TV movie Rage recreates the 1981 Springbok tour, which saw violent clashes between protestors and police. Ryan O'Kane (Second Hand Wedding) plays the protestor whose girlfriend (Maria Walker) is actually an undercover cop who has infiltrated the anti-tour movement. The script was written by Tom Scott — who protested, in-between writing a humour column in The Listener — and his brother-in-law Grant O'Fee, who was a detective sergeant in Wellington. Rage was nominated for five NZ TV Awards, including Best One-Off Drama, Director (Danny Mulheron) and Actor (O'Kane).
This 1991 telefilm follows young undercover cop Tony (William Brandt) who gets in too deep when infiltrating a heroin ring in the underbelly of Wellington’s music and pub scene. The Kiwi noir tale was inspired by real-life undercover policeman Wayne Haussman, who was convicted of drug trafficking. Directed by Yvonne Mackay (The Silent One), it was made as a pilot for a series that never eventuated. At the 1993 NZ Film and Television Awards Undercover won Best TV Drama; Jennifer Ludlam was awarded for her role as Tony's ex-prostitute girlfriend. Cliff Curtis plays a musician.
This low-budget feature fishtails after a Mum and her teenage kids, kicking around the far north one sleepy summer. Store Santa holiday jobs, teen romance, purloined cars, pet possums, and pot deals fill out the small town shenanigans plotline. Ray Woolf plays an undercover cop, and Calvin Tuteao is a kauri-hugging suitor. Director Peter Tait (who acted in Kitchen Sink) wrote the film to showcase the charisma of kids he was teaching at Taipa College. Made for under $20,000, the film “was bigger than Titanic” at Oruru’s Swamp Palace cinema and community hall.
Lawless saw Kevin Smith in one of his biggest roles: as undercover cop turned private investigator John Lawless. The character's career arc was told across three tele-movies. In this self-titled debut, Lawless struggles with divided loyalties while working for a dodgy drug lord (Joel Tobeck). Next thing, a robbery leaves Lawless framed by the good guys. This stylish Kiwi take on American crime shows won good reviews and a stash of awards, including gongs for Tobeck, co-star Angela Dotchin, director Chris Martin-Jones and best drama programme.
This TV2 take on The Truman Show sees Hawkes Bay vineyard worker Sam participating in a reality show where – unknown to him – all his housemates are fakes. In this first episode Sam’s flatmates play to the archetypes of reality TV, as host Mark Ferguson sets them ridiculous challenges (eg water bomb wet t-shirt reading). The Spinoff 's Alex Casey called it “a one off, never to be repeated format, and crikey it was good, bad TV.” The cast were only let into the show's secrets after winning their parts. Sarah Thomson ('rich bitch' Tiffany) was later an undercover cop on Shortland Street.
Hori Ahipene became a 1990s comedy fixture after working on Skitz, The Semisis (the first Pasifika sitcom) and bilingual sitcom Radio Wha Waho.
Alongside a busy theatrical career, Jennifer Ludlam has acted onscreen at home and in Australia (Sons and Daughters, Prisoner). Award-winning turns came as an ex-prostitute falling for an undercover cop in 1993 TV-movie Undercover. Three years later she was news anchor Liz Whiteman in Cover Story. Ludlam won again as the put-upon mother in Apron Strings, before acting in TV comedy Golden and thriller The Blue Rose.
Although better known as a songwriter and a spirited champion of New Zealand music, Arthur Baysting made a number of contributions to the screen. In the 1970s he was a scriptwriter on breakthrough dramas Winners & Losers and Sleeping Dogs, while his white-clad alter ego Neville Purvis graced both cabaret stages and a short-lived TV series. He passed away on 3 December 2019.
With Hunter's Gold, Gather Your Dreams and Children of Fire Mountain, Roger Simpson blazed a successful trail for Kiwi drama shows aimed at a younger audience. Though he has written further New Zealand projects, Simpson relocated to Australia in the early 70s. Since then he has written and produced on a long run of television dramas, most often alongside producing partner Roger Le Mesurier.
Kevin Smith was the multi-talented actor who appeared in a host of television shows, starting with eighties soap Gloss. He also starred in three tele-movies as maverick private investigator John Lawless. His feature films include period melodrama Desperate Remedies, and offbeat drama Channelling Baby.