Kiwi TV as we once knew it… Part two

Credit: ‘New Zealand Television – the first 25 years’, by Robert Boyd-Bell

The early television days were staffed by competent, experienced staff with mainly radio experience coping with second hand BBC equipment in small make shift studios with tape, lighting and telecine (film) operators in cramped uncomfortable cupboards/offices. Staff like Barry Warner, Colin Harrison, Geoff Eady, Robyn Petrie, Ian Hill, Stuart Murray and Russ Lambert and Bob Smith. We owe them so much.

What programmes do we remember from those pioneering halcyon days?

Gourmet chef Graham Kerr probably our first National TV Personality; James Stirling In Your Garden; in 1966 the first ever All Black rugby test –  covered by three cameras; (this year’s World Cup final used 48)) Column Comment with Ian Cross; the almost entirely studio based Country Calendar with the quiet authority of Fred Barnes; our first attempt at a series Pukemanu; turkeys in gumboots that people always attributed to Country Calendar but it in fact came from the hugely popular Town and Around with reporter Erin Sinclair. Television News cameramen went out with wind-up Bolex cameras that ran (filmed) for 30 seconds.

Exciting overseas personalities came into our Heath Robinson facilities and we took it all in our stride. WNTV 1 saw Gene Pitney at the height of his pop fame, the outstandingly talented Dudley Moore, Australian singing sensation Kamahl, the legendary Tex Morton and David Frost’s singer Julie Felix. We didn’t get the Beatles but they were in town and a journalist scared out of his wits was sent to interview them and returned in one piece!

Such was the impact of television in the ‘60s that viewers ascribed programme names to days of the week. No one went out or planned a meeting on a Thursday night as that was AVENGERS night (John Steed and Emma Peel); Saturday was Rawhide, Monday Sportsview  (Bill McCarthy) and later Thursday was The Dean Martin Show.

Overseas highlights, some say never bettered, had viewers transfixed by The Power Game (Patrick Wymark), Z Cars, The Prisoner (Patrick McGoohan), Dr Findlay’s Casebook (Andrew Cruickshank) and The Black and White Minstrel Show.

As Winston McCarthy, the great rugby commentator used to say on Sportsview, “You saw it and so did I”!

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Chris Bourn

Chris joined WNTV1 as a Presentation Officer 1964 and became the channel’s first Sports Producer. He went on to become Entertainment Producer and Director and then for 12 years was Head of Presentation, Promotion and Publicity. Other positions included Head of Entertainment, and Director of Opera in the Park, Christmas in the Park and Symphony in the Park for 20 years. Chris retired in 2002, and was awarded the Golden Disc from the NZ Recording Industry for services to Entertainment, and the NBOA Award for service to Television.