Pg 1: Responses to the Prime TV series

50 Years of Television (dir. John Bates) begins screening on Prime, 8.30pm  June 13  2010

Prime goes where TVNZ couldn’t be bothered with this seven-part series about the google box in New Zealand. Shockingly, it goes further than a mere clip show, by investigating the way that television has shaped and reflected our society since its introduction in 1960. Fiona Rae, TV week, Listener June 12 2010

55 Responses to “Pg 1: Responses to the Prime TV series”

  1. geofflealand Says:

    More information to come, nearer the screening date.

  2. geofflealand Says:

    Watch for the first episode of 50 Years of Television this coming Sunday (June 13) , at 8.30pm

  3. mjs Says:

    Very impressed with the programme; a very interesting and balanced presentation.

    Bring on next week.

  4. David French Says:

    I watched it last night and thought it was a good overview of the history of New Zealand television in general. A few mistakes crept in (with interviewees referring to TVNZ instead of Television One) and some startling omissions (eg Spot On, What Now, Play School, A Week of It) but I assume that some (if not all) will be mentioned in subsequent episodes.

    I also hope that they take a look at the history of the junkings of NZ’s TV archive – that’s a story that really needs to be told.

  5. geofflealand Says:

    Welcome to new arrivals to this discussion. I am attempting to keep two strands going–one on responses to the Prime series which started last night, and one for more general comments and memories. Obviously there will be some crossover so I recommend you view both pages, and contribute where you wish.

    The 90 minute opening programme last night was very good and refuted the belief of some that telling a history in a chronological form would be dull and uninspired. There were obvious moments (eg Denis Connor and Paul Holmes) but also moments of surprise. The next 6 programmes will begin to fill in the gaps.

    But, of course, I am more interested in your response to the opening programme: did it meet your expectations? Were there any glaring errors or omissions? What did you enjoy most about it, and where did it match with your own experiences*?

    *For e4xample, I missed the whole Olly Ohlson thing as he appeared on screen in my before-children phase of life.

  6. geofflealand Says:

    If you missed the first screening, Prime will be repeating the opening 90 minute programme, on Saturday June 26 at 7.30pm

  7. gavinriley Says:

    Prime’s first instalment in its “Fifty Years of NZ television” series was superb. It was intelligent, informative, a riveting combination of record and analysis, and in its content and presentation had a quality sadly lacking in much of television today – respect for the viewer. In short, it was the programme that TV1’s earlier lamentable effort should have been. I look forward to the rest of the series. Already it has told us a little more about who we are by recording and explaining where we’ve come from as a nation this past half-century. Well done, Prime, and all concerned.

  8. Rusty Viewer Says:

    It was interesting. I thought originally each episode might be decade by decade but they’ve taken a different apporach. It’s more like they did a general quick browse through the years and will focus of specifc aspects in the coming weeks.

    There was not a proper explanation of what really happened to Max TV. They were a local independant music Auckland station which ran for about 3 years. They became popular enough that, in order to kill the rising threat, TVNZ broadcast MTV free-to-air (abot the only place in the world to do this) and then made an offer to the Max owners that they couldn’t or wouldn’t refuse. The complaint from the loyal staff at the time was that they had been sold out. Having acheived their goal, and with dismal MTV ratings (its a pay channel for a reason), they shut it down. In the meantime though, they had also scooped up local frequencies around the country which included CTV in Christchurch. CTV was eventually reborn, and was merged with another regional station which had sprung up, NOW TV I think, or CHTV.

    Of notceable absense was the mention of changing viewing habits due to the introduction of televsion recorders, first tape, now hard disk. This has changed things considerably. I’d be surprised if this was omitted in a future episode.

    No specific mention of any imported favourites. Hope they’ll be a focus on that in an upcoming show though, presumably, they will mainly be talking about local prduction. However, imported shows on the whole is what shaped our viewing habits.

    I hope they’ll be

    I wonder if they’ll be any mention of “black easter”? Anyone remember that? It was in the mid-80s, a dark and sad time in the history of NZ television…

  9. Rusty Viewer Says:

    “I hope they’ll be”…EEK! Hadn’t finished a sentence, would be good to be able to edit our posts, wouldn’t it (hint hint admin).

    What I think I was going to say was…I hope they’ll be more exploration of the regional news in the 70s. It was classic, and funny. Rodney Byrant and Bryan Allpress in Christchurch with their constant ribbing of one another and funny sketches such as “In Search Of The Source Of The Avon” whcih was a spoof of a popular documentary of the time “In Serach Of The Source Of The Nile”. I think I got the titles right. Then there was Roger Gasgoine in Wellington with his affectionate wink; he was like a rock star, mobbed by screaming girls whereever he went – or was that an exaggeration?

