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.
This collection is a celebration of the eccentric, exuberant career of NZ screen industry frontrunner Tony Williams. As well as being at the helm of many iconic ads (Crunchie, Bugger, Spot, Dear John) Williams made inventive, award-winning indie TV documentaries, and shot or directed pioneering feature films, including Solo and cult horror Next of Kin.
On June 4 1976, Gordon Dryden hosted Abraham Ordia — president of the African Supreme Council of Sport — for a public forum on New Zealand’s sporting ties with apartheid South Africa, which would result in an Olympic boycott by African countries the following month. The debate erupted into what the Auckland Star called “a diabolic confrontation between Māori and Pākeha”, with Dryden frequently pleading for civility. Weightlifter Precious McKenzie, MP Richard Prebble, activist Syd Jackson and Donna Awatere-Huata are among those in the audience, making their feelings known.
New Zealand's representatives in parliament have had some of their most memorable moments captured on camera. This collection showcases their screen legacy: from stirring addresses (Kirk), feisty debates (Muldoon, Lange, Olympic boycotts), revolutions, nukes, and snap elections, to political punches (Bob Jones), and young leaders (Clark). Listener writer Toby Manhire writes about Kiwi politicians on screen here.
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.
For this screen showcase of NZ visual arts talent, critic Mark Amery selects his top documentaries profiling artists. From the icons (Hotere, McCahon, Lye) to the unheralded (Edith Collier) to Takis the Greek, each portrait shines light on the person behind the canvas. "Naturally inquisitive, with an open wonder about the world, they make for inspiring onscreen company."
The day after attending a fiery public debate (see video above) over Africa's threatened boycotts of the 1976 Montreal Olympics, Abraham Ordia, then-president of the African Council of Sport, sat down for a more subdued interview with Gordon Dryden. Ordia had arrived in New Zealand that week, hoping to convince Robert Muldoon to limit sporting contacts with apartheid South Africa. The PM refused to see him. Ordia recalls his Nigerian childhood, studying psychiatry in Zurich under Carl Jung, and makes a final plea to the viewer’s conscience on the issue at hand.
This documentary follows two young people with significant disabilities — Miles Roelants and Shelly West (real name Michelle Belesarius) — as they move into a flat together and face considerable challenges. Shelly is blind with rheumatoid arthritis, and Miles has spina bifida. The film provoked public debate at the time of screening about disabled peoples' right to live ‘normal’ lives. This was the first of several documentaries about Belesarius including the high-rating Shelly Has A Baby and Mum, Dad and Michela. She died in 2010.
After a young woman (Denise Maunder) falls pregnant, she decides to go against the tide of advice from her family and unsympathetic welfare authorities by keeping her baby. Misery and hardship ensues. Director Paul Maunder brought kitchen sink drama to NZ television with this controversial National Film Unit production. The story can claim to have effected social change, stirring up public debate about the DPB for single mothers. Keep an eye out for a young Paul Holmes as a wannabe lothario. Maunder writes about making it in this piece. Costa Botes writes about it here.
Award-winning series Revolution examined sweeping changes in 1980s New Zealand society. This second episode argues that in its first term in office, the Labour Government promoted neoliberal reform via illusory ideas of consensus and fairness, while PM David Lange mined goodwill from its indie anti-nuclear policy (famously in an Oxford Union debate, see third clip). The interviews include key figures in politics, the public service and business: an age of easy lending and yuppie excess is recalled, while those in rural areas recount the downside of job losses.