It it often said that the past is a different country, and looking at the New Zealand television listings for 15 April 1976 is a good reminder of this. It’s also worth noting that many of the programmes featured on Television One and Two in 1976 would still be occupying the schedules when I grew into a constant TV watcher in the first half of the 1980s. Another reminder of the different times is the magazine's denoting of those programmes that were broadcast in colour; many New Zealanders still owned black and white TVs. Both channels feature children’s programming, and the news broadcasts are staggered, with Two’s news kicking off first at 6.30pm and One’s following at 7pm.
The Listener’s cover story of that week reminds us that the mid-1970s was dominated by Prime Minister Rob Muldoon, who came to power in November 1975 thanks in part to the infamous Dancing Cossacks campaign ad. (Wouldn't it be nice if we had actually sorted out superannuation in 1975!) The cover story examines New Zealand's trade prospects and the National government's ambitions for new markets - hence the Asian-themed depiction. New Zealand had already begun to embrace greater trading ties with Asia; witness the full-page Listener ad for the new Mitsubishi Galant 'pony car': 'that superb combination of saloon car comfort and engineering excellence that only the ingenious Japanese can create'.
1976 also saw a new threat to New Zealand's ubiquitous fish & chip shops, in the form of the first McDonald's, which opened in Cobham Court in Porirua on 7 June. Six weeks later at the Montreal Summer Olympics, New Zealand's presence caused a boycott by 26 African nations due to the government's shameful endorsement of an All Blacks tour of apartheid-era South Africa, in defiance of a United Nations-led call for a sporting embargo on the racist regime.
One letter to the Listener in this edition highlights a demand for a new-fangled broadcasting technology. Newton P. King of Wellington writes:
Sir - I have heard FM radio in Australia and found it entirely comparable with the best reproduction from stereo recordings. In no way can AM radio (limited to mono signals and 10kHz bandwidth) compete. It is true that a wide FM coverage of the country is difficult, but the more populous areas could be well served quite easily. The only really valid reason for not providing an FM service is the economic situation.King was out of luck. FM radio didn't launch in New Zealand until Wellington's Radio Active commenced broadcasting in 1982, with full commercial FM licenses first issued in Auckland the following year.
Here's the listings for the evening of Thursday, 15 April 1976:
TELEVISION ONE - 15 April 1976
2.45 Play School - 'Today's story - The Wind That Blew Too Much' by Denis Wrigley'
3.15 Playaway - lively BBC children's entertainment (1971-84, 191 episodes) featuring Brian Cant. Here's a closing song clip with Cant, Toni Arthur and a young Jeremy Irons.
3.40 Jumbleland - Thames Television (1970-71) 'Children's series, mainly amusement but also small educational doses'.
4.05 Bucky & Pepito - Transartist animation series (1958!, 36 episodes), of which this episode, 'The Howlin' Coyote' is the 10th.
4.10 ABC of Animals - Transtel series, this episode on camels. Possibly a German programme?
4.15 Gentle Ben - CBS drama featuring a boy and his 650-pound American black bear (1967-69, 56 episodes)
4.40 Huckleberry Hound - Hanna-Barbera animation (1958-62, 57 episodes)
5.05 Gilligan's Island - UA/CBS sitcom (1964-67, 98 episodes). This episode, 'Goodbye Old Paint', from season 1, is the only programme in tonight's listings that was not broadcast in colour.
5.35 Bonanza - NBC western (1959-73, 430 episodes). 'Hoss takes frightened Laurie Adams [Joan Van Ark, later of 'Dallas' fame] to the Ponderosa to help her escape from her estranged outlaw husband'.
7.00 Coronation Street - Granada soap (1960-present, 8200+ episodes). 'Edith Tatlock waits up for Kenneth. Ena has an interview for the caretaker's job at the new Community Centre'.
7.30 The Dick Emery Show - cross-dressing BBC comedy legend (1963-81, 166 episodes) - 'Ooh you are awful, but I like you! (clip)
8.00 Cannon - CBS crime drama featuring the creaky William Conrad (1971-76, 124 episodes)
9.00 All in the Family - CBS sitcom (1971-79, 208 episodes)
9.30 Tonight - 'Today's events, tomorrow's possibilities'. Current affairs reporting, with a stable of reporters including Sharon Crosbie, Lindsay Perigo and Simon Walker.
10.00 Six Days of Justice - Thames Television courtroom drama (1972-75, 24 episodes). This episode, 'We'll Support You Evermore', was originally broadcast in the UK on 15 May 1973.
11.00 News & Weather
TELEVISION TWO - 15 April 1976
3.00 Rainbow - veteran UK kids' TV (1972-92, 1071 episodes)
3.20 Romper Room - 'Miss Kathy is helped by Mr DoBee and Mr Don'tBee'.
3.50 Noddy - Hanna Barbera animation
4.05 Woolly Hills - TV2 children's viewing. 'Life on a hill country sheep station following the antics of Charlie, Oatmeal, Blue & Robin, not forgetting Screech the Kea and Mouldy the Ram'.
4.35 Lost in Space - CBS sci-fi drama (1965-68, 83 episodes). This episode: 'Revolt of the Androids'.
5.30 The Flintstones - Hanna Barbera animation (1960-66, 166 episodes)
6.00 News at Six - read by Jennie Goodwin.
6.30 Shang-A-Lang - Tartan telly nightmare with the Bay City Rollers (1975, 20 episodes)
6.55 Sykes - BBC sitcom featuring Eric Sykes & Hattie Jacques (1972-79, 68 episodes)
7.30 Opportunity Knocks - 'This is an opportunity to let the rest of New Zealand see and hear the person or group you'd like to nominate as the talent most likely to succeed - anyone you know who can sing, dance or play an instrument'. Sounds a bit desperate!
8.00 Movie: Before Winter Comes (1969) - British post-war drama set in an Austrian refugee camp, featuring David Niven and Topol.
10.00 News at Ten
10.30 Rat Patrol - ABC desert-based wartime drama (1966-68, 58 episodes)
11.00 World Soccer - TV2 coverage with Murray Allison
TV: Flashback 1981, 1986, 1991
TV: Bay City Rollers - Shang-a-Lang (from TV series of the same name)
TV: Out-takes from 'Sykes'