  10. Rusty Viewer Says:

    Oh, you probably know BTW that TV One are planning another special about 50 years of news and current affairs, and of course they are putting it up against the Prime documentary. I suspect this one will be in a more serious vain because, in spite of the good ratings, their first show was dismal and they need to save face, plus the Prime documentary is showing them up.

  11. Nigel Varcoe Says:

    As a viewer of television (rather than a media professional or commentator) I was struck by the depth and quality of our television history. I appreciated that Prime took 2 hours over this television special – with plenty more to come.

    The diversity, quality, and relevance of television in NZ is amazing. As a result, I would love to see this New Zealand treasure trove made accessible year round. What about a new “NZ television” Freeview channel? Basically take and put this on TV – not just online.

    I’m sure that this has been thought of … maybe what is required here is a “movement”? Or is it already happening?

  12. geofflealand Says:

    Good comments, Nigel. I guess this the objective behind “Heartland” on Sky. The only problem is that this is on a pay-TV service, when it really ought to be freely available (seeing we have paid for such programming, in one way or another, in the past).

  13. Rusty Viewer Says:

    TVNZ 6 is already showing some local stuff. Not Gloss though unfortunately but I don’t see that on Heartland either.

    Back to the Prime special – seeing Muldoon again got me all riled up about what an arrogant bully he was. What a shame no one could stand up to him, and those who did either lost their jobs (eg: Tom Scott) and/or got blacklisted (eg: Ian Frasier). Methinks in the end that maybe Muldoon was just a coward full of bluff, and I say coward because he basically avoided any reporter who would ask him the hard questions, actually daring to try to make him accountable for his time in office. And that’s why he killed the two competing channels system, because competition makes reporters try all the harder to find the truth. Yep, nine years under a dictator who contrlled the media and squelshed free speech. Was it really much different than under Russia at the time?

  14. geofflealand Says:

    Yes, I agree that Muldoon came across as a spiteful villain. It makes you wonder why we tolerated him for far too long.

  15. Rusty Viewer Says:

    Afraid of losing a job or even being arrested? Hmmm…maybe knoecked off? You know, there’s a rumour that’s what happened to Norman Kirk. But I digress from the topic at hand.

  16. geofflealand Says:

    Any topics people want to introduce at this point? We could go back to my opening question ie “Were the second 25 years of television in New Zealand different from the first 25 years?”

    I guess there is an obvious answer, but the ‘why’ might be worth exploring.

  17. Rusty Viewer Says:

    Different? Yes, because of private competition, agressive marketing from TVNZ, stckpiling of programs some of which never saw the lgiht of day, and dumbing down caused TV in some respects to deteriorate. What happened to the days when we had different programs on each day? Now they are only different from 7:30pm until about midnight. Will people get too confused if there is something different on at 6 each night now?

  18. Rusty Viewer Says:

    Oh, Ok, I see I already answered that question in pg2. Forgive me for repeating, but then again, that’s just like televison isn’t it!

  19. geofflealand Says:

    Thanks, Rusty. As Steve Allen once famously declared, “Imitation is the sincerest form of television”!

  20. geofflealand Says:

    Another excellent episode tonight, on television’s role in social change in New Zealand. Some of the footage was familiar; much of it was new.

    I do have my doubts about the claims re television news coverage being a primary factor in bringing the Vietnam War to an end. This has become a truism, when the evidence for it is patchy–the futility of conventional warfare against the Vietcong is a more likely explanation.

  21. geofflealand Says:

    I am certainly interested in your responses to this second episode.

  22. Andrew Says:

    Has anyone noticed that the TVNZ 50 years of TVNZ news special is going to screen on a Sunday night at 8.30. The same time as guess what?

    Bitter much?

    PS have to say I love the Prime Series. Does anyone know if there will be plans to release it on DVD one day?

  23. geofflealand Says:

    Andrew: they will have a job competing with the episode of the Prime series that screened on Sunday. I have a feeling that the TVNZ effort will just replicate what has already been done ie the Denis Connor vs Paul Holmes clip ad naseum.

    I will try and find out whether there are plans for a DVD (fortunately we have the ability to record from Sky to a disc).

  24. geofflealand Says:

    More info: there is some discussion about a DVD release of 50 Years, but there are numerous issues of rights to be sorted out first.

  25. bomber Says:

  26. geofflealand Says:

    Welcome, Bomber. I do highly recommend that everyone follow the link above, to view another discussion on Bomber Bradbury’s TUMEKE blog. I am a great believer in reciprocity and sharing–which blogs should be about.

