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David McPhail: From satire to spandex...

Interview, Camera and Editing – Andrew Whiteside

Comedy legend David McPhail began making New Zealanders laugh in pioneering 1970s sketch show A Week of It, and then moved on to McPhail and Gadsby with his comedic mate Jon Gadsby. The two comedians also produced and starred in the sitcom Letter to Blanchy. In later years, McPhail starred in the mock documentary The Waimate Conspiracy, and played the appallingly politically incorrect teacher Gormsby in Seven Periods with Mr Gormsby. In 2007 McPhail donned a spandex super hero costume to fight crime in The Amazing Extraordinary Friends, directed by his son Matt McPhail. As well as acting, McPhail has written many of the shows he has been involved in. His other writing credits include A Haunting We Will Go, and he has also worked as a comedy director on such shows as The Life and Times of Te Tutu.

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Curated by NZ On Screen team

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.

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Top 40 NZ TV Classics

Curated by NZ On Screen team

This collection of 40 classic Kiwi TV series offers up images spanning 50 years. The titles range from Gloss to Gliding On, from Olly Ohlson to Nice One Stu, from Ready to Roll to wrestlers. In this special backgrounder, Stuff's James Croot writes about favourite moments of Kiwi TV. The list is in rough chronological order of when each series debuted.

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Kiwi Comedy On TV

Curated by NZ On Screen team

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." 

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TV3 Turns 25

Curated by NZ On Screen team

November 2014 marks 25 years since New Zealand TV’s third channel began broadcasting. This 25th birthday sampler pack looks back at iconic drama (Outrageous Fortune), upstart news shows (Nightline), fresh youth programming (Ice TV, Being Eve) and comedy high watermarks (bro’Town, Jaquie Brown, 7 Days). As the launch slogan said "come home to the feeling!"

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The Pretender - Series Two, Episode One

Television, 2008 (Full Length Episode)

In the 2000s mockumentary realism (led by The Office) was making its mark in television comedy. Series The Pretender gave Kiwi politics the embedded camera treatment, with expat comedian Bob Maclaren playing overconfident property developer-turned-MP Dennis Plant. The first episode of the second series sees Plant cause political chaos, with the launch of his Future New Zealand party. This season was nominated for three Qantas TV awards in 2009, including best comedy. The show was created by Peter Cox (Insider’s Guide to Happiness) and Great Southern TV’s Philip Smith.


McPhail and Gadsby - First Episode

Television, 1980 (Full Length)

The debut episode of McPhail and Gadsby plunged into religion as the object of satire, and the result spawned death threats and annoyed letters to the editor. The pair dress up as angels, devils, monks, nuns, priests and Moses, and also make the first of many appearances as the smug Denny (McPhail) and not so clever Ron (Gadsby). McPhail argued later that a simple sketch involving an Anglican vicar dispensing communion unexpectedly caused the most offence. The thematic approach was soon abandoned in favour of shorter episodes, and a more familiar style of topical satire. 


Ice TV - Best of

Television, 1998 (Full Length Episode)

Ice TV was a popular 90s TV3 youth show hosted by Jon Bridges, Nathan Rarere and Petra Bagust. This 1998 'best of' sees a 20/20 satire (a world's biggest bonsai trees scam); Petra meets Meatloaf, Jon meets US brothers boy band Hanson, visits a 'storm-namer', and they both go on Outward Bound; Nathan road tests Elvis's diet (peanut butter and bacon in bread, deep fried); and the trio go to the zoo and gym to discover why humans are the "sexiest primates alive". Includes the show's trademark sign-off where L&P bottles were subjected to various stresses.


The Jaquie Brown Diaries - Brown Sweat (Episode Three)

Television, 2008 (Full Length Episode)

TV personality Jaquie Brown plays (and plays up) herself for delightful comic effect in this hit TV3 satire. Brown plays an egomaniacal reporter looking to climb the media ladder any which way she can. Auckland's aspirational set: a cast of Metro social page alumni and wannabes, are skewered with self-referential glee. The show won Best Comedy at the 2009 Qantas Film and TV Awards. This episode sees Jaquie striving to exit Woman's Day's 'Plump it Hottie' section, appropriating a tampon, and performing in a celeb singalong.  


Beyond a Joke!

Television, 1995 (Full Length)

This 1995 documentary about New Zealand humour features classic TV comedy moments from Fred Dagg, Barry Crump, A Week of It, McPhail and Gadsby, Letter to Blanchy, Billy T James, Pete and Pio, the Topp Twins, Gliding On, Lyn of Tawa and Funny Business. Tom Scott, John Clarke, David McPhail and Jon Gadsby talk about the nature of New Zealand satire; Pio Terei, Peter Rowley, and Billy T James producer Tom Parkinson discuss the pros and cons of race-based humour; and the Topp Twins explain the art of sending people up rather than putting them down.