Stu Dennison became a household name in the 1970s as the irreverent host of children's programme Nice One Stu. He played the naughty schoolboy role, becoming an antihero to a generation of New Zealanders. His signature theme song and thumbs-up salute became firmly embedded in New Zealand's popular culture.
[Nice One Stu was] all about giving them [viewers] some fun, a laugh and the occasional message. Great days when there were no rules in how a kids’ tv show should work. If there was a rule my motto was break it. Stu Dennison
The opening episode of the Prime TV series celebrating 50 years of New Zealand television travels from an opening night puppet show in 1960, through to Outrageous Fortune five decades later. It traverses the medium's development and its major turning points (including the rise of programme-making and news, networking, colour and the arrival of TV3, Prime, NZ On Air, Sky and Māori Television). Many of the major players are interviewed. The changing nature of the NZ living room — always with the telly in pride of place as modern hearth — is a story within the story.
This edition of Prime TV’s history of New Zealand television looks at 50 years of entertainment. The smorgasbord of music, comedy and variety shows ranges from 60s pop stars to Popstars, from the anarchy of Blerta to the anarchy of Telethon, from Radio with Pictures to Dancing with the Stars. Music television moves from C’mon and country, to punk and hip hop videos. Comedy follows the formative Fred Dagg and Billy T, through to Eating Media Lunch and 7 Days. A roll call of New Zealand entertainers muse on seeing Kiwis laugh, sing and shimmy on the small screen.
This fourth episode in Prime’s series on Kiwi television history series charts 50 years of sports on TV. Interviews with veteran broadcasters are mixed with clips of classic sporting moments. Changes in technology are surveyed: from live broadcasts and colour TV, to slo-mo replays and CGI graphics. Sports coverage is framed as a national campfire where Kiwis have been able to share in test match, Olympic, Commonwealth and World Cup triumphs and disasters — from emotional national anthems and inspirational Paralympians, to underarm deliveries, snapped masts and face-plants.
Stu Dennison hosted TV One's children's show Nice One from 1976 to 1978, making the catch phrase "Nice one, Stu" a part of NZ TV legend. This 1978 Christmas show, and final ever Nice One programme, branched out from the show's usual after-school interstitials length to a half-hour special featuring series regulars such as singer/songwriter Steve Allen, and chef Alison Holst (look out for her son and now business partner Simon as a young boy, in their Christmas cooking segment). Stu's corduroy flares and waistcoat ensemble is a 70s delight to behold.
Sharon O'Neill performs her first single 'Luck's on Your Table' on this television clip from 1978. O'Neill's composition was the one that won over the New Zealand arm of CBS Records, who signed her as their first local act the same year. By the time O'Neill appeared on this Ready to Roll awards special, she'd already gained experience before the television cameras, miming cover versions of overseas hits for Ready to Roll. This time O'Neill performs amidst assembled plants at Avalon TV studios, with a flower in her hair. O'Neill's debut album This Heart This Song emerged the following year.
This collection of clips from afternoon children's slot Nice One starts with a silent movie-style scene accompanied by the title song as host Stu Dennison larks about Lower Hutt on roller skates, crashes his chopper cycle, and gives his famous thumbs up. Next come a series of jokes, most of them involving Stu facing off in a classroom against a disapproving teacher. For three years in the mid 1970s, the bearded, slightly naughty schoolboy was one of the most beloved characters on local television.
The NZ Music Awards ceremony now fills Auckland’s Vector Arena and is a major social and music industry event. In 1978 the awards were broadcast in this 16 September Ready to Roll special, cobbling together finalists at Avalon Studios. Stu (Nice One) Dennison is the host (in brown overalls); and there are performances from John Rowles, newcomer Sharon O’Neill, the Rodger Fox Big Band, Hello Sailor, Toni Williams and Golden Harvest (who feature teeth-picking lead guitar in best Hendrix style). Just two awards are covered here: for single and album of the year.
TV1 celebrated Christmas by throwing most of its big names into this 1977 comedy/variety show. Ringleaders Roger Gascoigne and Nice One Stu's Stu Dennison are joined by a cavalcade of newsreaders hiding under Santa beards. Among the loopy 70s oddities on show: Brian Edwards in school uniform, channelling The Goons; Selwyn Toogood doing an It's in the Bag sketch that would nowadays likely be deemed too un-PC to make it to air; plus racehorse expert Glyn Tucker talking reindeer races. Madcap band Mother Goose also appear.
'I Need Your Love' marked the biggest hit for the Kaukau brothers, and vocalist Karl Gordon. This performance sees Gordon grooving in satin blue waistcoat and bellbottoms, while Kevin Kaukau sneaks in a few guitar tricks inspired by Jimi Hendrix, on a guitar with an unusual attachment. Rip it Up writer Ken Williams described how the song's "ethereal, even fragile, drone jumped off the radio". It was judged Single of the Year at the 1978 NZ Music Awards; the band can be seen winning the award in the closing minutes of the Ready to Roll telecast from which this clip is taken.
Nice One was an after-school programme on TV ONE, whose host Stu Dennison became a cult hit with his ‘Nice one Stu-y!’ character and sign-off. Here Radio Windy DJ Dave Mahoney sits down for an interview, inbetween slots working the mic. He talks about how he got into announcing, differences between a drive time and breakfast host, and being set on fire while reading the news. Mahoney chugs away on a ciggie (smoking on a kids’ show? It must be the 70s). It’s a high of 11 degrees in Wellington, and Al Stewart is on the turntable singing ‘Year of the Cat’.
In the early 80s Ready to Roll was NZ’s premier TV pop show. It emerged in the pre-music video boom mid-70s hosted by Roger Gascoigne (and later Stu Dennison) with bands and dancers live in the studio. By the early 80s it was a seamless video clip Top 20 countdown — introduced by the Commodores pumping ‘Machine Gun’ — and appointment Saturday evening viewing for music fans (and a regular in the week’s Top 10 rating shows). It then evolved into a brand, got retitled RTR Countdown, and spawned multiple RTR offshoots (Mega-Mix, Sounz and New Releases), before disappearing in the mid-90s.
After-school show Nice One was a popular classic of NZ childrens television, with the show's signature theme tune ("Nice one Stu-y!") and Stu's thumbs-up salute, totemic for kids of the 70s. Host Stu Dennison played a cheeky, long-haired schoolboy who delighted children and infuriated adults with his irreverent antics. But Dennison developed the persona in short live segments for Ready to Roll (shot live at Avalon Studios, excerpted here). Prototype Stu is seen being a truant, reciting rude poetry, singing 10cc and ribbing Roger Gascoigne and 70s metrosexuals.