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.
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.
NZ Herald writer Michele Hewitson described the concept behind this series as "Popstars with jokes". Experienced comedian Paul Horan scours Aotearoa for fresh comedic talent; over the course of a month, fifteen newbies are tested in live and television settings. Each episode ends with eliminations — the "last stand-up standing" is crowned the winner. Comedians Jon Bridges and Raybon Kan join Horan as judges. The first episode features Queen St venue The Classic Comedy Club. The show was partly inspired by a stand-up contest for new acts held in the United Kingdom.
From 2009 to 2013, The Erin Simpson Show was a staple of TVNZ’s after school programming. The magazine format took in interviews (including Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez), mini-soaps, competitions, social media and reports covering fashion, sport and entertainment. Presenter Erin Simpson hosted over 770 episodes, and was a familiar face to a generation of Kiwi kids. The show’s many reporters included actor Kimberley Crossman, singer Ruby Frost, rugby player Isaac Ross, and conservationist Nicola Toki. The show was produced by Whitebait TV (now Whitebait Media).
Magazine show Weekend dates from an era just before NZ television underwent major change: the series ended shortly before the finish of ad-free Sundays, and new competition from TV3 in 1989. The mainstay of each extended live show was journalist Gordon McLauchlan, who took the time to introduce items over a cup of tea, and handled studio interviews. Joining him at various points was Kerry Smith, Judy McIntosh, Terry Carter, and food/wine expert Vic Williams. Weekend won three Listener awards for Best Factual Series; in 1987 McLauchlan was named Best Presenter.
Based on an overseas format, Touchdown reality series Captive was based on a simple idea: five strangers move into a penthouse apartment and as long as they want to stay in the competition, they cannot leave. Luckily there is motivation, in the form of prizes worth up to $40,000. Contestants are quizzed not only on trivia, but on their fellow housemates. At the end of each episode, whoever fared worst in the quiz is evicted from the house empty-handed, and replaced. Alliances are formed and new friendships broken as they attempt to get to know each other.
No Opportunity Wasted was a reality show devised by Phil Keoghan, Emmy Award-winning Kiwi host of The Amazing Race. In the show Keoghan ambushed contestants and gave them a limited time (three days) and limited resources (usually $3000) to ditch the excuses and "live life now". Challenges included swimming with sharks, building a giant community playground, and a NZ tough guy competition (that included future Olympic champion rower Eric Murray). The New Zealand edition followed on from the inaugural series that screened on Discovery Channel in the US in 2004.
Interactivity with viewers was at the heart of TVNZ bilingual youth series I AM TV. Launched at a time when social networking website Bebo was still king, I AM TV enhanced audience participation via online competitions, sharing amateur videos, and encouraging fans to send in questions during live interviews. Te reo and tikanga Māori featured heavily in the series, which showcased music videos, sports, pranks, interviews and travel around Aotearoa. Hosts over the five years the show was on air included Kimo Houltham, Candice Davis and Mai Time's Olly Coddington.
Shazam! rode the 1980s music video boom created by the advent of MTV and the renaissance in NZ music. Aimed at a younger audience than Radio with Pictures, it played in a late afternoon, weekday time slot, and featured artist interviews and live concerts as well as sponsoring a Battle of the Bands and a music video competition. Presenters were Phillip Schofield (later a presenter with the BBC and ITV), Phillipa Dann (who moved to London with husband and future head of MTV Europe Brent Hansen) and, finally, Michelle Bracey (who became a documentary director).
Launched in February 1974, Spot On was an award-winning education-focused magazine programme for children. Presenters who got their break on the beloved show included Ian Taylor, Danny Watson, Phil Keoghan and Ole Maiava. Keoghan went on to global fame as host of The Amazing Race; Taylor now heads up Taylormade Productions and Animation Research Ltd. The show was created by Murray Hutchinson. Producer Michael Stedman later became head of the Natural History Unit. Peter Jackson and Robert Sarkies entered Spot On’s annual Young Filmmaker competition.