So what next for our longest running soap? FIONA RAE asks producer Harriet Crampton.

From "You're not in Guatemala now, Dr Ropata", to Adam's declaration of love last week for the girl from Taranaki, Shortland Street has been about us, says producer Harriet Crampton.

"It reflects and in some cases exaggerates the society we live in. And I think that New Zealanders have really appreciated seeing their society on screen."

In addition to attractive characters and witty dialogue, Crampton also credits the occasional spookily psychic storyline as another element in the soap's success.


"There used to be this thing of the Shortland Street curse," says Crampton, "where it only had to happen on Shortland Street before it happened in the newspapers, and perhaps that aspect of prescience has been attractive."

"It's almost like one doesn't want to cover mass murder and suicides, just in case!"

Crampton is a relative newcomer, having taken over the producer's role last May after training under veteran Simon Bennett. His advice? "To focus on story and make sure the characters are true to themselves," she says.

Crampton can't discuss future directions for Shortie, but she can say it won't be changing substantially.

"I think we certainly want to keep the same mixture of medical and humour and romance and occasionally fantastical action, and those sorts of things." She says what does really work are families and romance.

"The viewers love families and the interaction within families and the combination on air at the moment of our new and more established families is working really well."

Stories can also be driven by actors' abilities. Once an actor has been on the show for a while, the writers know more about their capabilities.

"People like Annie Whittle and Angela Bloomfield are obvious examples. A character like Rachel - who we know so well - you take into the areas that you wouldn't discuss with characters that you don't know so well.

"Take Rachel's relationship with her mother. We could only do that with a character who's been on the show for so long that we know she has issues in her past."

The big dramatic stories and action are winners too, but Crampton says there was huge feedback for Adam's declaration of love for Waverly.

"People love those sorts of unexpected moments that come out of nowhere.

"Of course, we can't write to the ratings because by the time it's rated, it's happened."

The first 10 years - the final toll

In Shortland Street's ten years on screen since May 25, 1992, it has experienced eight births, 15 marriages, 18 deaths, nine heads of the hospital, two earthquakes and one character struck by lightning.

The production has made 2500 episodes across 500 weeks and 7200 commercial breaks, using 166,400 cottonbuds in make-up, 73,500 reams of paper and has worn out eight hairdryers.