Longtime Cantabrian Simon Barnett has had many encounters with the small screen. In the late 80s he spent four years as a presenter on What Now?, before going on to host a number of talent and game shows. The longtime radio DJ has also competed in Celebrity Treasure Island. In 1990 he acted in hit comedy Ruby and Rata, as the young man who gets caught up with a dodgy but lovable solo mother.
Being a radio broadcaster is a great job for me because I love people; everyone's got a story to tell and I really enjoy hearing their stories. Simon Barnett
In 2006, TVNZ’s long running children’s show celebrated 25 years on air — and Christmas — with a “Merry Birthday” special. In these excerpts, current presenters (including Tamati Coffey) are joined by a cavalcade of former hosts including Jason Fa’afoi, Carolyn Taylor, Props Boy, Shavaughn Ruakere and original anchor Steve Parr (with the same moustache a quarter of a century later). The emphasis is firmly on studio ordeal with guests gunked, foamed and asked to drink the undrinkable; and then there’s the raw fish — a step too far for at least one of them.
Based on a UK reality format, Dancing with the Stars sees a line-up of celebrities paired with a professional dance partner, and put through ballroom dance routines. Judges and a public vote eliminate a pair each week. A five time winner of best programme in its category, the show played for five hit seasons on TVNZ, hosted by Jason Gunn and Candy Lane. In 2015 it was relaunched by Great Southern TV for TV3; Dominic Bowden and Sharyn Casey hosted. Dai Henwood and Casey presented the seventh series in 2018. Winners have included Norm Hewitt and and Suzanne Paul.
Popstars was a key forerunner of the late 1990s reality television explosion. The series followed the creation and development of an all-girl pop band called TrueBliss (Carly Binding, Keri Harper, Joe Cotton, Megan Alatini and Erika Takacs), who went on to record several NZ chart-topping singles and a platinum-selling album. Also a hit was the series format, which sold globally and helped inspire Pop Idol/American Idol, the franchise that would dominate reality TV for years to come. These excerpts are from each episode of the series, from the second to the final.
The search for a New Zealand Spice Girls is underway in the first episode of this pioneering reality series. Manager Peter Urlich (formerly of Th' Dudes) and record company executive Mark Tierney (ex-Strawpeople) hold public auditions to find an all-female pop group for their record deal and TV series. The good, the bad and the unfortunate are out in full force. After an exhaustive selection process, Urlich and Tierney whittle down the talent to 15 hopefuls. The format for the show sold to multiple countries.
Treasure Island was an early local example of a reality show staple — contestants endured the great outdoors, and each other. Over nine seasons the series went through multiple variations, including a Couples at War season, and another featuring favourites from the past. During the 2004 season of Celebrity Treasure Island, contestant Lana Coc-Kroft was airlifted from Fiji, after she cut her foot on coral and got a life-threatening blood-poisoning disease. On 2002's Treasure Island: Extreme, Barrie Rice — an ex SAS soldier — dealt with being eliminated by hiding in the jungle.
Clash of the Codes was a show that pitted teams representing various sports against each other in a series of physical challenges (obstacle courses, mud runs and stair climbs etc). In the made-for-TV battle for code bragging rights the traditional heavyweights (rugby, rowing) were challenged by strivers from the newer codes (eg. Olympic canoeing champ Ian Ferguson, Coast to Coast multisporter Steve Gurney, and young then-unknown triathlete Hamish Carter). Four series were made; the first three were hosted by Simon Barnett and the last by Robert Rakete.
Clash of the Codes was a made-for-TV series that pitted teams representing various sports against each other in a series of devised physical challenges. In this final episode from the first series, rowing and canoeing are the frontrunners, with plenty of Olympic podium experience on both teams (Ian Ferguson, Eric Verdonk and Chris White, plus world champ sculler Phillipa Baker). They tackle a steep bush rescue and the army confidence course at Whangaparaoa Peninsula. A young Marc Ellis (rugby) gets early practice playing the larrikin onscreen.
Broadcast on Christmas 1992, this epic episode of What Now? was both a festive special, and a best of compilation from the show’s first decade on air. The set gets ever more crowded as a long line of past hosts join current presenters Simon Barnett and Catherine McPherson, and help make the Christmas carols more stirring. Eddie Sunderland and Fifi Colston explain a few arts and crafts, in between showcases of the show's best sketches to date. Hiding somewhere on the set is Mr Claus himself, narrowly avoiding detection.
What Now? is a long-running entertainment show for primary school-aged children. Live to air on weekend mornings since 1981, it is a Kiwi kids' TV institution. This Christmas Special sees presenters Simon Barnett, Jason 'The Ace' Gunn, and Cath McPherson larking it up with guests (Cath's Scottish Uncle Bob, Constable Keith and Sniff the Dog, The Wizard of Christchurch, the NZ 'Young Guns' cricket team) and in oddball summer and Christmas tales. Eddie and Fifi do decorative DIY. Check out the stone-wash denim and Barnett's frosted tips and lycra shorts.
Originally conceived as a TV series, Gaylene Preston's comedy was a local hit, uplifting recession-era audiences with its tale of resourceful misfits. Ruby (Yvonne Lawley), an 83-year-old trying to dodge a retirement home, rents a room to Rata (Vanessa Rare in her screen debut) — a solo mum with sidelines in music and benefit fraud. Rata's son is into shoplifting, while Simon Barnett plays a hapless yuppie wannabe. Marginalised by the deregulated economy of the 80s and living on their wits, they may just find common cause despite themselves, in this tale from writer Graeme Tetley.
Wheel of Fortune is a game show that involves the solving of Hangman-style posers. Contestants spin the wheel to accrue prizes, guess letters that may be in the answer, and earn the right to roll again. The Kiwi edition was hosted by Phillip Leishman and Lana Coc-Kroft (with Simon Barnett later replacing Leishman). In a 1992 celebrity episode, Barcelona Olympic bronze medalist boxer (and future World Heavyweight challenger) David Tua, infamously requested the letter O, “for Awesome”. The show returned briefly in 2008 hosted by Jason Gunn and Sonia Gray.
What Now? is a long-running entertainment show for primary school-aged children. Filmed before a live studio audience on weekend mornings, What Now? is a New Zealand TV institution; it was the first TV show to have live phone-ins. The series is known for its challenges that sometimes result in participants being 'gunged'. A roll-call of presenters includes Steve Parr, Danny Watson, Simon Barnett, Jason Gunn, Michelle A'Court, Tamati Coffey, Antonia Prebble, and more. 'Get out of your Lazy Bed' by Matt Bianco is the theme song memorable to generations of Kiwi kids.