Watching television was now beginning to be ingrained in the 60’s household social routine not entirely due to the magnetism of Ena Sharples and the Coronation Street’s Rover’s Return!
Waiting in the wings was Networking, the move of News to Auckland, the advent of colour and the famous Philips K9 TV set and TV2’s first Telethon. And along with Kiwi productions came an increasingly discerning viewing audience.
Producers learning their craft with 15 minute prime time productions like The Night Sky with Peter Read, Thyme for Cookery with Des Britten, and Column Comment with Ian Cross now had the confidence to exploit and expand entertainment and drama. They had to pitch formats to their office-bound, former radio bureaucrats.
The success of afternoon formats like On Camera with Irvine Yardley and Sonia King, It’s In The Bag, (with Selwyn Toogood at last getting to grips with Television after eleven memorable years on radio, Town and Around (regional television never bettered) Country Touch (Producer Bryan Easte and front-man extraordinaire Tex Morton who knew only three guitar chords!!); C’mon whose brilliant Producer Kevan Moore did more for New Zealand pop music than any TV producer before or after. His productions, including Studio One/New Faces discovered Shona Laing, Suzanne Prentice, Hogsnort Rupert, Brendan Dugan, Split Enz and Steve Gilpin. The programmes all prepared television for what I believe was its best ever decade – the 70s.
Remember these: Close to Home, Beauty and the Beast, Top Town, 12 Bar Rhythm and Shoes, Hudson and Halls, The Ray Woolf Show, McPhail and Gadsby, and This is Your Life with outstanding presenter writer Bob Parker. Still to come was the great Billy T James and the controversial series that put us on the international map and almost bankrupted NZBC, The Governor produced by the brilliant Tony Isaac with writer Keith Aberdein; Gliding On, (written by Sir Roger Hall) and The Pacific Song Contest produced in Christchurch and viewed by an an international audience of 60 million viewers. We were coming of age and nothing exemplified that more in the arena of sports than the coverage of the 1974 Commonwealth Games. For me, two images remain vivid: Producer Harold Anderson’s outstanding Games’ opening sequence. Viewers watched an athlete in black and white releasing his javelin. It soared and then in mid-flight changed to colour when it landed. We were now transmitting in colour. (Brilliant!)
The other memorable moment was on day one track and field. Director Ian Cumming’s framed Dick Taylor winning the 5,000 metres and crossing the finish line arms in the air before collapsing on the track. We never did see who came next irrespective of the yelling and screaming of the BBC broadcasters next door.
It ensured the huge success of the Games coverage fronted by Bill McCarthy aided by directors and commentators Malcolm Kemp, Keith Quinn, Michael Scott, Chris Bourn, Ian Cumming, Doug McCammon, Ken Sudell and John P. Miles.
The official prime time night we changed to colour was introduced in 1974 by Marama Koea (Martin) on camera at 8pm. She too began her continuity in black and white and ended the summary in full colour.
A new era had begun… an era of political interference, network separation then amalgamation and finally the 30-year experiment of commercial regulation. Through it all we produced outstanding programmes, household names, international successes and never forgotten highlights. As television today faces its sternest competition, I believe we had the best of times.