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.
This 2000 reality TV show was the Kiwi version of a 1998 Belgian concept, which sold to 40 countries. The show involved contestants completing challenges to avoid elimination and win a cash prize — the complication being that one of them is a mole, planted to sabotage their efforts. The host was actor Mark Ferguson (Living the Dream) in his first outing as a reality TV host. NZ Herald reviewer Fiona Rae argued that Ferguson's "low-key approach and easy rapport with the team" hid a devious underbelly, as he kept pushing the players and ensured all were under suspicion.
Arriving for a photo shoot in the Australian outback, 10 beauty pageant contestants are rescued by cowboys and taken to small-town Burra, where they end up competing in a reality show to "find the ultimate Kiwi chick". With $100,000 at stake, they try a variety of challenges while attempting to show the locals they’re more than a pretty face. Locals vote to oust a contestant each week, from a group that includes warring future-WAGs Casey Green and model-singer-actress Jessie Gurunathan. Gurunathan ultimately won the crown. Touchdown's format sold to 15 territories.
In 2002 American reality show The Osbournes became a global hit. The following year The Family provided Aotearoa with its own reality TV whānau: The Rippins. The show chronicled the lives of matriarch Denise, her second husband (property developer Pat) and her adult children Scott, Maria, Matthew and Victoria. Made by Visionary Productions, the TV3 show won headlines for the family’s cashed-up lifestyle. It made a Stuff 2016 list of New Zealand's worst reality shows. Pat Rippin was declared bankrupt in 2008; he was later convicted of hiding assets during the process.
This ambitious reality show saw Kiwis living 1850s style for six weeks — "three families from two very different cultures sharing one land". The first Māori family communicates in te reo; two other families, one Māori and one Pākehā, don't. The One Land team researched and recreated a hilltop pā and a colonial house for the participants to live in. Executive producer Bailey Mackey praised TVNZ for playing a te reo-heavy reality show in prime time. Named Best Constructed Reality Series at the 2010 Qantas TV Awards, One Land was made by Mackey's Black Inc Media and Eyeworks.
In 2005 director Stuart McKenzie brought a camera crew into the studios and rehearsal spaces of Toi Whakaari, New Zealand's top drama school, to follow the progress of its first-year acting students. The class included future names like Dan Musgrove and Sophie Hambleton (Westside) and Matt Whelan (Go Girls). Tough Act was nominated for Best Reality Show at the 2007 Qantas Television Awards and the 2007 NZ Screen Awards. The concept was custom-made for reality TV: tough auditions to find 22 diverse young people, who chased the same dream and faced a multitude of challenges.
Greenstone Productions are prolific and award-winning makers of observational reality shows (The Zoo, Border Patrol, Coastwatch). This series saw their cameras go behind the scenes of Wellington Hospital's Emergency Department, to showcase the skills and compassion of medical staff as they treat patients ranging from lost diver Rob Hewitt and a near-fatally inebriated man, to the ubiquitous broken bones and beads stuck up nostrils. The 12-part series won the Best Observational Reality (non-format) Award at the 2007 Qantas Television Awards.
Neighbours at War was a popular reality show that ran for 10 years and eight seasons on TV2. Narrated by long-serving director Bill Kerton, it offered a quirky Kiwi take on a UK concept: take a seemingly unsolvable dispute over a boundary/ fence/driveway, and get a famous Kiwi to mediate the neighbours who can’t agree. Mediators included Mark Sainsbury, Tom Bradley, Police Ten 7's Graham Bell, and John Key. The purposefully cheesy music, and emotion worn on the sleeve, helped make the Greenstone TV show a “much-loved New Zealand staple” (The Spinoff's Duncan Greive).
This 'docu-soap' put six 20-somethings into a rented house for three months — including a beauty contestant and a live-in cameraman. It was one of a series of 90s reality shows observing homelife which were soon to become a phenomenon, thanks to Big Brother. But without a lockdown or 24-7 surveillance, Flatmate's charms were more quaint, offering a homespun twist on MTV's pioneering The Real World (which debuted in 1992). The show was broadcast on now-defunct channel TV4, and made a minor celebrity of outspoken flattie Vanessa.
Treasure Island was an early local example of a reality show staple — contestants endured the great outdoors, and each other. Over nine seasons the series went through multiple variations, including a Couples at War season, and another featuring favourites from the past. During the 2004 season of Celebrity Treasure Island, contestant Lana Coc-Kroft was airlifted from Fiji, after she cut her foot on coral and got a life-threatening blood-poisoning disease. On 2002's Treasure Island: Extreme, Barrie Rice — an ex SAS soldier — dealt with being eliminated by hiding in the jungle.