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Hyundai Country Calendar

TV ONE

Hyundai Country Calendar


Hyundai Country Calendar on TVNZ Ondemand

Hyundai Country Calendar is New Zealand's longest-running TV series and only a handful of shows around the world have been on air longer.
Over its 50-year history, the programme has seen big changes.

When Country Calendar first went to air on 6 March, 1966, front-man Fred Barnes wore a suit, read out information about the latest market prices and interviewed the chairman of the Meat Board - all in the studio.

Less than six minutes of the programme, a report on a Central Otago apricot orchard, was filmed in the field.

The show's former long-time producer and narrator, Frank Torley, recalled that Fred was keen to use television to inform the farming community.

"There were a few who realised that this new-fangled form of communication was going to be important and that farming should have its own programme," he said.

A few years later, when Torley first started working on the show, it began to focus on one single topic per episode. Producer Tony Trotter sent people out into the field and put farmers at the heart of the stories. It's a formula that's worked so well that it carries on today.

"The premise up till then was that we were supposedly the experts, we told the story," Torley said. "But Tony Trotter said: 'No, let's talk to the farmers, let's get their point of view and let them tell the story.' It worked."

Trotter also changed the theme music to the distinctive tune it has now - Hillbilly Child - setting the foundations for the Country Calendar we know today.

Over the years, Hyundai Country Calendar's stories have become increasingly diverse, ranging from traditional high country musters to newer ventures like truffles and alpacas.

But its popularity remains undiminished. One of New Zealand's top-rating shows, it's watched as much in the cities as it is in the provinces where the stories come from.

Torley believed nostalgia for earning an honest living from the land is what makes city people yearn for the lifestyles the show portrays.

Producer Julian O'Brien says the show also plays a social role in helping bring town and country closer together.

"Although most Kiwis have a strong identification with the land, a lot of townies don't necessarily have an intimate, immediate connection, and Country Calendar helps create a bridge," he says.

O'Brien says much of the show's success comes from its dedicated team of craftspeople.
"They're all professionals with high standards and they give it their absolute best shot. They come up with great ideas and go the extra mile."

Along with a top team, a combination of funding over the years from NZ On Air, sponsors and advertising has helped keep the show in people's living rooms.

But will Hyundai Country Calendar continue to provide a window on rural life for future generations? O'Brien says it will continue to happen if the essentials stay the same.

"If New Zealand as a society keeps its strong sense of identification with the land, then I think there will always be an appetite for well-told stories about good people doing interesting things in great rural locations."


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