Shortland Street’s Penis Gate
It’s the scene that tackled the issue of sexting and caused a stir until Jimmy Kimmel in the US faked it on his talk show, with Alec Baldwin playing Dr. Chris Warner paroded. Warner confronts his son Harry, whose phone is synced to the family tablet. A flushed, bloated Warner barks incredulously, “Please tell me this isn’t your penis!” just as the end credits cliffhanger drumbeat kicks in dramatically.
Nick and Rachel’s Scholarship Marriage Stunt
In a socially topical storyline protesting the unfairness of parental income testing, which has left some students ineligible for college grants, dorky Nick Harrison and shiny Rachel McKenna were friends who made an unlikely couple when they tied the knot to to qualify for a study grant. The stunt showed solidarity with their colleagues and highlighted the unfairness of the policy.
The first same-sex kiss in the soap
Shortland Street was the first show in New Zealand to portray a same-sex kiss on mainstream television. dr. Meredith Fleming, one of the original cast members, was a strong independent woman who championed equality and marginalized groups. In a historic moment of visibility for our LGBTQ+ community, she shared an on-screen kiss with nurse Annie Flynn in 1994.
The Ferndale Strangler
A beautifully crafted and compelling storyline that played out over several months as a compelling whodunit. In a sensational season finale, culprit Joey Henderson jumps from a building to his death after a struggle with bar and restaurant owner Kieran Mitchell.
The bizarre disappearance of Marj’s husband
Busy receptionist Marj Brasch’s sweet-natured paramedic husband Tom gasps out to get some cream, but never returns. In a comically ridiculous storyline, it is revealed that he has run away to join a cult. By popular demand, Tom sheepishly returned and fans were given closure, only for him to be killed by a heart attack.
Strategically placed magnets on Vinnie’s fridge
In an instant and you’ll miss it, the fridge in the background of Vinnie Kruse’s kitchen has strategically placed magnets that spell out the word “cunt”. Did this really happen?
Timely current issues: account end of life choice
When Jean King discovers she has dementia, the soap tackled the complexities surrounding the controversial end-of-life bill, which was being debated at the time. King’s family moves from Australia to Ferndale to help her, but Jean has decided she would rather have the autonomy to die with dignity than wait for the disease to worsen. Screenwriters explored the issue from multiple angles and with sensitivity.
Nurse Carrie Burton admonishes Dr. Hone Ropata
It would be remiss not to include the soap’s most recognizable lines of dialogue. In the soap’s first episode, friendly newcomer Dr. Hone Ropata is questioned by the director of nursing “Robonurse” Carrie Burton, who doubts Ropata’s call for emergency procedure, and he fires the iron-singer: “You’re not now in Guatemala, Dr. Ropata.”
The first civil union
In 2004, the Civil Union Act was passed in Aotearoa to allow both same-sex and opposite-sex couples who choose not to marry, to formally recognize their relationship status. Shortly after the law was passed, characters Jay Copeland and Maia Jeffries celebrated their civil union in a lavish pink ceremony that was shot at Auckland’s Parnell Rose Gardens.
It’s a po nami!
Shortland Street screenwriters had fun with slapstick and literal toilet humor when Drew McCaskill wakes up at night to investigate moaning sounds from the bathroom. Decked out alone in his boxers, he discovers a torrent of sewage spouting from the toilet. Sliding and sliding through the mess, McCaskill exclaims, “It’s a poo-nami!” It was reported that the highly visible feces were actually edible – handmade by the props department using ginger biscuits, coffee and raisins.
The eruption of Mount Ferndale
In a special feature-length episode to mark the show’s 25th anniversary, Ferndale was struck by a violent volcanic eruption, which left the suburb covered with ash and poisonous gas. While it may seem like a bombastic storyline, Auckland is of course a city built on a volcanic field.
Te Rongopai Rejects Patriarchy
The hospital’s stalwart new CEO, Te Rongopai, gives her colleague Esther a stimulating pep talk, dismissing hospital management as “bloated, privileged Pākeha men drunk with control, terrified of change… We are the future, Esther, not them.” .”
A versatile band with a murder ballad and a wedding song
The Chills’ haunting and atmospheric Pink Frost plays in the background when Avril is drowned by Dominic in a bubble bath while macabre mutters, “I love this song.” This isn’t the only time the group has been featured on the show. At the wedding of Dr. Chris Warner and Rachel McKenna, McKenna shyly tells Warner that there are some special wedding guests. She leads the way to the venue and reveals The Chills, one of his favorite bands, playing the rousing Heavenly Pop Hit. Warner runs forward dizzy and gleefully yells, “It’s the Rills!”
See award-winning Aotearoa literature on screen
In a rare moment for New Zealand literature, a local author’s book was shown on mainstream television. TK’s daughter Tillie Samuels is sitting up in bed reading a book. And the book is Auē by Becky Manawatu, which won the prestigious Jann Medlicott Acorn Prize for Fiction at the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards 2021. A bit of a gritty reading choice for a reader under 16, mind you!