Collection

NZ Music Month

Curated by NZ On Screen team

This NZ Music Month collection showcases NZ music television, spun from a playlist of classic documentaries and beloved music shows. From Split Enz to the NZSO, Heavenly Pop Hits to Hip Hop New Zealand, whether you count the beat or roll like this, there’s something here for all ears (and eyes). Plus music writer Chris Bourke gets Ready to Roll with this pop history primer.

On the Mat - 17 March 1981

Television, 1981 (Full Length Episode)

This episode of the legendary professional wrestling series screened in March 1981. Barry Holland and the late Steve Rickard host (Ernie Leonard has moved behind the scenes into a producer role). Rickard welcomes locals and viewers from Kenya, Hong Kong and Malaysia. On the Mat mainstay Mark Lewin features prominently, appearing in tag action before reminiscing about a fiery battle with King Curtis in Japan. Things don't improve as he's attacked by the Voodoo-crazed Big Mullumba. The main event sees local star Johnny Garcia and Samoan Joe battling it out.

On the Mat - 29 July 1980

Television, 1980 (Full Length Episode)

This episode of the legendary pro-wrestling show screened on 29 July 1980. Ernie Leonard and Steve Rickard compere the action at Canterbury Court Stadium. In the first match up Aussie grappler Larry O'Day teams up with local Merv Fortune to take on Kid Hardie and young Ricky Rickard. An excerpt features Brute Miller and Sweet William (later famous as The Bushwackers) against Lu Leota and Samoan Joe; while Jack Claybourne and Ron Miller round out the bill. Billy T James makes an appearance and comments on the authenticity of the in-the-ring proceedings.

Series

On the Mat

Television, 1975–1983

Legendary professional wrestling TV show On the Mat ran from 1975 until 1983. Each half-hour show featured wrestling matches accompanied by commentary - promoter Steve Rickard described the technical in-the-ring aspects and Ernie Leonard, and later Barry Holland, added colour. The larger-than-life wrestlers were a mix of US imports and local characters: King Curtis, Samoan Joe, Aussie Larry O'Day, Rick Martel, and Sweet William and Brute Miller (soon famous in the US as The Bushwackers). The show was the catalyst for the boom in popularity of Rickard's pro-wrestling tour.

Streets of Laredo - performed by John Grenell

Television, 1985 (Excerpts)

As part of a 25 Years of Television in New Zealand concert, Kiwi country music great John Grenell returns to his 1964 single ‘Streets of Laredo’. The classic cowboy song has inspired cover versions, parodies and reinventions over more than a century. Grenell dedicates this 1985 performance to “the late and the great Mr Tex Morton” — the Kiwi showman and country music star had passed away two years earlier. Grenell himself was taking an extended layoff from recording; three years later he released album Silver, followed by his beloved version of  'Welcome to Our World'.

Series

Mike King Tonight

Television, 2003

In this series prolific comedian, presenter and all round showman, Mike King tried his hand at hosting his own Letterman-style talk show Mike King Tonight. Although the show only lasted one series, it was an impressive-looking production replete with an eight-piece band headed by former Commodores base player, Ronald La Pread.

The Whistle Blowers

Television, 2004 (Excerpts)

Anna Cottrell's documentary looks at three high profile sports officiators and what makes them tick. Billy Bowden, the showman of international cricket, took up umpiring when arthritis prevented him from playing. Southlander Paddy O'Brien left police to become one of the world's top rugby referees. Pin-up Steve Walsh began refereeing when a neck injury curtailed contact sports. The Whistle Blowers explores the qualities that made them successful sports policemen. After a public battle with alcoholism, Walsh returned to refereeing at the top level in Australia.

Rob and Guests

Television, 1985 (Full Length)

This song and dance special screened in 1985, at the tail end of Rob Guest’s Vegas showman days. Guest was yet to take on his beloved role as the Phantom of the Opera,  but his versatility and musical talent is clear. It’s a little cheesy (what entertainment show made at Avalon Studios in the 1980s wasn’t?), but Guest shines as the classy all-round entertainer he was. Singers Yolande Gibson and Jan Lampen join in for a medley of James Bond tunes. Also featured: The New Zealand Māori Chorale, and a leggy version of Kenny Rogers' 'The Gambler' with The Lynette Perry Dancers.

The Red Checkers

Television, 1985 (Full Length)

This 1985 TVNZ documentary follows the recruitment of three new pilots into the Red Checkers acrobatic flying squadron of the Royal NZ Air Force. The pilots train to fly formations, loops and low level passes. There are close calls, and interviews with pilots and their spouses. What does it take to be a Kiwi Top Gun? Squadron leader (and future NZ Defence Force chief) Bruce Ferguson: "he's got to have confidence in himself, his abilities and to be a wee bit of a showman." The documentary marked one of the earliest directing credits for Emmy Award-winner Mike Single.  

Ant Timpson

Film Fanatic

Ant Timpson’s longtime love affair with movies — especially the wild and 'incredibly strange' end of the spectrum  — has seen him launch long-running film festivals and New Zealand's biggest filmmaking contest, 48 Hours. He has been part of the producing team on a run of features, from Housebound to The ABCs of Death. In 2019 Timpson directed thriller Come to Daddy, starring Elijah Wood.