Country Calendar still hits the mark

Country Calendar must be one of the few New Zealand media institutions that truly count as ‘iconic’. The weekly programme, which casts light on NZ farming, hasn’t looked back since its launch in 1966 and the current theme tune must be one of the most readily identifiable sounds for any Kiwi.

This clip gives a glimpse of what the programme used to look, and sound, like.

It’s gone on to become one of the longest-running TV programmes anywhere in the world and still ranks in the top 10 for viewing figures each week, according to the TVNZ website, with those viewers being both urban and rural and numbering in the hundreds of thousands.

That’s no mean feat. Someone somewhere must be doing something right.

In a talk at Wintec’s Media Bites function in 2008, Frank Torley, then executive producer of Country Calendar, offered the following about the show’s success:

“I don’t know… I’d like to believe that the New Zealand public recognises quality.

“The beginning of that process is research. If anybody says ‘Why is Country Calendar successful?’ — research, research, research. Keep doing it, find the story. What is the story, what are the people like, what else can we do?

“Having diagnosed, if you like, this is a good story, then we are the spoilt brats I suppose in so far as they do give us the budget to enable us to put the time and effort into making the programme.

“From the time of ‘here’s a story idea’ to ‘let’s go and shoot it’, may take a period of two or three weeks while we really look at it and make sure it all works.

“We then don’t leave it to chance, we do have it mapped out. We write up those research notes so the producer can get a decent handle on the story and not just airy fairy ‘oh, yeah, I reckon it’ll work’. It’s got to work, and it’s got to be seen to work.

“And then comes a treatment so that you’ve got an outline. Planning, if you like. PPPPP as our production manager calls it. Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance.

“And then we are given the opportunity to spend the time and …we get the wonderful co-operation of getting top cameramen and sound recordists.”