The Beginner's Guide... was a series of half-hour documentaries made for TV ONE, and hosted by reporters Ian Johnstone, Caroline McGrath, Judith Fyfe, John Gordon and Philip Alpers. Veteran broadcaster Johnstone described the programmes as going "into areas of life which intrigue, mystify or frighten us". Topics included visiting a marae, prisons, wealth, bankruptcy, GST, the Census, divorce, cancer and the Freemasons. Three series of six episodes and one special screened between 1983 and 1986.

The Beginner’s Guide to Prisons

Television, 1983 (Full Length Episode)

Broadcaster Ian Johnstone was an intrepid explorer for TVNZ's 80s Beginner's Guide documentary series; the series embedded personal guides to lift the veil on everything from marae protocol to the Freemasons. This edition sees a crime (embezzlement of TVNZ money) pinned to 47-year-old Johnstone by the CIB and so begins his (fictional) experience of judicial process and imprisonment. A humbled Johnstone aims to convey what life behind bars is like, and bust some myths en route, from "they only serve half their time don’t they?" to "it's like a four star hotel".

The Beginner's Guide to the Census

Television, 1986 (Full Length)

This edition of TVNZ’s Beginner’s Guide series aims to background New Zealand’s 1986 census. The population survey will be filled in by everyone (including street kids, possum trappers and jailed French secret service agents), generate 5,500 pages of information and influence national planning. Reporter Philip Alpers is the guide and strives to find flaws in the exercise's much vaunted confidentiality as he interviews politicians and statisticians and visits his mother. Leading naysayer The Wizard of Christchurch is a typically colourful dissenting voice.

The Beginner's Guide to Visiting the Marae

Television, 1984 (Full Length Episode)

Filmed at Kauwhata Marae in the Manawatu, The Beginner’s Guide to Visiting the Marae is a straightforward and respectful explanation of basic marae protocol, from the wero, to the karanga, pōwhiri, whaikōrero, waiata, koha and the hongi. The programme was made in 1984 when Pākehā were generally less familiar with visiting marae, so host Ian Johnstone presents the documentary from the perspective of a person rather more apprehensive about marae protocol than might be the case in 2011. That aside, the doco remains an effective primer for 21st Century marae novices.

Produced by

TVNZ