  27. David French Says:

    Enjoyed the third episode of the Prime Doco. Very interesting clips. Did anyone else spot that the “Week of It” clip that they showed was rather similar to an episode of “The Goodies”? If you have the DVD that has the subheading “Eight Delicious Episodes”, watch the episode entitled “Gender Education” and you’ll see what I mean.

  28. Alpaca Says:

    Enjoying the series although I missed ep 1.

    I thought the repeated statements that TV news had brought about social change were overdone. I remember pre-television days. We had newspapers, newsreels at the cinema (propaganda!) and radio. Much was made of the Springbok Tour. Only one side was interviewed. How did the pro-tour people feel? How did the police feel? I remember taking part in a protest and being horrified when lead protestors screamed at police who were standing still on the side of the road. It didn’t seem to me that the NZ police were to blame for apartheid, however badly they might have behaved in Hamilton.

    So I think the programme hammered home ‘good’ social change. On the positive side, it is a very well made documentary and unlike the offereings on One it seems to be made for grown-ups. I enjoyed episode 3 a lot. I remember how much we loved C’mon etc. (But the Chicks. what happened to Suzannes’ sister?)

  29. David French Says:

    Alpaca said
    “Much was made of the Springbok Tour. Only one side was interviewed. How did the pro-tour people feel? How did the police feel?”

    Well, the intention was to look at this from the viewpoint of the journalists and broadcasters that covered the event. How did they feel when reporting on these scenes? What was happening to them personally when they did their stories? It’s a side of the tour that’s rarely been covered, compared with the pro and anti-tour sides which have been covered.

    In his autobiography Keith Quinn recounts some of the animosity that was directed towards him during that tour and how he felt about the scenes he saw.

  30. David French Says:

    Nigel Varcoe: “The diversity, quality, and relevance of television in NZ is amazing. As a result, I would love to see this New Zealand treasure trove made accessible year round. What about a new “NZ television” Freeview channel? Basically take and put this on TV – not just online.

    I’m sure that this has been thought of … maybe what is required here is a “movement”? Or is it already happening?”

    geoffleland: “Good comments, Nigel. I guess this the objective behind “Heartland” on Sky. The only problem is that this is on a pay-TV service, when it really ought to be freely available (seeing we have paid for such programming, in one way or another, in the past).”

    I’ve heard this type of comment before and unfortunately I feel that they’re not really thinking straight or at least not really placing their thoughts into context. Some of those old shows are indicative of the time they aired and the likelihood is that if you tried to play them on free-to-air they wouldn’t do very well in the ratings and eventually be pulled from the schedules. I mean, do we really believe that TV 1 are quite prepared to play (for example) 1970’s editions of “It’s in the Bag” on a regular basis? Probably not, which is why channels like TVNZ 6 and TVNZ Heartland were set up – so that those shows could be seen again by those keen to view the old programmes again. Same goes with movie channels like TCM and MGM.

    Have to get back to work, so will write more at a later time.

  31. geofflealand Says:

    David: I agree that I wouldn’t want to watch endless repeats of It’s In The Bag on FTA channels such as TV One but it does seem rather ironic (and a little wrong?) that programmes which were publically funded (through the Broadcasting Fee, or advertising costs*) are made available at cost, on pay-TV?

    * the cost here is that we, as consumers, effectively pay for advertising through a proportion of costs added to everything we buy. In the USA, for example, it is estimated that more than $US600 is spent on advertising from the total cost of buying a new car.

  32. Daza Says:

    Just watched episode 1 on the Prime site – nice to see a serious minded survey of the history of TV in New Zealand, the other 50th anniversary material I’ve managed to find on-line from other channels has been a bit light weight.

    Would have been good to see a more critical look at New Zealand TV over the years – even Prime’s effort leaves the casual view thinking every tv show made in NZ is a national treasure, and are shows like It’s in the Bag or Shortland Street all that viewers have ever wanted from public broadcasting?

  33. geofflealand Says:

    I didn’t get to watch last night’s episode (on the history of sport on TV) but everything is getting recorded on MySky. Any comments on this particular episode. I guess it couldn’t incorporate anything about the current WFC.

  34. geofflealand Says:

    I watched the TVNZ 50 Years of News programme last night, whilst I was loading it on to a disc (for research purposes, of course!). Wasn’t greatly impressed–it covered the expected and there wasn’t much of the unexpected. The pre-advert break ‘bloopers’ were rather self-indulgent too.
    But I would be interested in hearing contrary views.

