Collection

NZ On Air Top 20

Curated by Kathryn Quirk

NZ On Air began funding local content in 1989. Timing in with the launch of a new funding system, this collection looks back at the 20 most watched NZ On Air-funded programmes over the years (aside from news and sports). Ratings information is only available from 1995, so this is how things have shaped up from 1995 to 2016 — plus some bonus titles. Most of the Top 20 has been captioned. Ex NZ On Air exec Kathryn Quirk tells us here how the complete list rated, while original NZOA boss Ruth Harley remembers how it all began.

C'mon to New Zealand

Short Film, 1969 (Full Length)

Shot for an Australian Travel Agents Seminar, this short film seeks to portray 1969 New Zealand as a hip and happening place. The tourism clichés of a scenic wonderland remain, but the film attempts to present a more sophisticated NZ to entice jet-set Aussies east. After all, we "got rid of six o'clock closing ages ago." To complement the Anzac staples of sport, beer and gambling there are mountains and Māori. Nightclubs offer show bands and strippers for "relaxation" after strenuous days of sightseeing. C’mon is a fascinating snapshot of a nation in transition.

In Bed with the Orchestra

Television, 1993 (Full Length)

This Steve La Hood-directed documentary provides a candid, behind-the-scenes portrait of an orchestral musician's life, following the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra for 13 days on a nationwide tour. Included is footage of rehearsals, travel, and concert performances. There's a glimpse of some internal politics, and insight into how the musicians relax. Holding the baton is conductor Nicholas Braithwaite; guest pianist on tour is Peter Donohoe. Rachmaninov's 3rd Piano Concerto and Paul McCartney's Liverpool Oratorio feature prominently.

50 Years of New Zealand Television: 3 - Let Us Entertain You

Television, 2010 (Full Length Episode)

This edition of Prime TV’s history of New Zealand television looks at 50 years of entertainment. The smorgasbord of music, comedy and variety shows ranges from 60s pop stars to Popstars, from the anarchy of Blerta to the anarchy of Telethon, from Radio with Pictures to Dancing with the Stars. Music television moves from C’mon and country, to punk and hip hop videos. Comedy follows the formative Fred Dagg and Billy T, through to Eating Media Lunch and 7 Days. A roll call of New Zealand entertainers muse on seeing Kiwis laugh, sing and shimmy on the small screen.

The Years Back - 13, The State of the Nation (Episode 13)

Television, 1973 (Full Length Episode)

This consolidating episode of the archive-based New Zealand history series finds World War II at an end, the return of Kiwi servicemen and the country in an optimistic mood. That's sealed by the 1950 British Empire Games where New Zealand is third on the medal table. But rising prices and low incomes lead to more militant unionism, culminating in the fractious waterfront workers dispute of 1951. At the same time there's a new flowering of the arts. The New Zealand Symphony Orchestra is established and a new generation of writers and artists take centre stage.

Ashkenazy in Concert

Television, 1983 (Full Length)

In 1982 renowned Russian pianist Vladimir Ashkenazy toured New Zealand. With the combined support of TVNZ, Radio New Zealand and the NZ Symphony Orchestra, a one-off televised concert was arranged. Ashkenazy plays two pieces backed by the NZSO at the Auckland Town Hall, after an interview by Ian Fraser, in which the pianist praises the NZSO's ability to handle a piece he describes as "almost unplayable in parts". In the second clip, he plays Béla Bartók’s Second Concerto, and in the third clip — which appears never to have gone to air — César Franck’s Symphonic Variations

Petrouchka in Performance

Television, 1993 (Full Length)

This Royal New Zealand Ballet performance of Stravinsky’s Petrouchka stays true to the original 1911 version by legendary ballet company Ballet Russes, in more than just spelling. As tormented puppet Petrouchka, Douglas Wright pays tribute to legendary performer Vaslav Nijinsky. Designer Raymond Boyce channels Alexandre Benois, while Russell Kerr's choreography evokes Mikhail Fokine. The sellout season was reviewed as "phenomenal" and "a visual feast… exploding with colour and shifting image". Future TV executive Andrew Shaw directed coverage of the ballet. 

Landmarks - A Land Apart

Television, 1981 (Full Length)

Presented by Kenneth Cumberland, Landmarks looked at New Zealand history through the landscape — and at man "coming to terms" with it. In this episode Aotearoa's "last, lonely, remote" geography is framed as a stimulus for ingenuity. A narrative of "triumph over the elements" finds its flagbearer in the DIY story of jetboat inventor Bill Hamilton. Cumberland is donnish but game in pursuit of telling landmarks: exposing seashells alongside the Napier-Taupō highway (700 metres above sea level) like a downunder Darwin, or in a gas mask on an erupting White Island.  

Ben and Olivia: The Search for Truth

Television, 2002 (Full Length)

In the early hours of 1 January 1998 Ben Smart and Olivia Hope, two young partygoers in the Marlborough Sounds, were in a water taxi looking for a place to crash. They vanished and were never seen again. The investigation transfixed the nation, and led to the conviction of Scott Watson for murder. Directed for TV3 by John Keir (Flight 901: The  Erebus Disaster), this 2002 documentary revisits the case from the perspective of two fathers — Gerald Hope and Chris Watson — and brings them together for the first time to talk about whether Scott Watson is guilty.

Logan Brewer - The Man Behind the Razmatazz

Television, 1991 (Excerpts)

This 1991 story from magazine show Sunday profiles Logan Brewer: production designer on Kiwi TV classics (C’Mon, Hunter’s Gold), and producer of Terry and the Gunrunners and live ‘spectaculars’ like the 1990 Commonwealth Games opening ceremony. He talks through his career: learning about performing at England's National Theatre, and selling Aotearoa as “the last paradise” for Expo '92 in Seville — for which he is shown wrangling an extended shot of Kiri Te Kanawa and the NZ Symphony Orchestra, promoting fibreglass pohutukawa, and working with designer Grant Major.