Doug Coutts’ TV Preview: Decades in Colour


Prime, 8.30 Sunday


By Doug Coutts

On the surface it’s a great idea – plunder (in a polite way) home movie collections around the country, tweak the brightness and contrast and then string them together in rough date order with some sort of linking narrative.

In practice, it works. Episode 1 looks at the fifties, starting with the biggest event of that decade, the end of World War II. We’ll let them get away with that though, because much of what follows is linked to the war – the rationing, the returned servicemen (no women apparently) and the rebuilding.

A lot of the soldiers who came back from shooting everything that moved swapped their rifles for movie cameras and carried on with the shooting, and we should be very grateful – the depth, breadth and quality of the footage uncovered by the researchers is remarkable. 

Everyday New Zealand in the fifties – where you made your own fun, or your own farm, and built your own house (although the work had to be signed off by a builder, how things have changed) – had a lot going for it. Who knew, for example, you could pod peas in a washing machine ringer? (Hint: set the gap a bit wider than for shirts and undies.)

There were lots of parades as well – blossom parades, Christmas parades, Royal visit parades – and you didn’t have to lock your doors. On the down side there was racism, polio and the Cold War – and ladies dressing in hats and gloves to go down to the shops. And there are some moving moments, as the people in the home movies talk about what was going on for them at them time.  

Decades in Colour is not quite “the story of New Zealand from the inside out” that Judy Bailey promises in the opening – instead it’s a nice little trip down Memory Lane. Sometimes that’s all you need in a nostalgia hit. 

Doug Coutts has had a career in and around television for close to 40 years. He spent 13 years as a floor manager at Avalon Studios before going freelance and never earning as much again. His writing has spanned TV genres — from Shortland Street dialoguery and quiz shows to documentaries and comedy — while a lengthy stint as TV reviewer in the Auckland Star earned him two mentions in Metro magazine’s Hot List and an angry letter from Jon Gadsby. You can read more of Doug (the satirist) at:
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