    I am viewing this site several times daily, eager for a little more activity. Do feel to ask me any questions. I want to keep the momentum going, even though I am mightily distracted by my current writing task–7,500 words on NZ film history, to be done by the end of the month!

  35. Alpaca Says:

    I enjoyed the sports-themed episode last week although I have little interest in sport. It’s a very solid series. (And it’s hard to separate sport from the Zeitgeist)

    Funnily enough it has got me looking at Prime more and I’ve started watching Dr Who – first time since my kids were little.

    Good on you, Prime:)

  36. geofflealand Says:

    I agree. I don’t want to knock TVNZ too much but they have sure tested my loyalty just recently. Prime do have some of the more interesting series around at the moment–True Blood as well as Dr. Who.

    I thought the Prime sports episode was particularly good in that it covered quite a wide range of sport.

  37. David French Says:

    geofflealand: “I agree that I wouldn’t want to watch endless repeats of It’s In The Bag on FTA channels such as TV One but it does seem rather ironic (and a little wrong?) that programmes which were publically funded (through the Broadcasting Fee, or advertising costs*) are made available at cost, on pay-TV?”

    On the surface it may seem strange, however I think this is indicative of the way the television industry is working as a whole worldwide. In the US it’s not uncommon for old shows (eg “What’s My Line?”) to end up on cable networks. The reason is because they are no longer sustainable on a free-to-air channel; they’re out-of-date and so cable networks make these shows available on their networks to give them a new lease of life, for viewers to rediscover them. Heck, it’s a miracle that some of them still survive to this very day.

    I realize that on the surface it may seem strange, however I think we’re all going to have to accept that if we want to see full episodes, and not just clips, of our old favourites, then we are going to have to swallow our prides and accept the situation as it is.

  38. geofflealand Says:

    Thanks, David. Certainly much that goes on in television scheduling doesn’t follow normal rules of logic. I find is quite soothing, after a hard day’s teaching, to watch a re-run of M*A*S*H or Seinfeld. It is also an opportunity to introduce my daughter (17) to some old treasures.

    Responses to the episode on Prime last night? It focused on locally-made TV drama but I think it might have been stronger if it had drawn some parallels with audience responses to imported (US, UK) drama series too.

  39. Alpaca Says:

    Last night’s Prime ep highlighted what I like about this series. People who made the dramas were asked to comment and could speak at reasonable length. There was no on screen “personality” like Simon Dallow telling us what to think. I agree that we needed audience responses too and a comparison with imported drama series.

  40. Rusty Viewer Says:

    In the most recent episode, they failed to mention some prominent dramas such as Shark In The Park & Marlin Bay. Don’t know why.

  41. Rusty Viewer Says:

    They also failed to distinguish between season 1 and 2 of Buck House. They were compeltely different. It was season 1 that wasn’t very funny. season2 with John Clakre was notably funny and people began to sit up and take notice. However, the documentary implied that Season 2 wasn’t liked. This isn’t true.

  42. geofflealand Says:

    Thanks, Rusty (if I may call you that). I too noticed the absence of Shark in the Park and wondered why.

  43. Rusty Viewer Says:

    They also forgot to mention Roache. That one’s not even in the imdb.

  44. Rusty Viewer Says:

    Mispeeled it. It’s Roche. Still not in imdb but mentioned at

  45. geofflealand Says:

    I guess there will always be things missing from such a long and detailed history. I did, however, like the contributions from those intimately involved in TV dramas–such as Geoff Murphy on what not to do in respect of TV acting.

  46. Alpaca Says:

    Tonight’s look at national identity was superb. I almost cried when they mentioned Kaleidoscope. Ninety minutes of art on prime time and people enjoyed it! Lyn of Tawa. One of my favourites. But most of all the commentary is so interesting – from the horse’s mouth – so well edited. It’s a documentary about TV which is in itself good television. It’s quite painful in a way because what I see on One now in prime time is trivial. It’s like Jim Anderton saying, I didn’t leave the Labour Party, they left me. Our main free to air channel has left its audience?

  47. Rusty Viewer Says:

    And yet, like dumb sheep, most still watch it, too afraid to take a walk on the “wild” side and try another channel, lest the wrath of God fall upon them.

    Choices – most are still in the mode of watch TV One first, and if nothing is on there they like, then try TV 2 etc. The more intelligent, however, look at the tv listings and decide which program we would actually prefer to watch, never mind the channel. If more people did the latter, the unfairly and undeservedly high TV One ratings would drop, perhaps by quite a substantial amount.

    Amazing how, after fifty years, so many still live in the days of one channel, still stuck in TV One first mode.

