It’s been half a cen­tury since first TV Christ­mas

Kapi-Mana News - - NEWS - By CHRISTO­PHER MOOR

Fifty years ago Welling­to­ni­ans sang along at a party, rode out west to the gold rush, joined a sa­fari to cap­ture wild gi­raffes and met the world’s great­est liar while they cel­e­brated their first Christ­mas night with tele­vi­sion.

Less than six months af­ter tele­vi­sion came to Welling­ton, in July 1961, most homes did not yet have a set and the in­vi­ta­tion to watch the black and white pro­grammes on Mon­day, De­cem­ber 25, was def­i­nitely one for keep­ing up so­cial ap­pear­ances.

What may have been the high­light was Queen El­iz­a­beth II de­liv­er­ing her Christ­mas mes­sage, with its theme of fight­ing prej­u­dice by ex­am­ple.

With tele­vi­sion pro­grammes not yet net­worked, Welling­ton’s Chan­nel One was the first to screen the queen’s speech that night.

There are two con­stants in half a cen­tury of Christ­mas view­ing: the night-time news bul­letin and lit­tle peak-hour con­tent of New Zealand ori­gin.

The Queen did not record a tele­vised mes­sage in 1969 be­cause she de­cided the in­vesti­ture of Prince Charles as Prince of Wales and the Royal Fam­ily doc­u­men­tary had given her enough TV ex­po­sure for the year.

The tra­di­tion of watch­ing her mes­sage on Christ­mas night re­sumed in 1970 and has con­tin­ued un­in­ter­rupted ever since.


orig­i­nal Christ­mas trans­mis­sion be­gan at 6.30pm, when Ar­mand and Michaela De­nis took view­ers On Sa­fari, in an episode called ‘‘ Cap­tur­ing Gi­raffe’’.

Dur­ing the 1950s, the hus­band and wife ex­plor­ers had be­come pop­u­lar on Bri­tish tele­vi­sion, pi­o­neer­ing the film­ing of an­i­mals in their nat­u­ral habi­tat.

Episode one of the Amer­i­can sit­com Fib­ber Mcgee and Molly fol­lowed the weather and news.

Molly’s fa­mil­iar cry of ‘‘Tain’t funny, Mcgee!’’ was how Amer­i­can au­di­ences had per­ceived the mis­ad­ven­tures of the world’s great­est liar and his al­ways truth­ful wife.

The fa­mous ra­dio show failed to click when trans­ferred to tele­vi­sion, and had lasted for only 13 episodes be­tween 1959 and 1960.

An­other se­ries pre­miere was Pro­ba­tion Of­fi­cer, one of Bri­tain’s top- rat­ing pro­grammes be­tween 1960 and 1962.

The drama fo­cused on the prob­lems fac­ing pro­ba­tion of­fi­cers work­ing within the courts. John Paul, David Davies and Honor Black­man starred.

Party Time, a half- hour mu­si­cal va­ri­ety show, was the first pro­gramme of the night fea­tur­ing lo­cal tal­ent.

The pop­u­lar Welling­ton sax­o­phon­ist Tony Noorts in­tro­duced the show and its guests.

It was out west af­ter the mu­sic with Richard Coogan as Mar­shall Matt Wayne in The Cal­i­for­ni­ans, a se­ries set in San Fran­cisco dur­ing the gold rush of the 1850s.

The episode screened was ‘‘ The Duel’’, in which vig­i­lantes set out to prove that a sur­vivor of sev­eral du­els was re­ally a cal­cu­lat­ing killer.

Amer­i­can au­di­ences had seen the pro­gramme in Fe­bru­ary 1958.

Look­ing back on our first Christ­mas with tele­vi­sion, there now seems lit­tle to re­mem­ber the pro­grammes for, other than be­ing among the com­par­a­tively small au­di­ence that watched them.

Ex­plor­ing Africa: Michaela and Ar­mand De­nis took view­ers On Sa­fari.

Out west: Richard Coogan starred as Mar­shall Matt Wayne in The Cal­i­for­ni­ans.

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