Nightly magazine show Town and Around covered everything from current affairs to visiting celebrities, slapstick and stunts — including a notorious 1968 item on turkeys in gumboots. After a month-long test run in Wellington in 1965, the show ran for five years from 1966.

NZBC presents Town and Around - WNTV1

previously published in NZ TV Weekly 16 May 1966

Some call if a news background programme, others a news magazine programme. NZBC's head producer Allan Martin defines it simply as a magazine.

Whatever you call it Town and Around has established itself on WNTV1 as one of the liveliest nightly pieces of television.

It varies in quality, sometimes extremely good, occasionally very bad, but mostly easy to watch.

This comes from producer Kevan Moore’s light touch. I believe in dressing up information as entertainingly as possible, he says.

Auckland got its own Town and Around in April, Christchurch started too, Dunedin following.

All are still in a state of experimentation. None has yet settled down to a steady pattern. But Wellington, which had a trial run last year, is now running smoothly.

Few people who watch it can gauge the immense amount of effort, for an outfit with still limited resources, compressed into a 10-minute, sometimes 15 minute programme.

It is a team effort, but the Wellington programme carries Kevan Moore’s own distinctive imprint.

Moore made his name as one of the bright young men of New Zealand television with AKTVZ’s In The Groove.

Later, in Wellington, he was associated with a variety of programmes, some, he wryly recalls, with indifferent success (After Dark, High Summer, Platform, Top the Score, Let's Go).

Last year, he moved across the Tasman to work with Sydney’s Channel 10 on a current affairs programme Telescope, a 15-minute backgrounder on local and international affairs. He also had experience with a teenage show (“all terribly earnest”), a “folk” programme, a quiz show, a programme for motorists.

Not surprisingly, with his background, his name sprang to mind when the NZBC started thinking seriously this year of bringing last year’s experimental Town and Around to life again.

He came back to Wellington on contract to put the 5-nights-a-weck show on the road. He made changes, dropped Ian Johnstone as compcro, chose Peter (Night Sky) Read in his place.

Asked why the change (for Johnstone had handled it pleasantly, if sometimes diffidently, last year) Moore says, with an enigmatic grin, I thought Peter was the most suit able personality for the programme.

Peter Read, a freelance in radio and television these last eight years, finds the immediacy of television both challenging and satisfying.

He works with a note or two, rather than a full script, and achieves a Spontaneity that only those with TV experience know how hard it is to maintain through rehearsals to the final tape.

As reporters he has Mike Minehan, who worked in NZBC News last year as well as on the first Town and Around. For studio reporters, Moore calls on, as needed, Robin Gurnsey (who works in an advertising agency), Peter Gywnne (a freelance actor), Elizabeth Gilbertson and Ian Cochrane (NZBC staffers).

Director of Wellington’s Town and Around is Ian Richards.

This team is achieving outstanding results. Can the other channels do better,

(Footnote: Those of you who have searched your musical memory to track down the Town and Around theme without success, here’s a clue: it comes from a piece of Ted Heath’s mood music called Praise ’em All, [available on Themes for Radio, Film, TV Volume 8].)

Town and Around 1967 - Though More Serious Just As ‘bracing'

J. C. Reid, Auckland.
from New Zealand TV Weekly, 10 April 1967

In 1966 Town and Around established itself as by far the most popular local programme with the region's viewers. After the advent of new producer Bute Hewes, the temporary replacement of Barbara Manner and the holiday-time rumours of wider changes, the public was generally in a "wait-and-see" mood when the 1967 series began. it took only a couple of days to produce the usual crop of newspaper letters from the chronic moaners and those who believe TV exists for their private benefit, alleging that the programme had gone off.

Now that the new series has settled down, it is possible to assess it fairly. Imperceptibly but clearly, its character has changed. The 1966 Town and Around owed some strength and some weakness to its comic gimmicks and its "goonish" interludes. Thus in many viewers' minds, it became a fun." programme, and serious items were endured for the sake of a dustman's ballet or a parody of a silent film. Others felt that these elements too often got out of hand.

The 1967 programme still has its occasional oddity - Colin Hill as Graham Kerr or Blarry Crump in a piece of calculatedly Kiwi comment. But generally speaking the tone is more serious and the interest wider. As it has so far shaped it combines comment on topicalities, and a close look at people and issues, with a delving into interesting aspects of Auckland's character, history and growth. More than its predecessor did, it sets out to reveal Auckland and its people to Auckland Viewers. The direction seems firmer, the gimmicks less obtrusive, the overall character more individual.

If it has lost a little skylarking, it has gained in depth and range. And its interviews have progressed from occasional gaucherie into distinctive TV personalities. Tom Finlayson, the best of the hunch, is articulate, intelligent, often deeply probing, and knows how important home-work is to a good interview. Colin Hill, whom I find somewhat precious, is nevertheless very fine when dealing with Auckland's history and architecture, and Barbara Magner handles open air items with a chirpy confidence. Looking like a benevolent gnome, Keith Bracey blandly ties it all together and can switch from the impish to the solemn without embarrassment.

In its 1967 form, this is a Town and Around with a clearer purpose, which has succeeded in showing how absorbing our own people and places can be made.


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