  48. geofflealand Says:

    I did enjoy the episode last night, even though the message after the credits, re this site, wasn’t there this time–maybe the episode ran a little longer.

    This sort of history is very close to my inclinations regarding the re-telling of history ie involving the participants but drawing broad speculations (rather than certainties) about the social/cultural impact of certain TV moments in New Zealand life eg the idea that being comfortable with the NZ accent (in all its variations) is closely connected to hearing ourselves on TV. Still, I never quite got Lyn of Tawa–there always seemed to be a rather snobby or judgemental undertone to her. Maybe it because I grew up with South Taranaki versions of the NZ accent ;-)

  49. Alpaca Says:

    Isn’t there a bit of Lynn in Pascalle.

    Rusty Viewer was right – there is some good telly out there beyond One and some of us just expect our culture to be delivered to us via the same channels: Nat Rad, The Listener and TVNZ. I’m branching out – I’ve just started watching Outrageous and I love it.

    Snobby undertone in Lyn’s character? Yes … but she was lovable … she held the female accent up to scrutiny.

  50. blair Says:

    Now that the documentry series is over I would like to say on the whole a very good series certainly more than what I was expecting to see to mark 50 years of TV. The first was very well done, some of the more specific shows however I think they could have covered more interesting content. Something I think was missing from the series was advertising and news. While advertising is just annoying there have been some really good adverts that we could have looked back at, obviously this could have covered early adverts, also some of the brilliant election advertising and in the past 20 years some of the real good adverts from the nineties such as the Fernleaf/Anchor family, Spot the Dog, the Instant Kiwi adverts and not only the Bugger commercial but also the Barry Crump Toyota adverts.
    TVNZ did do a look back at news but that was more about the stories and it was obviously biased towards news covered by TVNZ. Some of what could be looked back at includes regional news, early networked news services, the John Hawkesby saga, Paul Holmes and his show on Prime and also the cheeky darky thing from Paul Holmes.
    As for what was included I didn’t find the last in the series on the Maori language that interesting at all, I do understand in this day in age you are required to show a high percentage of Maori content but really I think what was in that show should have just been condensed down to fit into the other shows. Also there wasn’t much in that show about the story of the protesters invading TVNZ studios in 1995 in response to the Maori news being taken off the air over the Christmas holidays. The most interesting part was the the story of the west coast protester who switched the feed over from TV1 to TV2 at the transmitter so west coasters could see the Maori news which then screened on TV2 through TV1.

  51. Alpaca Says:

    I really enjoyed last night’s show. In fact it brought a tear to my eye. Some of the commentaries were very insightful and heartfelt. Unlike the other shows, last night’s exposed me to material I hadn’t seen before. I found it illuminating. Once more I feel sad that we are so rarely delivered such good non-fiction TV these days!

    Congratulations to the makers.

  52. Rusty Viewer Says:

    I agree that the Maori TV thing didn’t really need a whole epsiode to itself, maybe just one or two segments. I think it’s about bending over backwards from all this political correctness. If there wasn’t a whole episode, certain radicals may get “offended”.

    I agree there should have been some coverage of classic local news shows from the various regions. Rodney Bryant and Bryan Allpress are dear to the hearts of Christchurch. Roger Gascoigne was like a rock star with screaming teenagers in Wellington, unless Roger exaggerates the story he tells with his classic wink. *LOL*

    I think there was a 50 year specials for commercials on The Ad Show on TV7. It’s probabaly still online if you search for it.

  53. ConsumerK Says:

    The final chapter on Maori TV was an excellent overview of the industry & greatly appreciated. Refreshing in the face of those who would prefer a bleached & sanitised view of history in Aotearoa. I had never heard of Pukemanu before & was surprised such a program was run. When will this episode be placed online?

    The whole series was excellent. I was reluctant to watch it after the abortion that was the TVNZ commemoration, then a brief view convinced me it was very good. So many memories & plenty of fresh insights.

    Congratulations all involved, Geoff, Prime & Cream Media. Awesome.

  54. geofflealand Says:

    kia ora ConsumerK (a variation on Citizen K?): Many thanks. If you go to the NZ On Screen site (there is a link here) , you will probably find some Pukemanu.

  55. ConsumerK Says:

    Kia Ora Geoff. Ae, it popped into my head. Thanks for the info. I was actually wondering about the episode: Taonga TV & whether it would be put online to share with the others. It looks like the whole series is offline now. That’s ok, recorded it on our MySKY box. Though I do believe the series should be available online as it’s a great resource. At least it should be aired again.
    Oh, I found your site from the link on the original Prime page.