30 minute documentary series. Synonymous with producer Conon Fraser, it was a staple of Sunday night 60s TV.

Man behind the 'look'

From the New Zealand TV Weekly, August 14, 1967

Once we knew it as Pictorial Magazine. but now as the name has changed (to Looking at New Zealand) so has the style - and sophistication - of this Sunday night mirror on people. places and events in this country. A man who can take most of the credit for the change in format and for some first-class techniques that lift this 15- minute offering above the level of a mere- factual documentary is an English-born ex-soldier, Conon Fraser.

Born in Cambridge, England, thirty-seven years ago, Conon was educated at Marlborough, and later attended the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst. A military career seemed almost a certainty, but after serving five years with the British Army as a gunner subaltern, he resigned his commission to devote more time to writing.

Life as a civilian seemed to hold infinite promise for his writing talents. During this time in England he wrote and had published his second book- a boys' adventure story, The Green Dragon.

About this time, he married the BOAC stewardess he had met in Paris during his Service career three years before. On their honeymoon, Conon and wife, Jackie, went caving in the Mendip Hills of Somerset . . . and caving, was to form the back- ground for Dead Man's Cave, The Underground Explorers, and The Underground River.

However, life for a young married man was precarious, almost impossible on the proceeds of his writings alone, so necessity forced the acquisition of another skill-gardening. And in this way--by dividing his time between writing and a new-found occupation- Conon and his wife managed to steadily improve their lot for the next eight years; first in Sussex, then in Morrinsville in the Waikato. These, though, were not wasted years. During this time, Conon wrote twelve books of adventure, and most of them he either based on his own experiences, or wove them around places he had visited.

By 1964, he had written With Captain Cook in New Zealand, a few general stories, and an increasing number of travel talks, humorous pieces, and a documentary play for the NZBC. He joined the corporation in 1964, and for two years wrote and fronted the children's programme, The World Around Us, before becoming producer of Pictorial Magazine. This programme became Looking At New Zealand at the beginning of this year, and in May was lengthened to a quarter of an hour. Conon and Jackie Fraser now have five sons, who share their enthusiasm for anything to do with the outdoors. They live in a pleasant old house in Kelburn, which they have redesigned and are now busy painting inside and out.

That Conon Fraser's efforts are producing a weekly programme with viewer appeal is evidenced by the fact that Looking at New Zealand figures in the NZBC-TV "Top Ten," The series has "matured" at Conon Fraser's hands, has been able to elevate its format from that of a protracted newsreel coverage of an event, to one where the viewer realises that he is watching a carefully planned, well-balanced production.

Looking at New Zealand is on your screen each Sunday night at 7.45 (approx.).


If the Sunday night TV entertainment piece, Looking at New Zealand achieves little else in its weekly quarter-hour on our screens, it must at least be regarded as one of the few pure Television productions to have originated within the NZBC. So many documentaries and general interest pieces fall short of their intended objectives by reason of the fact that they slump into a lifeless state where pointless film footage is screened merely to carry an expanded commentary. This is putting the medium into reverse gear—the story should be told in the pictures, the commentary only supplementing the pictorial side of the exercise.

It was in this particular sphere that producer Conon Fraser put his Looking at New Zealand cameras to work with such telling results. Rarely has the spoken word been allowed to take charge of his pictorial essays; indeed, most of his programmes could have conveyed their message satisfactorily with only the introductory titling, and little else needed for support.

Television’s loss of this talented pictorial craftsman will soon he the National Film Unit’s gain, but Looking at New Zealand has already established itself, under his guidance, as a competently dressed shop window of the small screen film-maker’s art. The standards set must not only be maintained, but could well be studied and imitated by those assembling other similar offerings.

TELEDITORIAL: Sight, Not Sound
NZ TV Weekly, December 16, 1968.

Tie-in book

Looking at New Zealand
by Conon Fraser
First Edition 1969
240 Pages
Black and White photographs throughout

Topics in this book range from Maui’s Great Catch to the development of the steel industry and the search for oil. The author describes the nerve-racking rail ride on the famed Dennison incline, the harshness of the work of the mutton birders on the Foveaux Strait islands and the modern ‘Children of the Mist’ - the Tuhoe people of the Urewera Country, the roistering past of the Bay of Islands.  

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