Paul Casserly 's Opinion

Paul Casserly watched too much TV as a child.

Paul Casserly: The most legendary NZ TV moments

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NZ On Screen have pulled together some of the best moments of television - this time with the help of the public. With the results tallied, Paul Casserly uncovers just what makes good telly.

Photos / NZ On Screen
Photos / NZ On Screen

New Zealanders have a huge appetite for TV nostalgia. Over the past couple of years, NZ On Screen has compiled collections of the moments within shows that have become so famous (or infamous) they have passed into legend. The titles reveal something about the low-key and deadpan style of NZ humour: whether it be the spoofs, the bloopers or the classic fights - there's something uniquely New Zealand about the content.

And now NZ On Screen has produced the latest - and the last - of these collections: The Most Legendary NZ TV Moments, as selected by visitor numbers.

"You know, the 'blow on the pie' thing." Billy said to his godfather, Bob, an irascible old coot who made a killing as a property investor. "Bugger blowing on a bloody pie, what about the time I punched out Rod Vaughan?" Well Bob Jones, you are, as Jason Gunn might have once said, "on the list."

It's hard to go past the Bob vs Rob or the 'Tumble in Taupo' as it's not known. It certainly ticks that TV box marked, "If it bleeds it leads." Although it has been hammered down this venerable list to number four - surely a split decision.

History has been kind to both the violent offender and the victim. Jones surely tapped into something primal, something utterly Kiwi. He did something bad, but it was so righteous. It could be summed up as "don't interrupt my fishing with a helicopter you news dick." Rod for his part wore the beating with pride, knowing that he had a story that would lead the news as he mugged with blood dripping from his face. Both men executed their respective duties perfectly.

I reckon that I can still remember that Sunday night sitting in the lounge watching the Philips K9 as Bob stormed out of the bracken like a yeti. But memory is a funny thing. I've seen the clip so many times now, that, like Thingee's Eye Pop (which wasn't broadcast live), it's also possible that I created that memory or possibly blended it with one that had me sitting uncomfortably on the couch in Onehunga as the late great Angela D'Audney bared her chest so proudly, on the TV play The Venus Touch.


Angela D'Audney in The Venus Touch. Photo / NZ Herald Archive

Thank god that Angela was prepared to show "her norks" - as the parlance of the day would have it - because the rest of The Venus Touch wasn't at all revealing. That showing a part of the human anatomy had the power to upset the nation is sad and charming at the same time. But to do it back then, that took real backbone. In my book Angela is deserving of a liberty sized statue ... or at least a specially painted Air New Zealand plane.

Was I there when Dr Ropata was told that he was not in South America - where presumably medical care is dished out willy-nilly? I couldn't tell you. But how many times have I heard those immortal words, "You're not in Guatemala now, Dr Ropata"? I would guess about 107.

Famous as the phrase is, can you tell me who said it? The first name that comes to mind is Tem Morrison, but it was of course said to him by that nurse ... you know the one, quite bossy, a little shrill? Would make a good prison guard, you know, whatshername? As ever, it's the doctors who get all the glory.

The words came from the character Carrie Burton, who was played by Australian actor Lisa Crittenden. Oh god. An Australian uttered our most famous television quote! That's more grist for the mill operated by those feeble-minded goobers who groan on about the provenance of Crowded House, pavlovas or Phar bloody Lap.


Temuera Morrison as Dr Hone Ropata on Shortland Street. Photo / NZ Herald Archive

It's probably lucky for Lisa that she lives in Melbourne, if she was here she would run a never-ending gauntlet of half-p*ssed kiwis asking her to say the fabled words. "Come on love, (burp) I'll start you off, "You're not in ..."

But what if it was David Tua, not Bob Jones, who laid into Rod Vaughan?

Or what if it was the be-slippered Chloe of Wainuiomata who sat down to interview the irritable left-wing icon John Pilger, rather than Kim Hill?

Rod would probably not have survived the encounter on the Turangi river's edge if Tua had been throwing his left hook, but if he had, he would have been reduced to a shell of a man, someone barely able to dribble on a pie let alone blow on it. He would not know if he was in Guatemala or if 'O' was indeed the first letter of the word 'Awesome'.


David Tua on a celebrity episode of Wheel of Fortune. Photo / NZ On Screen

Chloe v Pilger on the other hand would probably have gone better than that infamous encounter between the famous journalist and Kim Hill. How could it have gone any worse? It was a testy affair between the pair, with Pilger playing the know-it-all defender of the truth, while Hill was in no mood to be patronised and seemed to be running on a fuel consisting of zero patience.

A perfect storm of 'ego' and 'maniacal' was on display and by the time Kim threw Pilger's book at him - sadly he was on a plasma screen not in the studio - a great moment had been forged. His strange plea of "just read" belongs on another list: 'The most bizarre thing ever muttered on NZ TV.' Of all our interviewers who have risen to prominence it's unlikely that anyone is less in need of that particular advice than Kim Hill. If she needs to read more, then what advice would Pilger have dished out to other on-screen interrogators? What could he have said to the non-National Radio tutored rabble of local broadcasters? "Learn the frigging alphabet"?

As for Shrek and Thingee, their inclusion says a lot about our national character. Why do we enjoy watching the butchery of a normal sheep impersonating a celebrity sheep and an ugly puppet losing an eye?

When in doubt, blame Muldoon. I'm sure I saw his eye pop out once too, during the 84 elections, I think he was wearing Chloe's slippers, eating a pie ...

#1 Always blow on the pie


#6 Chloe on Heartland


#10 Shortland Street - You're not in Guatemala now


- nzherald.co.nz

Paul Casserly

Paul Casserly watched too much TV as a child.

It began with Dr Who, in black and white, when it was actually scary. The addiction took hold with Chips, in colour. He made his mum knit a Starsky and Hutch cardigan. Later, Twin Peaks would blow what was left of his mind. He’s been working in radio and TV since the 1990s and has an award in his pool room for Eating Media Lunch.

Read more by Paul Casserly

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