People will be directed to Page One of this website from the Prime TV 7-part documentary series, Fifty Years of Television In New Zealand, which begins in mid-June.
In the meantime, I have provided this page for people who may have already found their way to this site, and would like to post comments, experiences and opinions about the past 25 years of television in New Zealand.
To begin, I will post the question I have been asking as my starter question for this research: “Do you think the second 25 years of television in New Zealand (1985 to 2010) have been significantly different than the first 25 years (1960-1985)? If so, why?”
If you are in Wellington on Wednesday June 2, The Film Archive is screening “Television & Politics”; a look at how politics has adapted to television and uses advertising*, in both the USA and NZ.
Starts 7pm, 84 Taranaki Street
* Worth posting today’s Google quote: ” Political advertising ought to be stopped. It’s the only really dishonest kind of advertising that’s left.” Adman David M. Ogilvy
Remuera Primary School, the day of Nixon’s resignation.
The office admin lady boots off home and brings her horn rimmed B&W set. Black, with gold trim, rabbit ears. There’s a whole school assembly, the set’s on the stage in the school hall, and we all watch tricky Dick doing his thing.
In the crowd, a media studies student is borne. “Why” he wonders “are we doing this, precisely?”
I don’t think that would have happened inside the second 25 years of NZ’s TV history.
At school, the day after the very first Mr Bean programme played on New Zealand telly – so I guess that makes it 1990. I walked pass the hall and saw the sixth form monthly form meeting in progress (I was in the fifth form). Rather than talking about academic matters, they entire form was watching the Mr Bean episode, with laughter echoing around the concrete hall.
That’s how significant Mr Bean was. It was fresh and new and hilarious. The sort of thing that any decent teacher would share with his pupils.
After the first 25 years, state television celebrated the anniversary by publishing a 200-page history by Robert Boyd-Bell. At the end of the second quarter century, TVNZ could only manage a cheap celebrity quiz, the sale of some trinkets and a media release announcing the release of its archive for exclusive viewing on SKY.
I agree with you, Tom. As one commentator put it, it was a bit like taking a bag of chips and a bottle of Coke to someone’s 50th birthday celebration.
Nevertheless, a message on Public Address reports that it was the highest-rating* non-news programme on TVNZ so far this year. As Russell Brown commented, “We are all doomed”
* ratings, schmatings, of course!
“Do you think the second 25 years of television in New Zealand (1985 to 2010) have been significantly different than the first 25 years (1960-1985)? If so, why?”
In a nutshell – yes, built not necessarily in a good way. The rot set in with the arrival of Julian Mounter who clearly had no respect for the unique viewing patterns that New Zealanders had developed over the years, really didn’t care about us, and was primarily in it for the money. In order to prepare for the upcoming TV war with the first private channel in this country – TV3 – they hijacked the airwaves with “overseas trends” ideas, which wasn’t us, but which they hammered into us over the years until it was. We use to have different programs every day during the day, now weekday programming is almost identical except for from 7:30pm to about midnight. Also, we use to have only one ad break in a half hour show and three breaks in an hour show. They also had an ad break between shows. They don’t do that anymore because they are afraid that while the ads are on between shows, viewers may switch to a rival channel, the height of paranoia IMO. So they’ve moved the extra break to during the show, thus giving two breaks for a half hour show and four for an hour. Also, to fit exact half hour and one hour slots, shows are edited. When there was one channel, there was a looser format. If you look at listings from the sixties, you see shows scheduled to the exact minute instead of rounded.
There is room for a classic TV station in the old type of progamming and ad format. This is one of my dreams.
I wrote an article on my views about television while on a journalisim course about three years ago which i’ll try to put up on Throng soon.
I didn’t watch the One special on Tuesday night because the promotion made it sound irritating. What I’d really like is a replay of substantial chunks of Pukemanu and Close to Home. They were ground breaking.
My earliest memory of television in NZ is going to a rich neighbour’s place to watch it in the 60s when I was a teenager and not really seeing the point. Highlights are my now 32 year old son’s heartfelt response to The Littlest Hobo in the early 80s. He’d burst into tears every time it finished and my knee jerk reaction (I would be cooking dinner) was always to tell his older brother off for making him cry. He’s still a sucker for cute animals!
Thank you all for your starting comments. This is the kind of material I am looking for.
