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Remember Gloss? The characters on Shortland Street sure do.
Remember Gloss? The characters on Shortland Street sure do.

Pop CultureAugust 22, 2020

All that glitters is not Gloss: Shortland Street reunites the stars of NZ’s classic 80s drama

Remember Gloss? The characters on Shortland Street sure do.
Remember Gloss? The characters on Shortland Street sure do.

It’s the television reunion you didn’t know you needed, and a reminder of one of the best New Zealand shows you might never have seen.

Friday night’s episode of Shortland Street saw lovesick doctors Boyd and Zara celebrate their wedding, and it was a nice time. The bride and groom were thrilled and Chris Warner danced like nobody was watching, but that wasn’t what made this episode so memorable. The gilt on the gingerbread, the icing on the cake was the surprise on-screen reunion of three legends of New Zealand television. Hold on to your spiral perm, because 1987 called and it wants its drama back.

Last night the Gloss stars aligned to put Lisa Chappell, Miranda Harcourt and Peter Elliot back on the small screen for the first time since the series ended in 1990. It’s a big deal. Without Gloss, there would be no Shortland Street, and without Shortland Street, we would never have been blessed with last night’s wedding dance routine where Chris Warner revealed that the rhythm had finally got him.

Dang, you did it Shortland Street.

Chappell, Harcourt and Elliot first starred together in Gloss, the gloriously outrageous New Zealand drama about Auckland’s wealthy Redfern family and the cutthroat world of fashion journalism. The show sparkled with acerbic writing from talent like Rosemary McLeod and James Griffin, launched the careers of Temuera Morrison, Danielle Cormack and um, Jim Hickey, and showed us a New Zealand filled with bright lights and bitchy drama that we’d never seen on primetime telly before.

As members of the Redfern dynasty, Chappell, Harcourt and Elliot’s characters were at the epicentre of the melodrama. Gloss was set in the glamorous world of the late 80s, and everything was over the top, from the fashion to the drama to the hair. The show hummed with ambitious, stroppy women who refused to suffer fools, and iconic characters like Maxine Redfern (Illona Rogers) and Magda (Kerry Smith) would swoop into rooms, shoulder pads so wide they needed double doors, champagne in one hand, the crumbling reputations of their rivals in the other.

It’s fitting that after 30 years, these three actors were reunited in a Shortland Street wedding. Gemma (Harcourt) and Alastair’s (Simon Prast) wedding at the end of the first season of Gloss captured everything that was fierce and fabulous about the show, and set the bar high for television weddings to come. It’s arguably the show’s most memorable episode. No, it didn’t have Chris Warner loving himself sick during an impromptu Bollywood performance, but Gloss’s first season finale had just about everything else.

It had a secret Redfern son whose face had been reconstructed by plastic surgeons, and a groom with a magnificent mullet. It had a drunk runaway bride, who fled the church after the ceremony with her loyal boyfriend chasing after her. Mother of the groom Maxine told everyone the bride had “been on the gins”, and vengeful secretary Bridget lurked in the back pew, glowering in an 80s power suit, gun poised in hand. Bridget had scores to settle, and the episode finishes with two shootings, hysterical screaming and the church walls drenched in blood. With a cliffhanger this good, I’d marry it myself.

Last night’s Shortland Street reunion was a far less sticky affair, with Elliot returning as ex-hospital CEO David Kearney, the spicy new love interest of Boyd’s mother Susan (Harcourt). David departed Ferndale for Hawke’s Bay in 1999, but now he’s back making small talk with local MP Michelle (Chappell). It was a happy reunion, but there was one topic nobody dared to mention: where the hell was Ellen Crozier?

It’s not important (it is). The Gloss gang was back together again, and for a fleeting moment, it was 1987 all over again. “It’s like we knew each other in a former life,” David said to Susan, and when Boyd got sarky at his new dad, Michelle said “that takes the GLOSS off things”. Oh, how we laughed. All we needed was Maxine Redfern to burst through the doors and start shouting about cover stories and big hats, and this would have been the best moment of 2020. Until we see all three seasons of Gloss on TVNZ OnDemand, this is all we have: monuments and mirror glass, and Chris Warner shaking what his mother gave him.

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