By Julie Moffett
At a TV studio nestled atop the dizzying heights of Christchurch’s Port Hills I tried something new.
When I say studio, it was nothing like the ones you see on TV; with rows of people wearing headsets looking intense and important, as a low hum compliments brightly lit buttons and switches, and intimidating banks of screens look down with endless footage rolling silently from American news sources.
This studio was more like an inverted Tardis – of more impressive proportions on the outside than on the inside. Inside was basic. There were a few studio lights on stands with the odd, yellow or red or Indigo or green coloured gel lying about. I think there was a couch and a low slug chair.
I favoured the low-slung chair.
The night I tried something new was the night I thought it’d be fun to try to replicate the floating head of Holly the hologram from the television series, Red Dwarf.
So, Michael the studio operator humoured me and set about cutting all the background lights so the studio floor was plunged into darkness and arranging the other lights to shine directly on my face, interrogation-style.
So now I was Holly the floating head, albeit with a copper coloured bob instead of a blonde one. What I hadn’t thought of before attempting this awfully creative approach to TV presenting was the possum in the headlights effect. I was temporarily blinded whenever the lights came up. I also couldn’t read my research notes (gathered from Rolling Stone, Rip It Up and Real Groove) because of the blinding effects of the lights Ah well, you’re only young once and who needs retinas anyway?
I am pleased that I managed to keep this going for the duration of the three-hour show, The Indigo Zone.
My career as presenter of the evening show on CRY TV didn’t last long. In fact, CRY TV didn’t last long. I arrived as the channel was in its death throes in 1996. The Indigo Zone played adult alternative, mainstream-ish music and I presented it three nights a week. At the time I was doing my radio show with Karen Neill, The Rock Chicks, on that great Christchurch institution C93FM on Fridays and Saturdays.
CRY TV was born in 1993 and died in 1997. A short life, but a very important one because of its place and influence on broadcast media, the music industry and music media.
The station preceded both MTV and Auckland’s MAX TV, it was the first music channel in Aotearoa. Of course, first doesn’t necessarily mean anything. Something can be first but still be crap. But it wasn’t. I suspect the reason CRY fell by the wayside was because it was based in Christchurch, where at that time, I there just wasn’t the local advertising dollars to sustain expensive equipment, broadcast rights and staff.
I have no idea how supported CRY was by the Auckland-based record companies, who in those days were pretty much all-powerful in the music industry. The station’s last day was two months before MTV launched.
TV really wasn’t my thing. I preferred using people’s imaginations, sowing seeds in the radio audience minds. I could have been on the radio and told the audience that I was Holly the hologram and had much more success.
CRY TV wasn’t just ahead of its time, it also launched the careers of many a now-familiar face. the thing of several people who passed through the Port Hills (and later Latimer Square) studio of CRY TV.
Petra Bagust, Jason Fa’afoi, Francesca Rudkin and D’Arcy Waldegrave all started out there. Musician Dave Yetton of JPS Experience and Superette presented a show and it was through CRY TV that he and Jason formed The Stereo Bus. Laura Bootham followed in the footsteps of Petra and Francesca in the Yellow Zone, and has since pursued journalism in the UK.
Having the studio based in someone’s outbuilding on a farm in the Port Hills made for some interesting times. I used to get regularly freaked out driving home alone after midnight in the pitch black down those windy roads. Especially the time I saw two white figures on the roadside, who weren’t there when I looked back in my rear-vision mirror. Especially driving the worst car-buying decision of my life, a Lancia. What a heap of crap that car was. Two days after I bought it, the automatic transmission died and I drove up and down those hills powerlessly slipping back and forth between first and second gear.
I later sold that car as parts. Well, a guy turned up and bought one of the window winders for $15. The rest of the car went to the scrap yard. European car, never again.
The Port Hills roads saw many a travelling musician as well. Musicians are generally good sorts, they were quite happy to make the trek up the hill for an interview.
Perhaps moving to the Latimer Square building was a sign of time running out for CRY. I just have a vague memory of trouble with the building’s leaky pipes. That was followed by not being paid on time.
What a shame. It does go to show though, that being visionary, being first and being good is no guarantee of anything.
Come on now, let’s not end on that downer.
The presenters at CRY mostly hosted their shows live-to-air. If you needed to pre-record you had to learn the art of self-filming. We’d set ourselves up with a handycam and record our continuity bits. So, another first perhaps for CRY. Selfie TV.
Another feature of CRY was that at shut down each night, the lights and camera were turned onto an actual fish tank, as the overnight holding pattern. I don’t know if perpetual light is a good thing for goldfish.
The lights went out for the last time at CRY TV in April 1997. God knows how many goldfish they killed.
Cry TV was a regional music television station broadcast from Christchurch which was on air between 1993 and 1997.It broadcast on UHF channel 56 using a 100 Watt transmitter from a shed on Marleys Hill, on the Port Hills, near the Sugarloaf Transmitter. It was started by Christian Birch and Chris Clarkson. Test transmissions consisted of a camera looking at an aquarium 24 hours a day for approximately 1 month during July and August 1993.