Page A3 of this morning’s New Zealand Herald has a piece “Viewers pan TVNZ’s 50-year celebration” (including comments from yours truly). There is also a very interesting conversation going on over at the Public Address System , under “The Futrure of the Future”. I will provide a link to PAS.
I think there is a bit of ‘distance lending enchantment to the view’ at play. Over the last 20/30 years there has been as much dross as there is now, the main difference being that it was not interrupted quite so often.
My only good memories of TVNZ are the days when one got some decent drama on a Sunday night and the days when occasional classical concerts and the opera were televised. Very little home grown programming sticks in my mind, the memorable TV coming from the BBC. The only TVNZ documentary that stays around was a truly awful documentary on WW2 which kept referring to the Africa Corpse.
NZ comedy by and large has been dire and one good drama series, Shark in the Park disappeared after one season.
The new TVNZ channel on Sky demonstrates the paucity of programming over the years; Country Calendar and Marcus Lush. God help us! By and large a forgettable 50 years.
The warehouse sells many classic shows, some long forgotten not not shown on our screens in may be 40 years or more, and some maybe never shown at all (such as Father Knows Best), on DVD at quite resaonable prices. You can get a full series of some dramas and sitcoms for under $20.
The wonders of DVDs – often digitally remastered, no ads, no logos on the screen, complete and uncut – the commercial half hour has changed and old shows can be edited quite a lot on broadcast TV reruns so there are “lost” scenes you will only rediscover on the DVD. eg: Mash.
Well, it looks like my article on Throng is being spammed by some idiot getting all bent out of shape about the difference between “station” and “channel”. I couldn’t find a way to report spam over there. Does anyone know how?
A rather perplexing editorial in today’s New Zealand Herald (“Talk stopped when TV came to stay”, A 16), suggest that the arrival of TV in NZ in 1960 ‘killed the art of conversation’. I wonder what fantasy this opinion writer is indulging in but I suspect there was much less to talk about before TV. I have dim memories of life-before-TV in NZ and it was a very dull, insular place.
I have been drawn here thanks to the Prime documentry and I am pleased to say it was the documentry I was expecting to see to mark 50 years of TV very well covered. I do see there are further parts to this doco and will watch the later parts. TVNZ really should have produced something similar as opposed to that joke of a quiz show they had to mark 50 years of TV. TVNZ have their from the Archives Show on their new Heartland channel some parts aren’t that interesting others are I am looking forward to seeing the later parts but I think they should of made this series available to everyone.
My favourite TV memories one people don’t talk about much is the moment Thingy hatched out of the egg, they only talk about his eye falling out. Do people just not remember that, yeah I suppose the eye thing was funny though. The arrival of TV3 is another great memory it seemed such a big thing finally having 3 channels. We were worried what would happen if there were 3 good shows on a once you could watch one record another but what the third.
In the future I would like to see the HD service rolled out on Freeview across all of New Zealand not just the main centres I don’t think we should have to pay $70 a month to get HD TV through Sky here in Southland. Also hope to see Prime in HD in time for the 2012 Olympics since they will be covering it. Then there is regional TV would be great if we could go back down that road, digital technology has changed things here we don’t even see local adverts through Satelitte anymore I think Prime is the only network that does this. It would be great to see a regional news show again. Also shows like It’s in the Bag brought back in it’s original format, they had a go with Top Town but it should have been an on the road show filmed from a different town each week not just filmed every week in Christchurch.
Regional stations, such as CTV, have a regional news show, in fact have had for many years. They’re not in the main listings, that’s why you may not know about them. They have a local news builetin at 5:30pm which is then repeated at 9:30pm. On the weekend, they have a summary of the week’s local news.
Ahh the days of watching the black and white telly in the
Town and Around, Country Calendar Still!!
Telethon. – I got a glimpse of myself as one of the phone answerers in the studio and what a great time that was. I was a Telegraph operator in Christchurch during these early years. I remember having to work late the night the Wahine went down in order to get copy and wire pix out for the journo’s from all around the country.
I remember ‘Nam being filmed (not taped) and showing in our lounges in stark monochrome bringing the war to our homes. Many a commentator has espoused that the televising of the Vietnam Conflict played a part in the protests here in NZ and around the world and bringing the
American departure leaving the country to the Viet Cong and NVa.
a grand show is this doco’ and I look forward to the rest. I hope Prime puts it out in a series of dvds for posterity.
