Douglas Drury was one of a group of producers who lead an expansion of local television drama at a time — the mid 60s — where New Zealanders rarely saw their own stories on screen. Later, as second in command of state television’s drama department, he helped launch landmark series Pukemanu and initiated NZ's first situation comedy, Buck House. Drury passed away in Australia on 5 February 2016.
Paul Holmes, KCNZM, helped change the face of New Zealand broadcasting. In 1989 the actor turned radio host began presenting primetime news and magazine show Holmes in spectacular style, when guest Dennis Conner walked out of his interview. Holmes balanced the TV show and a popular radio slot for 15 years, followed by a stint with Prime TV and current affairs show Q+A. He passed away on 1 February 2013.
National treasures The Topp Twins (aka twins Lynda and Jools Topp) have performed as a country-music singing and yodelling comedy duo for more than 25 years. In the late 90s they created their own TV series which ran for three seasons and showcased their iconic cast of Kiwi characters, including Camp Mother, the Bowling Ladies and cross-dressing Ken and Ken. The series, travelling from a Highland Games to a Tauranga triathlon, won the twins - out-and-proud lesbians - several gongs at the NZ Film and TV Awards and screened on the ABC and Foxtel in Australia.
This classic short film provides an unusual showcase for Don McGlashan and Harry Sinclair, the founders of musical theatre group The Front Lawn. The slice of life narrative unravels like a baton relay; the duo play every character, revolving around pedestrians on Auckland's Karangahape Road. Walkshort was directed by editor Bill Toepfer. Sinclair went on to do some directing of his own (Topless Women Talk about their Lives), while McGlashan would pay musical tribute to another famous Auckland street, Dominion Road. Costa Botes writes about Walkshort here.
Lynda Topp is half of the Topp Twins, the singing sisters who have plucked their way across the country and the globe with their unique brand of comedy and country music. 2009 Topp Twins documentary Untouchable Girls is the most successful local doco released to date in local cinemas. In 2014 the twins presented TV series Topp Country, which became the third most watched local programme of the year.
Jools Topp is half of performing duo The Topp Twins. The sisters have taken their songs and comic characters to stages across the world, plus successful television shows The Topp Twins and Topp Country. The duo's story was told in 2009's Untouchable Girls, the most successful local documentary released in New Zealand cinemas to date.
In an age before Rogernomics, well before The Office, there was the afternoon tea fund, Golden Kiwi, and four o'clock closing: welcome to the early 80s world of the New Zealand Public Service. Gliding On (1981 - 1985) was the first locally-made sitcom to become a bona-fide classic. Inspired by Roger Hall's hit play Glide Time, the award-winning series satirised a paper-pushing working life familiar to many Kiwis. This episode features Beryl's non-smoking campaign, Jim's efforts to kick the habit, office sexual innuendo and a much-debated fire drill. "Morning Jim!"
This episode of New Zealand's own office comedy sees John (Ross Jolly) concluding that a love of stamps makes the boss (Ken Blackburn) a natural fit for Mastermind — next thing, the stores branch staff are gathering around with imaginary cameras and desk lamps, to help him practise for the pressures of facing quiz master Peter Sinclair. Meanwhile the team try to score another victory by getting an astrological chart made for a racehorse. Roger Hall's sitcom about public servants was a bona fide hit, long before Rogernomics and Ricky Gervais in The Office.
The versatile Hori Ahipene became a New Zealand comedy fixture in the 1990s after playing a Samoan matriarch on Skitz and The Semisis, a DJ in pioneering bilingual sitcom Radio Wha Waho, and his work directing for a run of sketch shows. The Toi Whakaari graduate went on to co-star with Te Radar on offbeat sitcom and chat show B&B, then took on dual roles for kapa haka comedy The Ring Inz.
Writer and comedian Jon Gadsby, QSM, likely spent more time being funny on NZ television screens than almost anyone — aside perhaps from his longtime partner in crime, David McPhail. After appearing together on breakthrough comedy show A Week of It, the two helped form the comic backbone of the long-running McPhail and Gadsby, satirical show Issues, and the outdoor escapades of Letter to Blanchy.