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Image: Tina Tiller
Image: Tina Tiller

Pop CultureDecember 21, 2021

Here are the 12 most memorable Aotearoa TV moments of 2021

Image: Tina Tiller
Image: Tina Tiller

Suffering from Covid brain? Same. Here’s a reminder of the best things that happened on local television screens across the year, both before and after delta arrived.

David Correos goes ham

David Correos
David Correos loses himself in the music, the moment.

Comedian David Correos had already turned the second season of Taskmaster NZ into unmissable lockdown telly, greeting each task with a wide-eyed enthusiasm not seen on the local adaptation of the UK panel show. Then he was asked to battle rap. That performance, a violent frenzy delivered at 110%, has to go down as the local telly moment of the year (read our full breakdown here). It’s certainly my happy place: watching Correos’s crazed raps on loop never fails to bring a smile to my face. Chris Schulz


Out of all of these moments, the one that feels like the true triumph against adversity (and coolness) was the Vaxathon. The entire thing came together in just over a week, and through the targeted, specific nature of the event, it had a real impact on vaccination rates in the places that needed it most. The team of five million is a phrase that needs a holiday as much as the rest of us, but on that day you really started to see it in action as everybody from Bloomy to Paddy got in on the action. You can read about how it came together right here. Sam Brooks

Carla returns to Shortland Street

Carla Crozier was Ferndale’s first murderer, and in February, the iconic villain returned to Shortland Street after a 25-year absence. Carla was remembered as the nurse who killed her husband with a candlestick and faked a pregnancy, but by 2021, Carla claimed to have left the drama behind. Who was she kidding? That iconic voice, that evil side eye; the old Carla was never far away, and as she attempted to right the wrongs done to her all those years ago, it was 1996 levels of chaos once again. Tara Ward

Rock the Dock

Think of the America’s Cup and you should think of only one thing: Sir Rod Stewart, New Zealand rock icon and silver-voiced wizard, sitting on a barge on the River Thames while singing his 1975 banger ‘Sailing’. A hemisphere away, we watched Rod croon his way into our hearts as he inspired at least four or five yachting fans in Auckland’s Viaduct Harbour to sing along with him. Bizarre? Yes, but who cares. The dock was rocked, we won the Cup, the rest is history. TW

Ruby Tui gives the sports interview to end all sports interviews

Ruby Tui and Michaela Blyde being interviewed by Rikki Swannell for Sky Sport at the Tokyo Olympic Games.

Smiling, giggling, dropping gags, asking her own questions (“Have you ever been pukana’d before?”), this was a post-match sports interview unlike any other. Across three joyous minutes, at an Olympics otherwise blighted by scandal, Black Fern Ruby Tui and her teammate Michaela Blyde delivered the kind of delirious banter sadly absent from these kinds of things. All Blacks, take notes: this may not help you win on the field, but it instantly wins over the fans. CS

What Now gets locked down

Normally, What Now is all action: a rammed studio full of presenters, guests, extras, crew and craziness, while others are out into the field, meeting people on the street, all beaming into New Zealand lounges live. When lockdown hit in August, What Now wanted to keep that energy up. To do it required a network of staff working from home: one balanced a newborn on his knee to keep the sound linked, another set an office up in his car so he wouldn’t get interrupted. It worked: kids got their show, cast and crew got their work done, and Kiwi DIY was once again showcased at its best. CS

Laura Tupou fends for herself

Laura Tupou
Just six weeks into her new job, Laura Tupou was forced to front The Project on her own.

Just days after joining The Project as maternity cover for Kanoa Lloyd, Laura Tupou found herself alone at a desk that normally has multiple hosts sitting either side of her. On August 20, with Jesse Mulligan already isolating at home after a Covid scare, co-host Jeremy Corbett had to flee the studio for the same reason just moments before airtime, leaving Lloyd to front the show alone. “I thought, ‘Ha ha – great joke guys. Come back now,’” Tupou told The Spinoff about a night of live TV she’ll never forget. CS

Kita Mean wins Drag Race Down Under

Look, I’ll be the first one to say that Drag Race Down Under wasn’t the best season of Drag Race, although I think it’ll look much better without being underneath the harsh spotlight of the fandom. The one shining bright light, apart from Anita Wigl’it’s performance as QEII in the Snatch Game, was the crown going to Auckland queen Kita Mean. Mean wasn’t just the only finalist who hadn’t been embroiled in controversy (blackface, golliwog tattoos, an inexplicable return to the competition), she was a beacon of joy and professionalism throughout. To Caluzzi and beyond, I say. SB

Breakfast’s weather report meltdowns

When lockdown hit in August and the Breakfast team was split into two, John Campbell, Melissa Stokes and Indira Stewart came face to face with their biggest demon: the weather update. Without trusty weatherman Matty McLean, the trio had to navigate their way through the most important part of every news bulletin, and did it with the energy of a thousand suns. They sang, they rapped, they made it up as they went along. It was an absolute shambles, but it was exactly what we needed. They were the sunshine amid the torrential downpours of bad news, the ray of light in a cloudy time. In a team of five million, Breakfast did their part. TW

The Creamerie finale

(Spoilers for the Creamerie finale ahead.) I haven’t seen a moment in New Zealand drama create as much conversation, and so much genuinely intelligent discussion, as that moment from Creamerie’s finale, where our three protagonists happen onto the basement and see one of the most disturbing, chilling things I’ve ever seen on New Zealand television. It was as much as a pay-off as it was a set-up. It paid off the stupendous, allegoric world-building that Flat3 Productions had unfurled over eight fleet, funny episodes, and it set up a (please let it be confirmed soon!) second season that promises to be braver, bolder and hopefully start even more conversations than the first. SB

Food in a Minute turns 25 

The iconic series of ads featuring Allyson Gofton as everyone’s favourite home cook turned 25 this year, and if you didn’t make a potato pom pom pie to celebrate, are you even a New Zealander? From the mid-90s, FIAM regularly sent the nation into a food frenzy with its array of recipes created to inspire even the most reluctant cook, with the joyful Gofton always cheering us on. FIAM changed the way we cooked and shaped the way we ate, and 25 years later, that pom pom pie is as tasty as ever. TW

John Campbell catches a train on Breakfast 

He’s taking this train all the way to Auckland. (Screengrab: TVNZ)

Happiness was John Campbell riding a train live on Breakfast in April, as he enjoyed the inaugural trip of new commuter train Te Huia from Hamilton to Auckland. John beamed with joy, he shouted with anticipation. Goats! Paddocks! Rural New Zealand! John was one with the train, and the train was one with him. What a ride. TW

Honourable mentions: Chris Parker winning Celebrity Treasure Island; Randall emerging in his underwear on The Masked Singer; Ryan Bridge’s constant clashes with Jacinda Ardern; Duncan Garner’s abrupt resignation; the 1pm updates; the Breakfast team’s TikTok dances; Popstars contestants writing letters to their younger selves; Shortland Street’s Covid kiss; America freaking out about Wellington Paranormal; Matthew Ridge returns; Simon Dallow’s America’s Cup broadcast; Kava Corner; Tim and Arty break records on The Block; Mike Pero’s finger on The Apprentice; TVNZ’s graphics during the Olympics; Tova O’Brien’s yellow coat.

An earlier version of this article said a second series of Creamerie had been confirmed. It hasn’t, but we really hope it will be.

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