One of two much loved children’s shows written and presented by English born entertainer Chic Littlewood in the late 70s and early 80s. The other was Chic-a-boom — and more than 500 episodes were made of the two programmes in what now looks like a much gentler era of children’s television. Littlewood was aided and abetted by various puppets including Nowcy the Dog and the McNabb family of Scottish mice (including the mischievous and contrary Willie). Assisting with the puppets was actor, and stalwart of Auckland theatre, Alma Woods.
A foundation TV3 programme in 1989, The Early Bird Show was devised by What Now? founder Rex Simpson and followed that show’s formula in its mix of overseas cartoons and locally made inserts. Originally broadcast Monday to Friday from 7-9am, it moved to Saturday and Sunday mornings when TV3 dropped weekday morning programming in February 1990. The original puppet line-up of Russell Rooster, Kiri Kea, Dawn Chorus and Quack-ups was given a human presence in the form of Suzy Cato from mid-1990 and she remained with the show until it ended in early 1993.
After fronting TV3 children's programmes Early Bird Show, 3pm and You and Me, Suzy Cato started her own company, Treehut Productions, to make Suzy's World. A science show for five to nine year olds, it sought to explain everyday phenomena like how smoke alarms work, why birds sing and where salt comes from. With the accent very much on the practical, pantyhose played an important part in simulating the workings of the digestive system while a watermelon was hurt demonstrating inertia and the need for seatbelts. Over four years 263 episodes were made.
Play School was an iconic educational programme for pre-school children, which was first produced in Auckland from 1972, then Dunedin from 1975. The format included songs, a story, craft, a calendar, a clock and a look outside Play School via the shaped windows. But the toys, Big Ted, Little Ted, Jemima, Humpty and Manu, were the real stars of the show. The title sequence ("Here's a house ...") and music were a call to action recognised by generations of Kiwis. Presenters included actors Rawiri Paratene and Theresa Healey, Russell Smith and future MP Jacqui Hay.
Sticky TV was one of New Zealand's longest-running kids programmes, lasting 16 years. Aimed at preschoolers through to 12-year-olds, it introduced many emerging presenters, including future TV weatherman Sam Wallace, Kanoa Llloyd (The Project) and Erin Simpson (The Erin Simpson Show). Made by Pickled Possum Productions, Sticky TV broadcast on TV3, except for four years when it aired on Four. Segments included children handing out advice to other kids, mud fights, and contests involving singing, cooking, fashion and survival. The last episode screened on Christmas Day 2017.
From the Archives: Five Decades celebrated of 50 years of television in New Zealand. The five-part series launched TVNZ's Heartland channel on Sky TV, on 1 June 2010. The host was children's TV presenter (Hey Hey It's Andy) turned TV executive Andrew Shaw. Each slot showcased a specific decade — from the 1960s to the 2000s — and featured archival TV programmes and clips. Shaw also did a short interview with a person who had a high television profile in that decade. Those interviewed were Ray Columbus, Brian Edwards, David McPhail, Peter Elliott and Paul Holmes.
Bryan and Bobby are not your average police team. Bryan is real-life constable Bryan Ward; Bobby is a curious talking puppy. The two use humour and everyday situations to encourage children to make good, safe decisions for themselves and those around them. The duo made their screen debut on TV3. Since then they have been seen on TV, DVD and the internet, and used in educational resource kits. Their safety messages have won thousands of pint-sized fans during visits to primary schools. The show was created by Ward and children's TV veteran Suzy Cato.
Nice One has become a legend in New Zealand children's TV: with the show's signature theme tune ('Nice one Stu!') and Stu's thumbs-up salute, totemic for kids of the era. On the show, host Stu Dennison played a cheeky pony-tailed schoolboy who delighted children and infuriated adults with his irreverent antics. Dennison developed the persona in live segments on Ready to Roll, before transporting him to his own after-school programme, filmed at Avalon Studios for TV One. Nice One also featured cooking (with Alison Holst), craft, singing and plenty of humour.
The magpie quardle oodled and the narrator uttered, "Welcome to Woolly Valley", in the intro to this children's TV classic. The low-tech puppet show with its rustic charm was familiar to a generation of kids who grew up in the 80s. It follows the lives of woolly-haired farmer Wally and his long-suffering wife Beattie, who live with talking ewe Eunice. Also featured is hippie Tussock, voiced by Russell (Count Homogenized) Smith. Woolly Valley marked an early piece of screenwriting by children's writer Margaret Mahy.
Debuting on TV Four as Tūmeke in 1999, children's show Pūkana was pioneering in its use of te reo. Given a new title when it moved to TV3 in its second year, it later began an epic run on Māori Television. Taking contemporary kids' culture cues, Pūkana features game shows, send-ups, talent quests and music. It emphasises ‘street’ rather than marae-style language. Made by company Cinco Cine, it has won three awards for best show in its category, and two nominations for children’s programme. Past presenters include Mātai Smith, Quinton Hita and Te Hamua Nikora.