In the 90s Spot was an acronym for the Services and Products of Telecom, and also a much loved Australian Jack Russell terrier. He starred in 43 different Telecom commercials made between 1991 and 1998 — many of them on an epic scale and seemingly at risk to his life or limb. Special mention should be made of the size of the Yellow Pages shoot, apparently featuring a warehouse full of chefs, couriers and entertainers — and of Spot’s considerable arsenal of tricks from skateboard riding to orchestra conducting. Spot died in Sydney in 2000 at age 13.
Great adverts are strange things: mini works of magic, with the power to make viewers smile, cry, and even buy. Kiwi directors have shown such a knack for making them, they've been invited to do so across the globe. But this collection is about local favourites; dogs on skateboards, choc bar robberies, ghost chips. NZ On Screen's Irene Gardiner backgrounds the top 10 here.
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.
Away Laughing was an early sketch comedy show from Wellington company Gibson Group. In this episode from the second series, skaters, spies, panelbeaters and Buck Shelford are the butt of jokes. Kevin Smith and Murray Keane play two Australians mocking New Zealand place names; a trio of firefighters make idiots of themselves in a classroom; ingratiating priest Phineas O'Diddle (Danny Mulheron) arrives at the pub in time to join in on Hori's birthday; and onetime Telecom promo man Gordon McLauchlan interviews two gorillas about Telecom's privatisation.
In 2000 the Employment Relations Act was passed into law in New Zealand, replacing the Employment Contracts Act. The bill proved controversial: some suggested it placed unfair obligations on employers, while others claimed it restored much-needed rights to workers that had been undermined. This Assignment episode explores both angles. Among them, business owner John Holm argues that he shouldn’t be told how to treat his employees, while union leaders and Alliance Party MP Laila Harré all argue that without the bill, workers will continue to be exploited.
This NZ TV award-nominated documentary tells the story of radio station Mai FM. Founded in 1992 by Auckland iwi Ngāti Whātua, its mix of hip hop, r’n’b and te reo soon won ratings success. Original breakfast host Robert Rakete recalls early days when the station was a CD player hooked up to an aerial, while Mai FM's champions argue the station has executed its kaupapa: promoting Māori language and culture to the youth of Auckland, including the breakout phrase, “it’s cool to kōrero!” The introduction by Tainui Stephens was done for Māori TV's doco slot He Raranga Kōrero.
Four-part series Revolution examined radical changes in New Zealand society in the 1980s and 1990s. This final episode sums things up, after examining "the second wave" of neoliberal reform when National took power in 1990, shortly after Telecom was sold to American interests. Incoming finance minister Ruth "mother of all budgets" Richardson oversaw a reduction of welfare payments, a shake-up of the health system, and a curbing of union powers. Richardson: "in a human sense I understood that [community outrage], but that wasn't going to deflect me".
In the eighth episode of this tale of family, factory and music, the Saumalus protest the sale of Murdoch Textiles and expeted loss of jobs. Indian-Kiwi student Dev (Shaan Kesha) enlists Moana in his plan to break into the boss’s office and make the workers' voices heard. Even if Dev’s blundering scheme doesn’t impress Moana, it does enable subtle marketing use of the show’s sponsorship from Telecom (now Spark) — “what’s your phone number again? 027 SHITFORBRAINS?”.
Singer Marina Devcich had been working as an apprentice hairdresser when she won a Waikato talent quest. A signing to Viking Records and a name change to Maria Dallas followed. ‘Tumblin’ Down’ was written by Taranaki musician Jay Epae, and recorded at a session in Wellington. It went to 11 in the pop charts and won the 1966 Loxene Golden Disc Award. Later the song was used to score a series of Telecom ads in the mid-80s. Dallas recorded in Nashville, moved to Australia and had a trans-Tasman career — her single ‘Pinocchio’ topped the NZ charts in 1970.
Alternative rockers Elemeno P seemingly came out of nowhere in 2003, when their debut album Love and Disrespect sold 45,000 copies led by singles originally recorded in the founding members’ living room. The same year they played support for US acts Sum 41 and Good Charlotte. Three years later, and with a second album, 2005's Trouble In Paradise, under their belts, the band was named Best Group at the NZ Music Awards. Infectious single 'Baby Come On' from their third album featured on a high profile TV ad (a rock-your-cubicle concept for Telecom) and its anthemic chorus had Kiwis dancing in their living rooms.