Cracker by Damian Christie


History Repeating

I know it's been about six weeks since I last wrote anything. I'm not apologising, astute readers (or at least those of you who read the last thing I wrote, and let's face it, you've had a month-and-a-half to do so) will probably realise that I've been a bit preoccupied with mortgage-financing, trust-establishing, inspecting, packing, moving, cleaning, inspecting, unpacking, arranging and rearranging to find the time for blogging. And that's just on the house front; there's been an overseas trip to plan and numerous other projects on top of the day job(s).

I've also been reading a lot – it's been nice to simply consume words for a change.

One project, which I've been working on for a few months, quietly launches today: This Week in TV History.

For as long as I've worked at TVNZ I've loved having access to the Television Archive. As I've had to explain to a number of people in the past, no, it's not all digitised in an easily accessible form where I can simply punch up any story from the past fifty years onto my desktop. Maybe one day, although I see the company's GM Technology says it's still up in the air:

We are still discussing to what extent we digitise our back archive. As a commercial organisation, we have to determine whether there is value in completely digitising the archive.

So for me to view an old item at the moment, I have to search the database, which gives me a text-based summary of the item, when it was broadcast, who the reporter, producer etc were, and most of the time what shots are in the story, sometimes even a summary of what is said. I then call the incredibly helpful staff of the archives in Avalon, they locate the item in the library, dub a copy either off video tape or in some cases a transfer from the original film negative, and send it in the mail to me, within a few days. It's not immediate, it can often be difficult to sort the wheat from the chaff, but I still feel incredibly privileged to be able to view it at all.

And that's why I came up with the This Week in TV History project. Often the only archive material we get to see on TV has been edited down to a few seconds, and voiced over by the presenter or journalist to illustrate a point in a contemporary story. Programmes like The Way We Were and The Unauthorised History of NZ are great, but the footage is again usually presented in a montage, and in the case of the latter show, intentionally difficult to distinguish historical fact from fiction. I wanted to be able to show the best bits of classic television, in relatively big chunks, largely unmolested..

Anyway, go and check it out, the first week includes a great Dylan Taite item from 1987 about the phenomenon of people putting water-filled 1.5l soft drink bottles on their lawns to stop dogs from defiling them; Labour's 1972 campaign ad for Big Norm Kirk, and the day Thingee's eye fell out featuring some great improv from Jason Gunn. We're starting with a month's trial, and I guess if there's enough interest, we'll keep going from there. Who knows, it might even reach the big screen in some form one day, but I'm just happy to be able to have an excuse to keep digging through the best bits of the last fifty years of TV.

[EDIT: Broken links are fixed (D'oh) and also I forgot to add that if anyone has suggestions/requests for clips they want to see, by all means, send me feedback or discuss in the system below...thanks!)

When you fly every week, you start to notice the little things. On the "ingredients" section of the little bags of lollies Air New Zealand gives out: "Contents: Jelly-Shaped People". Okay, I thought, maybe for some people the idea of eating babies in any form is sufficient reason to drop the name "Jellybabies", but surely they should be "People-Shaped Jellies"?

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