. In the late 90s they created their own TV series which ran for three seasons and showcased their iconic cast of Kiwi characters, including Camp Mother, the Bowling Ladies and cross-dressing Ken and Ken. The series, travelling from a Highland Games to a Tauranga triathlon, won the twins - out-and-proud lesbians - several gongs at the NZ Film and TV Awards and screened on the ABC and Foxtel in Australia.
Queer Nation was a factual series made by, for and about lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender (LGBT) New Zealanders. Produced by Livingstone Productions with John A Givins at the helm, it screened on TVNZ for 11 seasons over nine years from 1996 till 2004 and was the world's longest running free-to-air TV programme made for the LGBT community. Long-serving presenters included original host (and future NZ On Screen ScreenTalk director) Andrew Whiteside, Libby Magee and Nettie Kinmott. Queer Nation won Best Factual Series at the NZ Television Awards 2003.
Takatāpui was the world's first indigenous gay, lesbian and transgender series. Produced by Front of the Box Productions and screening on Māori Television for six series, the show was magazine-styled with a Māori queer focus (it was replaced by the Wero series). It was light entertainment but not afraid to delve into some hard-hitting issues affecting the takatāpui communities all over New Zealand. Presenters included transgender singer Ramon Te Wake, Taurewa Biddle (with his distinctive moko) and Tania Simon.
This Queer Nation episode, presented by Max Currie, is an overview of the capital city's queer history. The literary demimonde is first up: Katherine Mansfield's lesbian affairs and a scandal involving Norris Davey (aka Frank Sargeson). Then the role is explored of the Dorian Society (1962-1986) and its subgroup the Homosexual Law Reform Society, which paved the way towards decriminalisation in the 1980s. The programme also introduces viewers to NZ’s most famous trannies: Carmen and then-MP Georgina Beyer. Interviews and archive material spice up the history.