Shark in the Park was, at its best, terrific. So was an odd children’s series the Gibson Group made called Cuckooland- featuring Paul Holmes as narrator. And… ahm, On the Mat!
How was the second 25 years different? 1989 and TV3, for a start. That’s when we really lost public broadcasting. TVNZ in general were absolutely terrified, and they over-reacted all over the place. That’s when the news-readers were coached (in the US?) on how to appropriately emote; when Holmes arrived with that folksy talk-radio schtick; when ratings ruled every decision.
I was around TV in Chch at the time, and it was very neurotic- not helped by massive lay-offs. There were, I seem to remember, 419 TVNZ employees in the city in 1988. By mid-1991 there were about 50.
TV3 were much more nonchalant, even as they went into receivership.
Regional television took of in 1991- and in Chch, and that was a mini-saga in itself (think Dynasty crossed with Fawlty Towers?!)
Firstly, thanks for this forum, and allowing us to shre our thoughts.
My over riding opinion is that quaNTITY of channels does not necessarily equal quaLITY – I think the NZ shows produced in the 70’s and 80’s were, for their time, damn good! I really wish shows like Rabbiters Rest, A Haunting We Will Go, Chit Chat, Beauty and the Beast, and of course Gliding On were available on DVD -I’d buy them like a shot!
This might sound a bit disloyal, but in recent times I’ve been buying a lot of (overseas) TV series on DVD – as I type this I’m watching The Muppet Show! – and to give TVNZ and TV3 credit, I do believe that we EVENTUALLY got to see the best shows from overseas, mixed in with our own programming.
What do I miss – the continuity announcers, the technical hitches they use to suffer, and the Goodnight Kiwi. Remember that vision mixers strike in the mid/late 80’s? And I’ll never forget the newsreader that continued reading the news while everyone else was leaving the building during a fire alarm evacuation. Eventually after it seamed all the camera men and vision mixers, etc had gone, he said “I’m sorry but I’ve got to leave now”. Priceless!
A pity we don’t have the option of replying to posts by quoting them, however…
“This might sound a bit disloyal, but in recent times I’ve been buying a lot of (overseas) TV series on DVD – as I type this I’m watching The Muppet Show! – and to give TVNZ and TV3 credit, I do believe that we EVENTUALLY got to see the best shows from overseas, mixed in with our own programming.”
Malcolm you have great taste in programming; I rank the Muppet Show as one of my all time favourites.
There is a huge story of engineering ingenuity underlying the expansion of the television transmission system in NZ. Many of the original technicians and engineers are now in their 60’s and 70’s, and to my knowledge there is currently no centralised resource that captures the rich and colourful stories and anecdotes of these early pioneers. Their contribution is truly heroic and I’m sure would be of interest beyond those of a technical bent.
In my collection of VHS tapes (for which I no longer have a machine upon which to view) I have a copy of a one hour special broadcast commissioned by the BCNZ (I think in the 80’s) entitled (circa) “A Day In The Life of TVNZ”, and which portrays a concise 24 hour snapshot of the many and varied activities of TVNZ staff including many of the faces currently screening on the Prime TV series. It’s well worth looking at – kind of a time-capsule of how it used to be.
Ralph: I recall a recommendation from Frank Stark, who heads the NZ Film Archive. He suggested that we should all buy a VCR and store it away, as there could come a time when DVDs will degrade (due to the glues, apparently) and we may have to turn back to videotape for historical material. Certainly, I still use video in my teaching (much easier to cue up, for a start)–such as a TV One resource on ‘Making the News’ from the 1990s. It makes transparent the processes of TV news and how choices are made, based around ‘news values’.
A memory of TVNZ (or was it NZBC?) … Ian Fraser interviewed the Shah of Persia and asked him tough questions. I was horrified. He was being rude to royalty! Not long after that I discovered that the questions were well justified, of course. When Russell Norman staged his Free Tibet protest a couple of weeks ago I had to refer back to Ian Fraser’s interview in order to process my reactions. Hmmmm.
I have very few memories of television before I bought my own really. As a child my parents chose what was on TV and we generally weren’t that interested in the news or hours and hours of cricket test matches. I do remember Under the Mountain, What Now, Telethons, Spot on… but not really a lot of the content. I remember as a child I always wanted to see the TV Kiwi but it was played in the middle of the night. One night when I was at my Dad’s house he said he’d wake me up to see it and I woke up in the morning VERY disappointed that he’d forgotten. He said he tried to wake me but I didn’t want to get up, or something. Hmmm…. still mighty suspicious, especially now that I know his propensity for falling asleep watching TV at night….
