TVNZ’s Loose Enz was a series of 12 stand-alone dramas that canvassed a broad range of subjects. With a distinct NZ voice, the series’ 1982 9:30 scheduling allowed the array of writers to pen racier and more confrontational content. Funding exceeded the (mostly) meagre levels of the 70s, and talent pooled around the production: names such as Tony Isaac (who produced the series), Caterina De Nave, Billy T James, Merata Mita, John Toon, and Angela D’Audney, made up an illustrious cast and crew who had forged, or were yet to cut, vital paths in the screen industry.
This teleplay from writer Greg McGee is a satire of prejudice and the market economy set in the grey, divisive atmosphere of early 1980s New Zealand. 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.
The powerhouse, largely Māori cast of this teleplay includes Jim Moriarty, Merata Mita, Billy T James (as a Marxist) and, in his acting debut, Zac Wallace (star of Utu). The Protesters explores issues involving race and land ownership in the aftermath of the Springbok Tour and Bastion Point. A group of Māori and Pākehā protestors occupy ancestral land that the government wants to sell. While waiting for the police to arrive, they debate whether to go quietly or respond with violence. Though some wounds are healed, The Protesters ends on a note of division, reflecting the era it was made in.
This two hander is one of the heavier editions of the Loose Enz series. After midnight, a woman (Heather Lindsay) rifles through her prescription drugs then smashes a glass against an Egon Schiele print hanging on her wall (with Laurie Anderson-inspired blips scoring the scene). Shortly afterwards a married colleague (Peter Vere-Jones) turns up, whom she's forgotten she's phoned. The titular samaritan finds himself drawn into the midlife crisis of a woman under the influence: from Yevtushenko to a bitter waltz to Split Enz's 'I Got You'.
In this infamous edition of the Loose Enz anthology series, sexologist Rufus (Grant Tilly) has marriage problems, due to being more theoretical than practical when it comes to the ways of the flesh. Things grow more complicated when patient Ernest (Bruno Lawrence, playing nerdy for a change) claims he is suffering from having a magic touch with women. Alongside Joy of Sex japes and punning pillow talk galore, this sex farce gained notoriety for scenes of high-profile newsreader Angela D’Audney (as the dissatisfied wife) going topless, then donning a turquoise catsuit.
Written by Tom Scott, Press for Service is a humorous take on the shenanigans of the parliamentary press as they battle with the prime minister over their journalistic freedom. With the idealism, sleaze and alcoholism, that traditionally go hand and hand with the job, we follow David Miller; striving to be a respected journalist. Miller writes a damning piece but forgets to check his sources. Opening and closing with John Toon's elegant aerial shots of Wellington and a buoyant score, the episode features prominent Wellington thespians Ray Henwood and Ross Jolly.
One of an early 80s series of stand-alone dramas, Coming and Going is set in a boozy officers’ mess in Maadi in Egypt during World War II. Based on a short story by Dan Davin (who saw service in North Africa and Europe), it centres on Reading (David McPhail in a rare serious role) who will never be one of the blokes — but who is now facing ostracism and open hostility. Andy (Kevin Wilson) has just rejoined the unit after being wounded; and he gradually discovers that Reading’s plight is the result of something far more serious than standoffishness.
This Loose Enz edition follows a theatre group developing a play about Greek Gods. The full gamut of am-dram tropes are featured: know-all director, a lecherous lead (Jeffrey Thomas), zealous extras, drunk techies, an existential playwright (Colin McColl), shambolic dress rehearsal etc. Estranged couple Tom (Grant Tilly) and Helen (Liddy Holloway) find the play’s lofty themes echoed in more earthly realities. With a who’s who of NZ luvvies of the era it’s not quite Carry On, but there are japes aplenty, the show must go on, and it’ll be all right on the night.
This episode of the Loose Enz series features small town intrigue in Hawkes Bay. Prickly, violin playing, ex-POW Austin (Derek Hardwick) refuses to retire despite handing over the farm to son Wesley (Goodbye Pork Pie director Geoff Murphy) — and the impending sale of the neighbouring property (to Japanese buyers) puts him on the warpath one boozy night at the local. Rural land politics and identities are nicely observed, the farmers’ band is delightfully chaotic (with Paul Holmes as a sax-playing fencer), and the Land Rover stuck in reverse is worthy of Fred Dagg.
This Loose Enz edition sees ambitious young TV ad-man Gary (Rex Merrie) attempt to climb the corporate ladder. His pitch to his old school superiors at a dinner party involves patronising a burgeoning Polynesian market. Open-neck shirts, wide lapels and gold chains represent the aspirational early 80s and bow ties and tartare sauce mark the Rotarian generation of Kiwi Mad Men. When wife Jenny (Alice Fraser) decides to be heard as well as seen, Gary finds his gender stereotypes challenged as much as his business sense. The gabby teleplay was written by Vincent O'Sullivan.