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Pop CultureMay 25, 2017

Group think: Our fondest Shortland Street memories from the last 25 years


We asked Spinoff writers, contributors and pals to share their very favourite Shortland Street moments from 25 rich years of soapy drama. 

Tara Ward on Lionel and Kirsty’s wedding

Every moment of Lionel and Kirsty’s 1994 Christmas cliffhanger wedding gleams with the magnificent glory of early Shortland Street: Lionel angsting aboard the Toroa, Carmen wearing a designer safari hat, Gina Rossi-Dodds as an undercover American soap star. It was the blessed union of the most iconic couple Shortland Street has ever produced, until Stuart with the Good Hair stood up and spoiled the party.

Kirsty was a bridal vision, resplendent in a pink cloud of tulle and satin; if Stuart hadn’t interrupted the ceremony to profess his love, then I would have. The wedding dress was so spectacular the NZ Woman’s Weekly ran a competition to win it. I entered twice, but didn’t win. Probably just as well, I was still at school, but fair to say I’ve held a grudge against the Weekly ever since.

As the jaws of the nation dropped, atmospheric saxophone music played us out to the ads, and Chris Warner contemplated the meaning of life. “Isn’t life a bowl of nectarines, sometimes?” he mused, and never a truer word was said.

Johnny Barker on playing The Ferndale Strangler

There are two things to talk about. There’s the work and then there’s the public backlash. The work was awesome. I was playing nice guy nurse and then all of a sudden was dealt the hand “you’re not going to be the nice guy nurse anymore, you’re the one killing all these girls. We’re gonna flip your character.”

It was the best and the whole guessing game worked so well that the whole nation got behind it. Everyone was coming up going “Hey, I don’t watch your crappy show but are you the killer? Asking for my girlfriend,” which was a huge compliment to the show and the producers.

But some people, of course, took it very seriously and went a little crazy. They’d let me have it on the street, sometimes at really inappropriate times. In hindsight, it’s all just one big compliment to that storyline and its effectiveness, because people were moved by it in different ways.

As soon as I shave off my beard and go to the supermarket it’s all “Eh killer, getting some bananas?!” I was travelling last year and I got spotted on a boat in Vietnam. We were drinking rice wine and I heard a Kiwi accent. This dude comes over and goes “Oh my god man what are you doing here?” We drank some rice wine and got drunk together in Vietnam. It was great.

Duncan Greive on Adam Rickitt imitating life

The Adam Rickitt era was a trip. He was a legit celeb, a former Coro star tipped for political greatness by David Cameron, showing the same disastrous judgement which would one day lead to Brexit. Rickitt crashed his fictional motorcycle to arrive in Ferndale, and his metaphorical motorcycle to arrive in Auckland in the last gasp of its social scene era. He was skinny, he had that British Ibiza tan, he played an absolute maniac.

And he stole cheese.

Rickitt was the pounding heart of the last truly great Shortland Street era – or the last that I watched compulsively anyway. His character was conniving, wild-eyed, emotionally volatile and without any scruple or limit. He died in an absolute monster of a finale, with explosions and Thai gangsters, and hanging from a cliff. It was a beautiful way to end a remarkable three year run.

But through it all, it was impossible to forget that tawdry incident at Pak n’ Save Henderson, blamed on a death on distant shores. That’s possible, I guess, though most people respond to such stress differently. So despite his extraordinary character’s mad, bad, brilliant run, that’s how I’ll always remember him: A bottle of HP Sauce. A jar of coffee. And a block of cheese.

Jane Yee on holidaying in Ferndale

I jumped up and clapped when Finn and Esther got together. I sat in my living room, on my own, and clapped.

I am so invested in Shortland Street that it elicits physical responses in me. This is my show, and these are my people. I’ve been following life on the Street on and off (mostly on) for the last 25 years and I’ve had friends, family and strangers regularly mock me for this particular life choice.

But you know what? Screw them. Those ridiculous storylines, the clumsy scripting and the wooden acting beaming into my living room every weeknight are like a warm blanket shielding me from the cold hard reality of the world outside my door.

In fact, sometimes fantasy and reality collide. I shit you not, my wireless network is called ‘Fentich’. Shorty fans will recognise that as the name of the dodgy polymer manufacturer that spied on Boyd Rolleston through his very own web camera. A perfectly natural name for my wi-fi, guys.

Ferndale is my escape, and its residents – the doctors, nurses, orderlies, ambos, receptionists, students, bar staff, big pharma, White Tails, cafe owners, corrupt cops, MyLife users, game station players and frequenters of the Penlington and Q’Rd – are my best mates and worst enemies. I shall love that suburb-cum-city till the day I die.

