During the 1960's and early 1970's, the fledgling television
service was learning how to make programmes of its own. This was
seat of the pants television - with plenty of Kiwi ingenuity to
make it happen. Field production was a slowly evolving art form -
and many of those early shows were studio based, broadcast live in
Auckland and sent out on tape to the other centres.
Sunday 6 March at 7.15pm in 1966 saw New Zealand's longest running television series, Country Calendar, make its screen debut. Each programme was just 15 minutes long and was a news roundup for the very large rural sector of New Zealand. The series is now a full 30 minutes' duration and has consistently been in the Top 10 favourite programmes each year.
The first locally written drama to be televised was Alfred Flett's All Earth To Love in 1963. A continuous flow of Kiwi flavoured drama has followed with the likes of Pukemanu (1971), Close To Home (1975), Mortimer's Patch (1981), Gloss (1987), Shortland Street (1992) and many more award-winning efforts, some of which have gone on to be sold to markets abroad.
Talent shows like Have A Shot (1962) and New Faces (1974) were huge favourites; entertainment programmes covered opera, music hall and more contemporary sounds in the form of pop music shows like Let's Go (1963) and C'mon (1966); Graham Kerr became New Zealand's first TV Chef.
Game shows have remained consistently popular through the years, from the iconic It's in the Bag (1973) hosted by Selwyn Toogood, to Top Town (1976), Mastermind (1979), Sale of the Century (1989) right up to this year's The Chair (2002).
Children's television's early days included Spot On (1974), an early training ground for television stars like Danny Watson and Ian Taylor; Here's Andy with Andrew Shaw, and for the past 21 years What Now? has entertained viewers after school and on Saturday (and now Sunday) mornings.
The evolution of the distinctive Kiwi sense of humour was given a helping hand by the medium of television with the creation of Fred Dagg (played by John Clarke) in 1973; Lynn of Tawa (portrayed by Ginette McDonald) in 1979; David McPhail and Jon Gadsby introduced New Zealanders to satire in the late 1970's and early 1980s with A Week of It (1977) and McPhail & Gadsby (1980); with Billy T James bringing Maori comedy to the fore in the early 1980's. New Zealand's first enduring situation comedy came in the form of Gliding On, capturing the idiosynchracies of life in the public service.
Faces that regularly beamed into Kiwis living rooms and subsequently became famous included Peter Sinclair, host of many programmes; newsreaders and continuity annoucers Angela D'Audney (the first female television news reader), Phillip Sherry, Jenny Goodwin, Alma Johnston, Doug Armstrong, Roger Gascoigne, and more recently Paul Holmes, Richard Long and Judy Bailey.
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