Weekend Rewind: Radio on the TV

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Following last night’s NZ Radio Awards, NZ On Screen’s Nicky Harrop gets inspired to look back at some classic TV shows about radio - from Billy T in Radio Times, to dramas and comedies about radio stations, to documentaries about pivotal moments in our radio history.
Billy T James in Radio Times. Photo / NZ On Screen
Billy T James in Radio Times. Photo / NZ On Screen

While radio and television networks are now more closely aligned than ever, they don't always translate well across each other's mediums. Despite that, we have had quite a number of TV shows about radio over the years.

Back in 1978, TV soap Radio Waves charted the lives and loves of an Auckland radio station, throwing in some spectacular late 70s fashion and hair along the way. The show was short-lived, but it did help establish one future star, marking the screen debut of Alan Dale - soon to find fame as Jim from Neighbours, before going on to enjoy considerable US success.

Watch Alan Dale and Andy Anderson in an episode of Radio Waves here:

Radio Waves - 16 May 1978

In the early 1990s, we had another go at making a fictional TV show set at a radio station - this time the sitcom Radio Wha Waho, which followed the fortunes of a rural iwi station. The series was ground-breaking in its mixing of Te Reo and English on air. A strong local cast included Hori Ahipene as a delusional DJ, Greg Mayor as a young fireball seeking fame in the city, and Kath Akuhata-Brown as Aunty Doss, the heart and soul of the operation.

See the debut episode of Radio Wha Waho here:

Radio Wha Waho - First Episode

The original launchpad for Billy T James' TV career, 1980's Radio Times was an entertainment series inspired by the variety radio shows of the 30s and 40s. Featuring James as oh-so-British compere Dexter Fitzgibbons, the series included a swinging dance-hall band, vintage foley effects, and regular appearances from The Yandall Sisters.

You can view an episode of Radio Times here:

Radio Times - Series One, Episode Two

1987 documentary programme The Rate Race is a fascinating look at the early days of Newstalk ZB, shortly after its controversial re-launch as a talkback station. Featured is new breakfast host Paul Holmes, freshly recruited from Wellington and feeling the pressure of making the show a hit. A year after this doco was filmed, he had taken the slot from ninth to second place in the all-important ratings.

Watch The Rate Race here:

The Rate Race

Also filmed in 1987, this Radio with Pictures mini-documentary reports on local student radio, finding stations that have outgrown modest beginnings to maintain a strong commitment to both alternative music and homegrown talent. Eagle-eyed viewers may also spot a cameo from Labour leader Andrew Little, seen here in an earlier incarnation as President of the Wellington University Students' Association.

View Radio with Pictures - Student Radio here:

Radio with Pictures - Student Radio

Pirate radio hit Kiwi airwaves nearly 50 years ago on December 4th 1966, with the arrival of Radio Hauraki. Featuring rare archive footage, this 1996 documentary Rock the Boat reunites the original station founders for the first time in 30 years, recalling their battle to bring rock'n'roll to the youth of New Zealand.

Watch Rock the Boat: The Story of Radio Hauraki here:

You can see more great radio stories in NZ On Screen's "Video and the Radio Stars" Spotlight collection, here.

- NZ Herald

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