Sam Orchard on disability and phonebook representation

Last year my boss, Philip Patston, asked me to digitise some of his old VHS tapes. Hidden amongst his appearances on Pulp Comedy and 60 Minutes I found a tape of old Shortland Street episodes from June 1999. Those good old days when Shorty was still a private hospital, Oliver Driver ran amok as head nurse, and computer viruses used comic sans:

I hit the 90s motherlode. Look at this set! 90s clutter! Lever arch folders! A motherfucking phone book!!

Philip wheeled his way into a two-week stint playing computer genius Josh Sinclair.

Even though he saved the hospital from the dreaded comic sans virus, he was not exactly welcomed with open arms. The idea that Waverly was dating a man with a disability shocked the street, almost as much as Beanie Brown’s ‘intimidating’ style:

It truly was a radical time. Alas, Josh and Waverly’s romance only lasted a fortnight. Poor Wave was being used by Josh for her connection to the café, and Josh had big plans to take it over so he could import his stolen coffee beans. Luckily, Nick sharpened his investigation skills (he hid under a table) and revealed Josh’s devious plans.

Nick got the girl, and Josh rolled off into the sunset to try and trick more unsuspecting baristas.

Henrietta Harris on Ben and Yvonne <3

Although I watched it last week and the only character I recognised was Chris Warner, a bunch of us used to watch Shorty religiously and talk about each episode at length. Pretty much all I can remember from this time was discussing Ben and Yvonne’s beautiful relationship all day every day with Calum over g-chat while we were at our important office jobs.

Ben would always get hit in the head (that’s how they first met!!!) then, finally, he got hit on the head one too many times and it killed him. 

Please wake up

My Twitter bio is also “Hey Mum… Doug’s a bent cop” which was a cop-nurse line and it made me laugh so much I’m never going to change it. The actor who said it follows me on Twitter but I hope she knows it’s written with nothing but… love.

Sam Brooks on the Lucich sisters

My favourite Shortland Street characters are the Lucich sisters. Do you remember them? Maybe not. Avril, played by Kate Louise Elliot, is mostly remembered for being a silly receptionist who got drowned in a bathtub by Dominic Thompson.

And then we’ve got Bernadette Lucich, the hard-nosed cop WHO IS ALSO PLAYED BY KATE LOUISE ELLIOTT. WHO IS INVESTIGATING THE DEATH OF HER SISTER. Dominic frames her for fraud, or something. It’s mostly my favourite thing for three reasons:

1. They clearly loved Kate Louise Elliot so much that they had to bring her back

2. Shortland Street hadn’t done a story with twins before

3. The characters were both such beautiful hams (silly receptionist/hard-nosed cop)

BONUS MEMORY: Kirsty almost being drowned in the pool was what alerted me to human mortality and of fictional characters in particular – and the precarious careers of actresses in their twenties.

Madeleine Chapman on Tama Hudson’s heartbreak

Tama Hudson was never my favourite character on Shortland Street. He debuted when I was seven and left when I was eleven. And yet I remember his tragic love story with Shannon as if it were yesterday.

Tama was always destined for heartbreak. He was just too soft. The default emotion when watching his storyline was pity. He and Shannon’s baby died; Shannon cheated on him twice, first with Vinnie (!) and then with his cousin (!) Whetu; they had another baby, and then split up and Shannon got sole custody.

Tama was… not a hero. And not very cool. But then my family got a dog in 2004, when Tama was on his way out. And the dog was a boy. While all her kids were at school thinking of great puppy names, my mum named the dog Tama because Tama is the Samoan word for boy.

We all hated the name and protested, but suddenly Tama was officially part of the family. So now, when I think of my dear, annoying, beautiful dog Tama (RIP), I also think fondly of Tama Hudson.

Alex Casey on the perfect shot

There is one shot in Shortland Street history that I will never, ever stop having night terrors about. It was a single POV shot that happened during the climax of the Ferndale Strangler plotline, when evil old Joey was being throttled by an intensely tangerine Kieran. For about two seconds, the camera gazes through Joey’s eyes up at Kieran and the view is just… absolutely crazy.

It looks like he is either about to burst a blood vessel or die of bee stings to the face, or both. Is he smiling? Is he laughing? Is he Denver the guilty dog? Is he Penguin from Batman? Why is one of his eyes looking in a different direction? Even in the shittiest quality imaginable, it’s still one of the funniest and scariest things I’ve ever seen. Five stars.

Calum Henderson on Geoff’s ghost

Evil Dom killed Geoff Greenlaw and left his body in the chiller at the Buzz Bar. Geoff came back as a ghost, briefly haunting Nick and Waverley’s son Lucas. My favourite line of Shortland Street dialogue, one I’ll remember forever, came when Lucas turned to Nick and whispered: “Dad… I saw the cold man.”

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