Shortland St moments: the 10 greatest
As promised on Tuesday - when I ran moments #20 through #11 - here are the Top 10 moments in our search for the 20 Greatest Moments in Shortland Street History (as voted by On the Box readers), complete with commentary from the cast and crew who brought these memorable events into our living rooms.
10) 1999: Lionel (John Leigh) goes missing, presumed drowned, after mysteriously disappearing on the day of his wedding to Mackenzie (Ingrid Park). Like many others, I'm not convinced Lionel Skeggins even died. "There was talk of bringing back Lionel in a brief cameo appearance for the 2oth Anniversary, just for all the fans who still believe that Lionel didn't die," says producer Steven Zanoski. "I almost wish we had done it."
09) 1999: Waverley (Claire Chitham) cuts off Nick's (Karl Burnett) hair while he sleeps, causing him to call off their impending nuptials. It might have seemed funny at the time, but hair-related stories are no laughing matter. "Haircut storylines are a logistical nightmare for the AD's department so we always roll our eyes a bit when one comes through," says Michele Priest, the HoD Assistant Directors. "It means everything has to be shot in a different sequence in order to get all the scenes before the haircut shot because you can't go back to them once the damage is done. You don't see too many haircut storylines these days - we have put our foot down."
08) 2010: Kieran (Adam Rickitt) plunges off a cliff to his death after a drawn-out struggle against Thai gang members. This scene was the show's first foray into green screen filming techniques. "The best and saddest of days," remembers star Adam Rickitt, "best because it was a chance to be a part of Shorty's biggest ever production to date, and saddest because I knew it was the closing curtain on the journey of Kieran. Either way, the most fun ever and I will always be grateful!"
07) 2000: In the midst of their affair, Donna (Stephanie Tauevihi) and Rangi (Blair Strang) discover they are brother and sister, which causes Rangi to start drinking and Donna to leave town. Fun fact: The wedding of Donna and Rangi - who eventually discovered they were not related - was the big event at the centre of the 2000th episode. "This was one of a multi-cliffhanger end-of-year episode," says executive producer Simon Bennett. "I'm pretty sure it was 1998. I remember the writers' table being split down the middle about this one. 'You can't do that! It makes them into hillfolk,' said one storyliner (Steve Zanoski). Things became more contentious in the following year when after a brief respite, Donna and Rangi resumed relations in full knowledge of their sibling status."
06) 2004: Dominic (Shane Cortese) burns himself to death after attempting to kill Chris as a last-ditch effort to cover up his murder of Avril (Kate Louise Elliott). "I remember these scenes very well," says Cortese. "It was the end of a pretty fun road and my time on Shorty Street. It was a very cold day in the Barn and poor Mike [Michael Galvin] had to be strung up for a section of the scene; still he's a trouper. It was also the very first time I worked with Mark Beesley as director. I have since gone on to spend many productive days with him on Outrageous Fortune and Nothing Trivial."
05) 1993: The very first episode spawns the most famous line in the show's history: "You're not in Guatemala now, Dr Ropata," spoken by Nurse Carrie (Lisa Crittenden) to Dr Hone (Temuera Morrison). "This line was almost removed from the original script because it was so ridiculous," says founding producer Caterina De Nave, "but we left it in at the last minute, and the rest, as they say, is history."
04) 1994: Steve (Andrew Binns) and TP (Elizabeth Skeen) are killed when the car they were travelling in crashes and explodes, following an argument between Steve and Chris (Michael Galvin), as TP's partner Sam (Rene Naufahu) looks on. "When TP's death was first mentioned by the writers, I remember thinking 'Oh okay, her exit is gonna be pretty lame, she might choke on a KFC drumstick or something'," says star Rene Naufahu, "but then when the scripts came out I started fogging up reading it. I mean, TP was just so innocent and beautiful - the writers did amazingly. So then came the challenge of doing justice to the script. God knows I had some hairy moments learning how to act on set, (Shortland Street was my first proper gig) but I look back on those episodes and I think that was where I came of age as an actor. And I'm grateful to the guys around me at that time for that."
Michael Galvin, who was also involved in the scene, recalls that it was a major moment in the early history of the show: "I remember this as being a really big deal for us at the time - the biggest and most exciting stunt we'd done. The storyline was shrouded in secrecy, which led to a paparazzi-style shot of the stunt being shot turning up in the Truth or some such publication, and massive speculation about who died and who lived. There was an unofficial disinformation campaign where we all pretended it was us that were killed off and were leaving the show. I remember it being the first time I'd seen someone blow up a car in real life. They shot the explosion last but we all waited round after we were wrapped to watch it being done. Simple pleasures."
03) 1999: Mackenzie blows up the clinic in an effort to kill Oscar (Christopher Brown) and escape with the money he was embezzling from the hospital. "All I can say about that is that one day I will return to clear MacKenzie's sullied name," says actress Ingrid Park. "I mean, what did she ever do that was so bad? So she got rid of Oscar Henry, big deal. Heck, she was doing the world a favour. That guy was one bad egg."
02) 1995: Carmen (Theresa Healey) is injured and hospitalised after a truck crashes into the hospital; she dies of a brain aneurysm mere moments after declaring her love for Guy (Craig Parker). Producer Steven Zanoski remembers this well: "It was the first time that Shortland Street had a cliffhanger but didn't go off air over Christmas, playing right through (I don't think it was particularly successful ratings-wise, which is why it was never done again). Gavin Strawhan was Head Writer through this period. I started as a junior storyliner just before this and it was the first big cliff discussed and I was sworn to secrecy."
01) 2008: Joey (Johnny Barker) jumps to his death from the roof of a storage building, after Kieran realises he is the Ferndale Strangler, bringing one of the most successful story arcs in the show's history to a close. The storyline made Johnny Barker a household name. "Just now and again the planets align and you get dealt a really good hand. I consider working with the passionate 2007-2008 cast and crew of Shortland Street while playing the character Joey Henderson one of those times," says Barker.
"Not many people know we actually had a stunt go wrong on top of the building," recalls actor Adam Rickett, "and I ended up leaving half my face behind on the Asphalt! Had to spend the next three weeks just shooting the right side of my face - all very Freddie Kruger!"
"Shooting the climax of the Ferndale Strangler story and the eventual demise of Joey was probably the most fun and the most stress I had in my time at Shortland Street," says former director Britta Johnstone. "The other huge thing we did that day was never actually seen on screen in the end. We actually did drop Johnny Barker off the roof! We thought it might be interesting to shoot Joey actually falling so we rigged Johnny and a camera into a descender stunt rig from a crane and 'dropped' him from the height of the roof to just above ground level. Johnny was so brave and the shot was very cool but in the end, the producers decided that the moment was too surreal and opted to cut the scene more traditionally. I feel very lucky to have been involved in such a memorable moment in Shorty's history."
So there you have it, the 20 Greatest Moments in Shortland Street History (as voted by On the Box readers). Thanks for taking part in the search, with your nominations and votes, everybody! And of course: Happy Birthday, Shortland Street.
Any moments that didn't make the cut that you thought should have been here?