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.
After 15 years on TV One, Paul Holmes left his high-rating slot for rival network Prime. New half-hour show Paul Holmes debuted in February 2005, but poor ratings meant it lasted only six months. The following April, Prime debuted the hour-long Holmes, which concentrated on longer interviews with people from business, the arts, sports and politics. Holmes argued the format allowed him the “opportunity to find out what makes the guests tick”. He called it “a style of broadcasting that has been missing from the New Zealand television landscape for a number of years”.
This series centred on a weekly TV current affairs programme in mid-90s Wellington. Katie Wolfe stars as stroppy journalist Amanda Robbins: lured back from Australia for her tabloid style in an effort to boost the show's ratings. Tackling timely storylines and shot ‘handheld’ in the NYPD Blue-inspired style, the TV3 series was well reviewed but faced its own ratings struggles (a later series screened on TV One). It was Gibson Group’s second foray into producing a TV drama series, after Shark in the Park. A pre-Lord of the Rings Fran Walsh was a series writer.
Off the Rails was a 12-part journey through the railway memories of New Zealand, with raconteur Marcus Lush at the wheel. With a trainspotter's reverence for ways rail, the beautifully shot, and gently wry travelogue guided viewers around (with thanks to the Raurimu Spiral) the heart of Aotearoa. Off the Rails’ award-winning achievement was to show that energetic storytelling (Super 8 footage, contemporary pop score and snappy editing), combined with the homespun charms of local subject matter, could make for high-rating television.
In this five part series, photographer, conservationist and publisher Craig Potton is a New Zealand coast tour guide. Each episode focuses on a region, taking in scenic splendour, while celebrating and taking the pulse of its biodiversity. Along the way Potton frames photos and meets the coasters: from scientists, sailors, swimmers and artists, to iwi, boaties and bach owners. As well as presenting, Potton conceived and wrote the series, produced by South Pacific Pictures. Wild Coasts followed the award-winning and ratings success of Potton’s 2010 series Rivers.
Shot on location in Wellington, often after dark, Inside Straight helped usher in a new era of Kiwi TV dramas, far from the rural backblocks. This Minder-esque portrait of Wellington’s underworld was inspired by writer Keith Aberdein’s experiences as a taxi-driver and all night cafe worker. Phillip Gordon (soon to win fame as a conman in Came a Hot Friday) stars as the former fisherman, learning the ways of the city from veteran taxi driver Roy Billing. A solid but unspectacular rater over 10 episodes, the show was scuttled by the launch of trucker’s tale Roche.
Weddings was a real life romance series from Julie Christie’s reality TV powerhouse Touchdown Productions. It followed couples on their way to the altar — from abstinent Christians, nudists and cross-dressers, to a Days of Our Lives devotee. Among the challenges faced were obstinate mother-in-laws, and finding the cash to pay for the function. Presented by Jayne Kiely, Weddings proved a ratings success for TV2. Follow-up series Weddings: Happily ever after? (2001) caught up with couples to see if married life was wedded bliss, or something else.
Rocked the Nation launched in 2008 with six one hour-long shows. Production company Satellite Media ransacked the archives and interviewed protagonists, to survey 100 key moments in Kiwi music history: including smash hits, riots, TV talent shows, and sex, drugs and rock’n’roll. Hosted by Karyn Hay, the series screened on C4 during NZ Music Month, and was the channel’s highest-rating series to that date. Follow-up series counted down 100 New Zealand Pop Culture Stories (2009, hosted by Rhys Darby) and 100 New Zealand Sporting Moments (2011, hosted by Dai Henwood).
Following award-winning and high rating collaborations exploring trains (Off the Rails) and Antarctica (ICE), Jam TV reteamed with presenter Marcus Lush to explore the southern tip of the South Island. Over seven 30 minute episodes, the Bluff-based Aucklander mixed wry observation and self-deprecation with clear affection for the stories, wildlife, geography and characters of his (then) adopted hometown, and its environs. At the 2010 Qantas Television Awards, Lush won Best Presenter and Melanie Rakena won Best Director – Entertainment / Factual.
Well-known Kiwi chef Jo Seagar trained as a cordon bleu chef in London and France, before returning home to promote a culinary style involving “maximum effect, minimum effort.” Her 1997 best-selling book You Shouldn't Have Gone To So Much Trouble, Darling caught TVNZ’s attention and Real Food marked her TV debut. The two series covered recipes from sushi to pecan pie. In a 2012 interview with Avenue, Seagar mentioned that the show rated highly, despite Television New Zealand initially telling her that a food show would never screen in primetime.