In response to the whole 50 years of TV thing I have started putting this page together on my own website for all to view. This page is my own written look back at some of what I remember seeing on TV this pretty much covers 1985 – today, a little hard for me to look back before then as I was too young to remember.
I have looked at some moments certainly not covered anywhere else than I can remember, provided a few YouTube videos and found some old TV listings so you can see what TV shows were on in the past.
Thanks, Rusty. Have you also checked out the treasure trove that is NZ On Screen?
Things have gone a bit quiet here but I am pleased with the feedback I have had–maybe not a roaring success but at least a modest success! There certainly has been more activity here than on the flash Australian TV history site (I know the folk who set it up).
It’s frustrating that I haven’t been able to find out the state of the arhives on two of my most favourite Australian imports of the 60s – The Magic Boomerang (which has n’tbeen screened anywhere since about 1975) and Adventures Of The Seaspray. I’ve emailed ABC who were the Australian network to air it and so far no reply. They simply don’t do children’s shows of that quality anymore.
The fact that Prime TV (a relative new comer to the channel selection) is showing a detailed seven part documentary on the 50 years of New Zealand TV , seems to typify the present state of affairs. Whereas TVNZ’s contribution of a two hour quiz show (“Cheers to 50 Years”), although amusing was comparatively poor.
Times have changed and none more so than telecommunications. Television is not the 1 or 2 channel TV we once remembered. In many ways it has changed for the better in the accessibility and versatility of cell phone internet and on-line streaming of TV shows. However, as Jim Hopkins pointed out the atmosphere is not the same. The nation is not all watching the same one of two shows per night and talking about them the next day in the smoko room or the playground.
Foreign shows such as The A-Team, Logan’s Run, Dynasty and Dallas, were incredibly popular, however, but the homegrown dramas were especially so. Who doesn’t remember Under the Mountain, Count Homogenized in A Haunting we will go, Olly Ohlson and “After School”. New Zealanders like to see television that looks, sounds and acts like themselves.
An interesting addition to this is the current study of viewers of Maori TV, with an unprecedented 75% non-Maori viewing audience. New Zealanders tune into local content. This fact has largely been avoided by TVNZ, while TV3 continues it’s hit Outrageous Fortune Westie series.
TVNZ is not without its local drama content with the staple soap Shortland Street and the recent example Go Girls.
Many new icons were born through the media of television, including the black singleted John Clarke as Fred Dagg, rugby shirt and Stubbies wearing Billy T James “Choice eh!”
My first memories of television as with many others was visiting the neighbours house and watching movies on a Saturday night back in the 70s. In the summer of ’78, my uncle kindly gave us their old set as a hand-my-down along with my hand-me-down clothes. My father immediately ran out to the shed and fashioned together a pair of “rabbit ears” out of a couple of pieces and wood and some No. 8 wire. The first image was a test cricket match (NZ vs England I believe) with the red ball almost impossible to follow through the grainy black & white. I was transfixed!
There were only two channels ONE and something that was referred to in my house as “the Otherside” as in “What’s on the Otherside?” As if whatever was on on the other channel was in some strange and slightly better parallel universe. My father’s cheeky answer to the question “What’s on the other side?” was always “Wires”.
Many of the early shows, plays and telemovies have never been repeated and have therefore faded into obscurity. Finally, decades later to be dusted off and transferred onto shiny DVD (e.g. Children of Fire Mountain) or streamed on the internet (www.nzonscreen.com). Even whole entire new channels (Heartland) devoted to archive material. The retro-revolution is here! The 50 year celebration has taken place but in a more diverse format to that in 1985 with the 25 year celebration. The only “old school” channel celebration is the Prime TV documentary “50 Years of New Zealand Television”,1 ignoring the embarrassing TVNZ “quiz show”. Prime TV has produced the goods and we can revel in the nostalgia. Indeed the raw unpolitically correctness of the archive shows such as Pukemanu and Kingi’s Story is refreshing and startling in their honesty.
For the first 25 years of New Zealand television, TVNZ did us proud by having 2 weeks worth of repeated classics, a documentary and of course the now-well-thumbed Robert Boyd-Bell book . In addition, there used to be New Zealand film week once a year where the New Zealand feature films produced that year were shown in consecutive nights and a mini-home grown annual film festival.
