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Pop CultureAugust 18, 2016

Throwback Thursday: A brief history of awkward Shortland Street cast photos


With an exciting new cast photo coming out of Ferndale this week, Tara Ward digs through some of the finest offerings from Shortland Street‘s archives. 

Forget the Olympics, ignore the housing crisis, pay no heed to Justin Bieber deleting his Instagram. The big news of the week comes from Ferndale, where the Shortland Street 2016 cast photo was just released. A measly photo, I hear you say? Shame on you. This isn’t just any old picture. It’s an official photo, and it’s good.


The 2016 cast photo is a digitally enhanced masterpiece. No hair is out of place, no smoulder left untouched. It’s a dramatic work of art fit for any gallery, or at the very least a medium-sized billboard next to the motorway. But dig deeper below the sand tussocks and you’ll discover that the Shortland Street cast photos weren’t always such flawless affairs.

After minutes of extensive research, I’ve taken the best of Shortland Street‘s annual class photos and ranked them like an fictional doctor ranks the survival rates for a mystery virus (badly). Come, place your hand on your hip and stare pensively into the distance, as together we take a bumpy trip down the disinfected corridors of Official Cast Photo memory lane.

9) 1995: more cheese than Lionel’s savoury muffins

Does the nurses lipstick match their uniform? Check. Is David Kearney’s hair higher than Chris Warner’s? Affirmative. Is Lionel more excited than the time everyone laughed at his muffin joke? You betcha.

Extra points for Rangi’s back-row death stare. Get the man a muffin, stat.

SS Cast 1995

8) 1999: the Blue Period

Three things we loved at the turn of the century: touching our knees, synthetic fabric, and posing on scaffolding. Nothing says ‘we’re not scared of Y2K’ more than a bunch of actors draped over a piece of construction material.

It’s dark and moody, just like Nick after Waverly cut his hair off. Gone are the uniforms and stethoscopes, replaced with wide collars, spaghetti straps and a hint of midriff. It’s less Shortland Street, more brand ambassadors for Glassons. Ah, ’90s fashion. You were so good to us.

SS Cast 1999

7) 2013: Ferndi goes Scandi

Ferndale 2013 was a blindingly white world with a hint of citrus tang, like a tasty slice of Wendy’s lemon meringue pie. Plonk yourself down on a piece of 4-by-2 and contemplate life’s greater mysteries, like how can I levitate like Bella, and what’s the secret to not spilling tomato sauce down the front of my white top within seconds of putting it on?

Also,  how could one get a life-sized copy of this map of Ferndale? It’s definitely not so I can cut out the actor’s faces from old copies of Woman’s Day to create a virtual Ferndale in my spare room. That would be crazy.

SS Cast 2013

6) 2008: Ferndale goes to the beach

This is what being a Kiwi is all about: burning the sangers, and sitting on a chilly bin while contemplating the meaning of life. Even the clouds are having a fabulous time, all fluffy and perfect. It makes me sick.

In reality, summer is all about Gerald’s vibe: pale skin burned to a crisp and being pissed off that someone else is drinking all the wine.

SS Cast 2008

Click here for the rest of our Shortland Street coverage, including Tara Ward’s weekly character power rankings

5) 1998: things get classy

Like a pesky verruca, the amateur charm of Shortland Street refused to die, no matter how much liquid nitrogen was applied. A sophisticated new logo and swooshy blue graphics was reassuringly offset by Ellen’s comfy red cardy and the dodgy front-row stools, which Rachel probably pinched from the R Bar.

1998 says “take us seriously, we sit on stools” while also saying “what a lark, look at us perching on stools.” This is why Shortland Street has lasted 24 years: there’s something for all of us, sitting or standing.

SS Cast 1998

4) 2011: like sand through the hourglass

What fresh vanilla hell is this? It’s like someone put eggs, butter and sugar into a bowl and mixed it together until 1000 Shortland Street characters appeared, all giving the side eye to nobody in particular.

Why is everyone looking in different directions? Why is Chris holding a takeaway coffee cup? Did the art director hear “get me a flat white” and was struck down with a creative vision of coffee-coloured nirvana? Chris needs a red cardy and a stool, ASAP.

 SS Cast 2011

3) 2002-3: Ferndale goes glam

I’m all for getting sozzled in the workplace, and commend Shortland Street management for their ground-breaking approach to the 2002 shoot. This image was used two years running, probably because they spent their entire promotional budget on Lindauer and tuxedo hire.

2002-3 was an important year, marking the new trend of the cast ignoring the camera. That’s okay, I don’t take it personally. They’re probably looking into the future at 2011’s efforts, so it’s no wonder they need a drink.

2002 also marked the first official Chris Warner duckface. Bloody legend.

SS Cast 2002 & 2003

2) 1992: the halycon days

Things to love about this photo: pretty much everything.

SS Cast Late 1992

This was THE era of Shortland Street. It’s a roll-call of everything that was glorious about early Ferndale, especially my future husband Martin Henderson. Be still, my fourth form heart.

I love Kirsty’s double breasted jacket as much as I love how Michael McKenna’s tie perfectly matches Meredith’s shirt and pants. Hey, 2011: THIS is how you coordinate colours.

1) 1994: everything is awful and Ferndale has never looked better

Welcome to the class photo from hell. It’s void of any style or creativity – it’s not even straight, for crying out loud. The actors are crammed tightly together like sutures over an open wound, faces are obscured, and nearly everyone looks angry. But that’s not the best bit.


SS Cast 1994

It’s magnificent. Everything is wrong, and that’s what makes it so right.

Thank you 1994, and all your crooked, obscured goodness. No photoshopped Piha sunset will ever top this classic moment.

Shortland Street, I bloody love you.

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