Iconic children’s series What Now returns live to our screens this Sunday 27 March, beginning what will be its thirtieth year of production - a New Zealand record for a children’s programme.
Yet the 30-year milestone will be tinged with sadness. The first episode, to be screened live at 8am on TV2, will be dedicated to the memory of two young crew members killed in the Christchurch earthquake. Crew members Isaac Thompson and Andrew Bishop both also worked for CTV and died when that building collapsed.
NZ On Air chief executive Jane Wrightson expressed her condolences to the crew members’ families and praised the What Now team for their resilience and fortitude in resuming production in the midst of the devastation.
“The entire Christchurch production community works pretty closely together,” said Ms Wrightson. “The What Now team are dealing with these dreadful events in an incredibly professional manner.”
What Now was to have started its 2011 season some weeks ago, but production was delayed by the Christchurch earthquake. “It’s a testament to the skills of the What Now team that the production has been able to resume so quickly after this catastrophic event,” said Ms Wrightson. “The strength of the Cantabrians involved with What Now is even more impressive when you realise that many of the production team have lost their homes in the quake.”
NZ On Air has invested $2,979,534 into this year’s series of What Now and Ms Wrightson congratulated the production team on the 30 year milestone.
“Thirty years is a record in New Zealand for a children’s programme and we’re really pleased that TV2 continues to support this important production. What Now is essential homegrown television: great fun, but still intent on demonstrating genuine New Zealand identity and values to our children,” she said. “Children are a key audience for NZ On Air.”
First broadcast in 1981 with host Steve Parr, What Now quickly established itself as must-watch television for New Zealand children and teenagers. Over three decades many broadcasters have cut their television teeth on What Now including Jim Hopkins, Danny Watson, Michele A’Court, Simon Barnett, Stacey Daniels, Jason Fa’foi, Tamati Coffey, Shavaughn Ruakere and Antonia Prebble.
The 2011 hosts are Charlie Panapa and Gemma Rose Knight, along with Camilla the Gorilla, Red the Mailbot and the Teachinator. And, of course, gunge will remain a star.
Since 2004 What Now has been produced by the Christchurch-based Whitebait Productions headed by Janine Morrell-Gunn and former What Now host Jason Gunn.
NZ On Air has also announced a further South Island investment in children’s television, allocating $190,000 to Christchurch’s Torrent Films to produce Kiwi Flyer, a children’s drama feature set around the Nelson trolley derby. NZ On Air is a minority investor in this NZ Film Commission-led production.