In regard to the last 25 years (1985-2010), some personal highlight shows are as follows. My own bias is towards drama and comedy:
After School – with Olly Olhson. Cartoons such as Fangface, Hong Kong Phooey, Scooby Doo and Top Cat.
What Now – compulsory Saturday viewing. ‘Get out of your Lazy Bed’ by Matt Bianco was the theme song memorable to a generations of Kiwi kids.
Inside Straight – classic kiwi cab driver drama
Hanlon – legal drama written by Ken Catran
Roche – unfortunately short-lived drama starring John Bach and Andy Anderson
Terry Teo – Based on Terry and the Gunrunners graphic novel.
Fire Raiser – children’s drama written by Maurice Gee and produced by Ginette McDonald
The Haunting of Barney Palmer – Margaret Mahy written TV Movie
Gloss – the classic soap
Adventurer – Oliver Tobias in a sequel to The Smuggler travels as a convict ending up in New Zealand. Featured many great Kiwi actors and location shooting.
Steel Riders – children’s series. Who can forget the menacing figure on the motorbike and the series made you want to jump on your BMX and have your own adventure.
Peppermint Twist – general disliked by most people, I found this refreshingly different and unmissable
Erebus: The Aftermath – powerful and moving docudrama based around the events of the NZ tragedy
The Champion – based on the Maurice Gee book
Shadow Trader – excellent thriller with locations including University of Auckland.
Billy T James show – sit com
Holmes – Dennis Conner leaving the show on the first episode
Star Runner – great children’s drama
Issues – more satirical sketches
Shark in the Park – quality Police drama
Boy from Andromeda – somewhat of a re-version of Children of the Dogstar but enjoyable
Typon’s people – scifi from the pen of Margaret Mahy
Letter from Blanchy – a cult classic
Forgotten Silver – JP’s great spoof, which had us all fooled for the first half hour, then when we realized it couldn’t possibly be, still wanting to believe.
McPhail & Gadsby – made us laugh and the showed up these politicians. McPhail’s Rob Muldoon is seminal
Duggan – detective series starring John Bach and lots of nice location shooting
Market Forces – great to see the team from Gliding On back together
Willy Nilly – critically slammed this is a clever cult classic with Sean Duffy and Mark Hadlow
Insiders guide to Happiness – thought provoking and whimsical drama.
Maddigan’s Quest – more great glossy scifi from Margaret Mahy
Outrageous Fortune – Westie drama. Brings back those memories of parties in Henderson.
Seven periods with Mr Gormsby – the brilliant David McPhail in comedy drama
Doves of War – thriller mini-series
The Last Children – a return t classic childrens drama
The Market – gritty South Auckland drama
Insiders Guide to Love – prequel to the 2004 series.
Rude Awakenings – great suburban drama
New Zealand is a relatively new country that has had to grow up very rapidly. We have had to find our cultural identity of which we are proud and we cherish our idiosyncrasies and unique style; Marmite and Weetbix, kiwifruit Pavlova, Gumboots and Jandels, Billy T and Fred Dagg, Sam Hunt and Gary McCormick, McPhail & Gadsby. In summary, television helped shaped our landscape of the heart and mind.
1. “50 Years of New Zealand Television”, Prime TV, June10-, 2010
2. “Television’s magic has been lost forever” by Jim Hopkins 4:00 AM Friday Jun 4, 2010 NZ Herald.
3. Editorial: Talk stopped when TV came to stay, NZ Herald, June 23, 2010.
4. Robert Boyd-Bell, “New Zealand Television: The First 25 Years”, 1985.
…and it is nearing completion (with a deadline of March 30). I have renewed the site licence for this blog, so it will remain available for another year.
My next venture will be to set up a blog to locate and describe small/independent cinemas around New Zealand. You can read more about this under “Travels With Peter” (Parts 1 to III on http://www.kiwiboomers.com). More on this shortly.
This chapter has now been published as: ‘What Anniversary? New Zealand “Celebrates” Fifty Years of Television” iKate Darian-Smith & Sue Turnbull eds (2012), Remembering Television: Histories, Technologies, Memories, Newcastle upon Tyne, Cambridge Schloars Publishing, pp. 228-248. ISBN 1-4438-3970-1