More TV Memories – Shortland Street.

Shortland Street (TVNZ, 1992-present)

Recently I was thinking again about the time when Australian soaps swamped the daytime schedules of some channels throughout the 90s, and that’s because they were rather popular. This is another one that was imported to the UK, but this is actually from New Zealand, and is as far as I know, the only soap from that country ever to be shown here.

Shortland Street is set at a hospital in Auckland, and the episodes centre around the lives of the staff, when they are at work, and when they are not, which we soon realise can be just as traumatic, which always seems to happen. I must admit that I didn’t watch this too much, but when I took a look at the list of past and present regular cast members, I couldn’t help but notice something.

A lot of them had also featured in The Tribe, another New Zealand series which as you might know was one of my favourite TV shows from this era. People have noted how many actors have gone on to appear in multiple Australian soaps. I suppose in this case, they started their acting careers as children playing the patients, and then after The Tribe ended, they returned as adults to play the doctors.

There were also episodes that contained cliffhangers that really are worthy of the word “spectacular”. Shortland Street has been shown in various countries around the world, but the scheduling in this country was rather erratic to say the least, varying rather wildly from region to region. Some ITV regions showed episodes as early as 1993, but they could never commit to five episodes a week (like this is in New Zealand), and the timeslots changed a lot.

In the Carlton region, I’m fairly sure that this was shown for a short while, before being dropped. And then, a few years on, Carlton decided to begin another run. They even went to the trouble of making a special episode, where two of the main cast members explained what had been happening in the years since. And then, not long after, Carlton dropped this again, which seemed an unfair move even by their standards. I don’t think the theme music was even released as a single.

But by 2003, with the amount of regional daytime slots dwindling, a decade on from first being shown in this country, Shortland Street left the screen. But not long after, this was picked up by satellite channel Living, for another rather short run. But Shortland Street continues in New Zealand. There have now been almost 8,000 episodes, and after three decades, this has been established as one of the longest-running and most-popular TV shows in that country.


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