When people think of New Zealand film and television, things like that of Peter Jackson epic the Lord of the Rings trilogy and hilarious from HBO Flight of the Conchords usually come to mind. They may even think of Taika Waititi and its ever-growing catalog of funny yet thoughtful productions such as BOY, JoJo Rabbit, Reservation dogs, or even the cult classic What we do in the shadows (including the American spin-off series of the same name, which recently aired its third season).
While all of this content is great, there’s a whole world of New Zealand TV just waiting to be discovered by global audiences, including both shows featuring up-and-coming talent and high-profile productions. higher budget with more globally recognized cast and crew. If you enjoy the small amount of Kiwi content that has leaked into the Hollywood sphere and are looking to diversify your current media diet, then here are six New Zealand made TV shows you’ve missed.
In a world where a viral plague has wiped out the majority of mankind, three friends who live on a New Zealand dairy farm have a fateful encounter with what may be the last living man on earth. This black comedy is the result of Perlina Lau, JJ Fong, Ally Xueand director Roseanne Liang, four asian kiwi women are making progress in diversifying the screen industry in new zealand. The series premiered in 2021, ironically after the COVID-19 pandemic impacted production in 2020.
One of the strengths of the series is how each woman has a distinct, well-written character. Lau’s Pip is optimistic but naïve, and ever so eager to please the leaders of the welfare organization that now rules the country in place of the former government. Jamie de Fong is an excellent exploration of substantial grief and perseverance. And around our trio is Alex de Xue, who is the epitome of chaotic good and an advocate for freedom who is an outspoken critic of the welfare organization. watchmen of Creamery you may notice some familiar faces with Rachel Houseof Thor: Ragnarok and JoJo Rabbit fame, and Jay Ryanthat the public will recognize as adult Ben in IT: Chapter 2, joining the cast. Lau, Fong, Xue and Liang are also the founders of Flat3 productions, the production company behind Creameryincluding the flagship series Apartment3 has three seasons, all available on YouTube and Vimeo. Creamery is currently available to stream on Hulu.
A spin-off of the hugely popular What we do in the shadows, Wellington Paranormal is a fictional television series created by Taika Waititi and Jermaine Clement which follows the Wellington Police and the X-Files-like the cases they encounter. From alien abductions to demonic possession, Sergeant Maaka (Maaka Pohatuseen recently in Netflix’s live-action adaptation of cowboy bebop) and Minogue Officers (Mike Minogue – also known for Waiti’s Wilderpeople Hunt) and O’Leary (Karen O’Leary – returning from his cameo in the original What we do in the shadows)take every bizarre encounter in their stride and do their best to get to the bottom of it – often in unintentionally hilarious ways.
A genuinely funny and serious addition to what could be considered a What we do in the shadows shared universe, Wellington Paranormal Season 4 debuted on HBO Max in February 2022.
A BBC New Zealand miniseries based on the 2013 Man Booker Prize-winning novel by Eleanor Catton, The lights tells the story of a young adventurer, Anna Wetherell, as she migrates to the west coast of New Zealand’s South Island during the gold rush of the 1860s. historical series filled with love, revenge, mystery and intrigue, The lights is perfect for fans of shows like Belgravia or Death and the Nightingales and enjoys a diverse distribution, including Eve Hewson (The Knick) as the protagonist Anna, Eva Green (dreadful penny) as the mysterious fortune teller Lydia Wells, Himesh Patel (Don’t look up) as adventurer Emery Staines, and Marton Csokas (The last duel) as ex-convict Frances Carver. The series is currently available on Starz.
Returning to New Zealand to visit his dying mother, Sydney detective Robin Griffin (played by Mad Menit is Elizabeth Moss) becomes entangled in the investigation of a missing 12-year-old girl, Tui Mitcham (Jacqueline Joe), who disappeared from the small town of Laketop. Co-written and co-directed by Oscar-winning actor, Jeanne Campion (power of the dog), top of the lake is a multi-award winning crime drama based in Queensland, New Zealand. Praised for exploring heavy themes of rape culture and gender dynamics, top of the lake is highly recommended on metacritical and rotten tomatoes.
Joining Elizabeth Moss on the cast list is David Wenham (The Lord of the Rings: Two Towers), Pierre Mullan (Netflix Damn), Thomas Wright (Barks), and holly hunter (Comey’s Rule), without speaking about Gwendoline Christie, David Dencik, Ewen Leslie, Alice Engertand the iconic Nicole Kidman. You can now watch top of the lake on Hulu.
Scandalous fortune (2005-2010)
An older entry on the list but easily the most influential, Outrageous fortune is the Kiwi crime comedy-drama that set the stage for future shows like Shameless thrive. Outrageous fortune follows the life of a career crime family, the Wests. After her husband, Wolf West (played by Grant Bowler), is sent to prison, West family matriarch Cheryl (Robyn Malcolm) decides to put his whole family back on the right track by telling them that from then on, they must respect the law. What ensues is a chaotic series of events as each member of the family tries to forge ahead. Outrageous fortune also stars The boys‘ Antoine Starr as twins Van and Jethro.
After gaining worldwide fame, Outrageous fortune has been adapted both in the UK Honest in 2008 and in the United States as Villains in 2010. With six seasons and over 100 episodes, Outrageous fortune is New Zealand’s longest-running drama series. All seasons of the show are currently available on Amazon free.
Find Me a Maori Bride (2015 – 2017)
As evident from this list, Kiwis have a knack for comedies and this entry is no exception. The second mockumentary on this list, Find me a Maori bride follows the Tama cousins (Cohen Holloway by Taika Waititi BOY) and George (Matariki Whatarau of The Mysteries of Brokenwood) as they reconnect with their Maori roots.
The cousins set off in search of love after their late grandmother gave them an ultimatum to find a Maori bride within six months or risk losing their multi-million dollar inheritance. What follows is a hilarious quest that you definitely must have in your life. Find me a Maori bride, unfortunately, is not available on mainstream streaming services. However, some episodes are available on demand in New Zealand, so if you’re ever in the area, it’s worth checking out.
Ok, we’re cheating a bit here because this entry isn’t a TV show. But we’d be remiss if we didn’t include it because if you haven’t seen it, then yeah, you’re definitely missing something. Once again Taika Waititi (God, this man is busy!) has been involved in yet another Kiwi gem, this time in 2018. The Superior Breakerswritten, directed and performed Madeleine Sami and Jackie Vanbeck (two more What we do in the shadows old students).
Sami and Van Beek play Jen and Mel, two cynical women who run an Auckland-based agency specializing in helping people break up with their partners. This is often done with very unorthodox methods, including fake pregnancies and abductions, producing hilarious results. An official selection at Sydney, SXSW and BFI London Film Festivals, The Superior Breakers received very positive reviews from critics and audiences alike, before premiering on Netflix internationally in 2019.
How Taika Waititi expresses her love for New Zealand in ‘Hunt for the Wilderpeople’
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