Comedy sketch show starring Billy T James, with co-star Peter Rowley.

Last Tango in Te Kuiti

Press, 11 July 1983, Page 19

Several changes have been made to this year’s series of “Billy T. James” (TVI, 8 p.m. today). To the regular cast of Billy T., Laurie Dee and Doug Austin, six girls have been added, including a former Miss Universe New Zealand. To the format of sketches and impressions has been added a seven-part serial. The six girls — better known on the show as “Them Fellas" — Kirsten Michael, Claire Glenister, Wendy Painter, Deborah McKinley, Wendy Francis and last year’s Miss Universe New Zealand, Sandy Dexter — open and close the show with a dance number. They also appear in the skits, and four of them play a team of stranded netballers in the serial.

The serial, “Last Tango in Te Kuiti”, is about a social football club — “The Looters” — who decide to travel in an old bus to Te Kuiti to play a match. On the way they pick up the girls, who are hitchhiking to a netball tournament because their car has broken down. For one reason or another, the team members never get to play, and instead are involved in all sorts of episodes along the way. “Nothing serious — just the usual thing — like throwing toilets through hotel walls,” said Billy T. “Last Tango in Te Kuiti” was written by Grant Morris and Phil Gifford. Morris has written several comedies for television including a series for children, “It Is I, Count Homogenised.” Gifford is better known for his radio character, Loosehead Len.

The six-minute segments of the continuing saga were recorded at locations round Auckland using the latest in

TVNZ’s video wizardry — a. portable, $80,000 camera, the Philips LDK 14.

It was purchased by TVNZ primarily for dramas and documentaries, and its use in the “Billy T. James” series on outside locations has been a new experience for production crews. The technique of E.F.P. (electronic field production) has definite advantages over film.

After the director, Gilly Tyler, has set up the camera shots, the producer, Jeff Bennet, monitors them from the outside-broadcast unit as they are recorded. Bennet can tell Tyler immediately by walkie talkie whether the shot was successful. If not, it can be rerecorded immediately, over the same piece of tape if necessary.

Also, it is easier to match the studio and location footage. During location work, many scenes are shot out of order, and the tapes can be quickly checked to match details in an earlier scene.

There are cost advantages too, with savings on film stock and processing costs, plus it is much cheaper to use real locations than to build sets. The serial and six female extras are not all the “Billy T. James” series has to offer, says TVNZ. Each week Billy does an impersonation of a musical celebrity, from Liberace to Pavarotti to Elvis. There is also a weekly country music take-off with original lyrics and tunes, including such gems as “Easy Lay,” “Nightmare at Night” and “Kiwi Cowboys.” There is a weekly television parody with titles like “Sportsdork” and “Slayschool,” and there are favourite routines as well, like Billy’s artist sketch joke.

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Billy T and Me

dvd coverComedian and Billy T James' co-writer and fall guy Peter Rowley presents an audio-visual stage show celebrating his prolific association with the Kiwiana legend. Peter and Billy's collaborative approach to comedy resulted in such iconic sketches as Capt Cook, Jock Cousteau, Turangi Vice and many more.

Follow Peter's journey with Billy T from 1977's "A Week of It" through "McPhail & Gadsby", culminating in the legendary Billy T James Show. Directed by Ian Mune (Came a Hot Friday) and produced by Murray Francis (The World's Fastest Indian), Billy T & Me is a not-to-be-missed glimpse into the comedy of Aotearoa.

The Comic Genius of Billy T James

DVD: Over 60 Minutes of previously unavailable material, sourced from the TVNZ archive. The disc features several well-loved skits from 'The Billy T James Show'; a performance from the Royal Variety Show; Maori Volcanics footage; pictures & commentary about Billy's performance in 'Came a Hot Friday' and much more.

CD: Originally released in 1997, and unavailable for several years, this disc captures highlights from what is regarded as one of Billy's classic shows at Pip's Nightclub (1985) including gags such as "Speaking Japanese"; "Caucasians and Other People"; plus other recorded highlights.

dvd coverDVD :-
1. Early Days
2. Maori Volcanics
3. TV Discovers Billy T.
4. Police Burn-Off
5. Slay School
6. Royal Variety Show
7. Keeping Fit
8. Marae Witness News
9. Indiana James
10. Came a Hot Friday
11. Billy Passes On

CD :-
1. Ethnic Groups
2. Maori Gags
3. Commercials
4. Horses
5. Septic Tanks
6. Dogs
7. Caucasians & Other People
8. Irish & Others
9. Impressions
10. Cars & Trucks
11. The Mad Doctor


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