Weekend Rewind: Kidult classics

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New local family drama The Cul de Sac premieres tomorrow night on TV2, prompting NZ On Screen’s Nicky Harrop to revisit some of our classic kidult series.
The Fire Raiser. 1986. Photo / NZ on Screen
The Fire Raiser. 1986. Photo / NZ on Screen

New Zealand has a solid tradition of making TV that can appeal to the whole family. Over the years, numerous local series have engaged both children and parents alike, cornering the 'kidult' market before the term was even coined.

We had a particularly strong time for kidult series in the 1980s, with several New Zealand made series selling around the world, especially in the teenage science fiction category.

Based on the acclaimed Maurice Gee novel, Under the Mountain became a cross-family hit in the 80s. Viewers were drawn to the adventures of redheaded twins Rachel and Theo, not to mention the evil Wilberforces and their terrifying habit of transforming into giant slugs.

Watch an episode of Under the Mountain here:

Under the Mountain - The Alien World Below

Also a kidult hit, both on and off-shore, was 90s sci-fi fantasy The Boy from Andromeda. Starring Katrina Hobbs in one of her first on-screen roles, the series was a NZ-Canadian co-production, going on to achieve sales in a number of international markets.

Watch an episode of The Boy from Andromeda here:



Children of the Dog Star centred on astronomy-mad Gretchen and her attempts to unravel the secrets behind a mysterious weathervane. The series was created by Ken Catran, a writer for some of New Zealand's best-loved television series; now also an accomplished teen novelist.

Watch an episode of Children of the Dog Star here:

Children of the Dog Star - Power Stop

Another Ken Catran creation, Night of the Red Hunter followed the adventures of runaways Peter (Toby Laing) and Maggie (Toni Driscoll), including the odd extraterrestrial encounter. Shot at Wellington's Avalon studios, the series was eventually recut as a tele-feature. These days Laing can be found performing as a member of Fat Freddy's Drop.

Watch Night of the Red Hunter here:

Night of the Red Hunter - Telefeature

Children of Fire Mountain headed back to the early 1900s, set in colonial 'thermal wonderland' Wainamu. While convalescing in the town, Sir Charles Pemberton (Terence Cooper) schemes to build a thermal spa on Māori land, eventually being taught a lesson via a group of local youngsters. The series won multiple awards, and screened on the BBC in 1980.

Watch the debut episode of Children of Fire Mountain here:

Children of Fire Mountain - Tom (First Episode)

The Fire-Raiser pitted a quartet of small-town World War I-era school kids against a mysterious fire-friendly figure. Inspired partly by a real-life Nelson arsonist, the show was another Maurice Gee creation, accompanied by an internationally published novel.

Watch an episode of The Fire-Raiser here:

The Fire-Raiser - Kitty Plays the Piano (Episode Three)

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