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Collection

The Billy T James Collection

Curated by NZ On Screen team

Billy Taitoko James is a Kiwi entertainment legend. His iconic ‘bro’ giggle was infectious and his gags universally beloved. This collection celebrates his screen legacy, life and inimitable brand of comedy: from the skits (Te News, Turangi Vice), to the show-stealing cameos (The Tainuia Kid), and the stories behind the yellow towel and black singlet.

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Revolution - 3, The Great Divide

Television, 1996 (Full Length Episode)

Four-part series Revolution examined sweeping changes in New Zealand society that began in the 1980s. This third episode looks at the lurch of the Kiwi stock market from boom to bust in 1987, and the growing philosophical divide between the “head boys”: PM David Lange and finance minister Roger 'Rogernomics' Douglas. Within two months of the October 1987 stock market crash, $21 billion was lost from the value of NZ shares. Lange and Douglas give accounts of how their differing views on steering the NZ economy eventually resulted in both their resignations.

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Pavlova Paradise Revisited - Episode Two

Television, 2002 (Full Length Episode)

This second episode of the three-part series following British MP Austin Mitchell’s return to the country where he began his career in (as a broadcaster and author of 1972 book The Half Gallon Quarter Acre Pavlova Paradise) sees a focus on politics. The former Canterbury University political scientist gives a potted political history, from the roots of a conservative Kiwi political mien to the radical changes wrought by Lange’s 80s Labour government and the rise of women ‘on the hill’. Finally he considers tourism, Treaty settlements and the aspirations of Māori.

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Close Up - Big Dealers (featuring John Key)

Television, 1987 (Full Length Episode)

This episode of current affairs show Close Up offers a fascinating portrait of the early days of New Zealand's foreign exchange market. Reporter Ted Sheehan heads into "the pit" (trading room), and chronicles the working life of a senior forex dealer, 25-year-old accountancy graduate John Key. The "smiling assassin" (and future Prime Minister) is a calm and earnest presence amongst the young cowboys playing for fortunes and Porsches, months before the 1987 sharemarket crash. As Sheehan says, "they're like addicts who eat, breathe and sleep foreign exchange dealing". 

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Series

Homeward Bound

Television, 1992

Homeward Bound was TV3’s bid for New Zealand on Air funding for a local soap opera. Set around the lives of the rural Johnson family, 22 episodes were produced for the then-nascent network (the series ultimately lost out to TVNZ’s Shortland Street). Created by Ross Jennings and written by Michael Noonan, it represented a move back to a small town way of life after the Gloss-y urban excesses of the 1980s; it also explored pressures facing country communities following the stock market crash. The cast included Liddy Holloway, Peter Elliott and a young Karl Urban.

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Good Luck to You

Peking Man, Music Video, 1986

Peking Man's self-titled album took away a stack of awards in 1986. It also spawned chart-topper 'Room that Echoes', followed by number six hit 'Good Luck to You'. Directed by The Piano lensman Stuart Dryburgh, thw NZ Music Award-nominated video highlights sibling singers Pat and Margaret Urlich, sax and gel-assisted hairstyles. The Auckland cityscape is littered with construction cranes and glass high rises, shortly before the stock market crash of 1987; and legendary central city cafe DKD (at the back of the Civic Theatre) also takes a starring role.

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Country Calendar - Cashmere

Television, 1986 (Excerpts)

This excerpt from a 1986 episode of NZ TV’s longest running show comes from the heady pre-crash mid-80s when NZ farming was getting off the sheep’s back and diversifying to stay profitable in changing times. Here Robert Hall is stocking the “hard hill country” of a farm near Taumaranui with goats. Rather than hunting goats as pests, the young industry — fuelled by “large amounts of city money” — is attempting to farm them for their cashmere wool. It offers new opportunities for women in farming, but teething problems include low yields from feral animals. 

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Trevor Spitz

Producer, Promoter

Trevor Spitz, who died in March 2012, was a key player in the 1989 launch of channel TV3. The musician turned promoter had begun working in television in the 70s as a talent scout and producer of entertainment shows, and won success — and controversy — with hit television export That's Country. He was influential in the careers of many performers, including comedic duo McPhail and Gadsby and singer Suzanne Prentice.

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Grahame McLean

Producer, Director, Production Manager

Veteran producer and production designer Grahame McLean helped organise the shoots of a run of landmark Kiwi productions, from The Games Affair to Sleeping Dogs. Later he brought TV success Worzel Gummidge down under, and became the first — and will likely long remain one of the few — New Zealanders to direct two feature films back to back.

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Greg McGee

Writer

Greg McGee's first play Foreskin's Lament (1980) is seen as a watershed moment in the maturing of a distinctly Kiwi theatre. Since then McGee has demonstrated (with tele-movie Old Scores) that rugby can be the stuff of comedy as well as critique. He has also created or co-created a run of television dramas - including long-running law show Street Legal - many of them awardwinners.