The W Three Show (aka 'W3') was a quiz show for intermediate school children that took its name from the first letter of the questions asked: What, Which, Who, Where or When. Lockwood Smith (future Speaker of the House) was the first quizmaster – he was completing his doctorate in Adelaide at the time and was flown over to do the show. NZ’s grand old man of quiz shows, Selwyn Toogood, and Peter Hawes took over from Smith from the fourth series, while original scorer Annie Whittle dropped out after the first and was replaced by radio broadcaster Relda Familton.
TVNZ’s long running quiz show was based on the BBC series which pitted four-member teams from the country’s universities against each other. Otago lecturer Charles Higham was the initial quizmaster but veteran frontman Peter Sinclair (C’mon, Happen Inn) took over a year later and remained with the series until it ended in 1989. Otago produced the most champion teams — winning on six occasions (followed by Canterbury who won three times); and members of winning teams included musician Bruce Russell, writer Jolisa Gracewood and MP Charles Chauvel.
Mastermind was big brother to W3 and University Challenge in the pantheon of TVNZ's 80s quiz shows. The format (based on its creator's experience of being interrogated by the Gestapo) was licensed from the BBC and an ice cold Peter Sinclair asked the questions (with none of the bonhomie he allowed himself on University Challenge). Contestants faced two minute rounds on general knowledge and an array of sometimes mind-boggling specialist subjects ranging from Shakespeare, opera and gastronomy, to Winnie the Pooh, tantric yoga and sulphuric acid production.
Roving quiz show It’s in the Bag got its first screen incarnation in 1973, after Selwyn Toogood campaigned to bring his popular radio series to television. Competitors answered three questions before picking a bag, hoping it contained treasure. Several of Toogood's catchphrases won enduring fame, including "by hokey!” and ”what’ll it be customers, the money or the bag?”. His co-hosts included Heather Eggleton and Tineke Bouchier. After Toogood retired in 1986, John Hawkesby took over, then Nick Tansley. Māori Television relaunched the show in 2009 (also viewable on NZ On Screen).
The concept behind this game show is that contenders can't hide their nerves. They're wired up to a heart-rate monitor and given a "redline rate" that is 70% above their resting heart rate. If their heartrate goes over the line the contestant starts losing money and can't answer questions until their heart slows down again. Hosted by ex-rugby and league player Matthew Ridge, The Chair was a big-budget, big-event format that was made first in New Zealand and proved a significant export success for Touchdown (now Warner Bros.) selling to 29 territories.
It's Academic was an 80s general knowledge quiz show for high school students. Like its intermediate school sibling The W Three Show, It's Academic was hosted by Lockwood Smith. With his Cheshire cat's grin the future Speaker of the House pulled questions from the numbered pockets as students vied for brainiac supremacy and digital watches, encyclopedia sets and calculators. When Smith was elected to Parliament in 1984 he was replaced as presenter by John Hayden. The US format is the Guinness Book of Records-verified longest-running quiz show in TV history.
Beloved quiz show It's in the Bag was relaunched on Māori Television in a bilingual version, on 31 May 2009. Hosts Pio Terei and Stacey Daniels Morrison took the series to small towns across Aotearoa, from Waimamaku to Masterton. Over five seasons, the classic format remained largely the same, although the hosts were given more of an equal footing than had been the case in the past. Contestants from the audience answered three questions, before picking either the money or the bag — hopefully avoiding the booby prize, which might be a sack of kina or some bread.
The Kiwi edition of Sale of the Century is perhaps best remembered for Steve Parr’s opening slide to the podium. Prize-winners may have different recollections. “New Zealand’s biggest bargain sale” dangled the possibility of new cars and overseas travel. The show debuted in the United States in 1969, but had its greatest success after a 1980 relaunch by Australian company Grundy. The Aussie version ran almost 30 years, spawning versions in multiple countries. The NZ edition played for four seasons on TVNZ, before a short rebirth on TV3.
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.
This late 80s game show features couples attempting to accrue time credits through answering a series of questions; aiming to play off for prizes (eg. the required household appliances and a holiday to “exotic Tahiti”). Hosted by Paul Henry — his TV debut — Every Second's gentle pace is decades removed from the accelerating insistency of Millionaire or Weakest Link. Henry fronts with more groaning Granddad jokes than the bumptious cheek he’d later become notorious for, but early warning signs are there, disguised in a formidable 80s suit and white loafers.