This collection celebrates Kiwi comedy on TV: the caricatures, piss-takes, and sitcoms that have cracked us up, and pulled the wool over our eyes for over five decades. From turkeys in gumboots and Fred Dagg, to Billy T, bro'Town and Jaquie Brown. As Diana Wichtel reflects, watching the evolution of native telly laughs is, "a rich and ridiculous, if often painful, pleasure."
This 1986 Kaleidoscope excerpt visits the world’s premier film festival. Reporter and future Once Were Warriors producer Robin Scholes begins with the official competition – where two years before Vigil vied for the top prize, the Palme d’Or – then focuses on Kiwi films being promoted in the marketplace. She interviews the NZ Film Commission's Lindsay Shelton (selling Arriving Tuesday); Dorothee Pinfold (Dangerous Orphans), asks producer Larry Parr (Bridge to Nowhere) if Kiwi films can survive without tax breaks, and chats to Challenge Films' Henry Fownes and Paul Davis.
Don McGlashan began his career as a restless teenage French horn player. He started to thrive in the post-punk era, writing iconic songs with Blam Blam Blam, mixing theatre and music with The Front Lawn and composing for film and TV, before forming The Mutton Birds in 1991. This episode of Sunday traverses McGlashan's life as he launches his belated solo career. Friends like Dave Dobbyn and Mike Chunn wax lyrical about McGlashan's talents, and snippets from his 2003 Auckland Festival show at the St James Theatre demonstrate why he is so beloved in Kiwi music history.
Wayne Leonard began his career as a sound operator, but later moved to directing, where he made his name helming sports and live shows that require multiple cameras. Leonard has directed some of the biggest events on television from the Olympic Games and America’s Cup, to Christmas in the Park. He has also produced or directed primetime TV shows This is Your Life, My Kitchen Rules and Game of Two Halves. In 2013 he was part of the team nominated for multiple Emmy awards for coverage of the America’s Cup in San Francisco.
Lisa Harrow left New Zealand in the 1960s to study at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in England – it was this move that cemented her love of theatre and later enabled her to build an international screen career. She has visited New Zealand periodically and starred in locally-shot movies Other Halves and Shaker Run. Nowadays Harrow lives in the US and is involved in environmental campaigning. Her most recent Kiwi project was a role as the grandmother in TV2’s Step Dave.
Veteran producer/director John Laing has worked in film and television in New Zealand, Canada and the UK. His feature films include the Arthur Allan Thomas-inspired Beyond Reasonable Doubt, cross-cultural romance Other Halves and thriller Dangerous Orphans. Laing has also directed a long list of popular drama series for TV, including Go Girls, Nothing Trivial, Street Legal, Inside Straight and Marlin Bay; plus tele-feature Safe House.
Martin Devlin’s first screen appearance involved playing a policeman in a film shot in Taranaki - he can’t remember the name of it, but is fairly sure it wasn’t a box office hit. Following success as a radio broadcaster, Devlin made his first foray into television on a rugby panel for Sky TV, before hosting sports show House of Football. Since then Devlin has been a familiar face on NZ television, as part of mad-cap game show A Game of Two Halves, triumphantly beating Peter Urlich to finish second to last on Dancing with the Stars, and hosting Football World Cup and Rugby World Cup coverage for TV ONE.
Tom Finlayson is a producer, director and writer who has an impressive track record in New Zealand television. He began his TV career as a reporter on Town and Around, but quickly moved on to news producing, and eventually TV drama production. Finlayson produced the highly acclaimed kidult show Under the Mountain and the successful police drama Mortimer’s Patch, as well as the films Other Halves and The Grasscutter.
Actor Paul Gittins biggest screen role to date is as Doctor Michael McKenna, the original boss of the clinic on long-running soap Shortland Street. He has also acted in a number of movies, including Other Halves, The End of the Golden Weather, and The Whole of the Moon. Gittins’ love of history led to the creation of popular docudrama series Epitaph, which he hosted and sometimes directed.
Director John Laing followed acclaimed romance Other Halves with an equally stylish but very different big city tale: a thriller in which three orphans plan an international heist to avenge the killing of one of their fathers. The expected diet of shootings, skulduggery and globetrotting accents is enlived by side trips to Geneva, songs from romantic interest Jennifer Ward-Lealand, and a cast of villains to die for (Peter Bland, Ian Mune, Anzac Wallace, Grant Tilly). When Dangerous Orphans was sold in Europe it set an early record for a New Zealand film.