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.
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.
The Fire-Raiser pits a quartet of smalltown World War I era school kids against a mysterious figure with fire on the brain. Inspired partly by a real-life Nelson arsonist, the five-part gothic adventure was created for television by author Maurice Gee. Peter Hayden plays the town’s unconventional teacher ‘Clippy’ Hedges, while the lead role went to Royal NZ Ballet star Jon Trimmer. The Fire-Raiser won four Listener TV awards, including best overall drama and best writer. Gee’s accompanying novel was published both here and overseas. He writes about the show's birth here.
The Son of a Gunn Show was a popular 90s after school links show for kids. It was hosted by the irrepressible Jason Gunn, who wrangled proceedings with the help of alien puppet sidekick Thingee. The energetic show took in everything from song and dance numbers, and educational segments, to spoofs and impressions (often Frank Spencer) as Gunn et al played in loco parentis to a generation of Kiwi kids. Guests included sports and show business celebrities of the day. The show ended when TVNZ moved their children’s production from Christchurch to Wellington.
Long-running kids series Studio 2 screened on weekdays after school on TV2, from 2004 to 2010. It included competitions, cartoons (eg SpongeBob SquarePants), games and interviews, and The Hub website — a pioneering example of transmedia, where presenters and kids could interact. Taking turns as co-presenter were Matt Gibb, Jordan Vandermade, Dayna Vawdrey, and Vicki Lin. Guests included SpongeBob actor Rodger Bumpass and Helen Clark. Produced by Taylormade Media, the show was renamed Studio 2 Live in 2010; a Saturday version screened in 2007.
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.
This animated TV comedy series is a modern day fairytale following the adventures of five kids growing up in one of Auckland's grungier suburbs. With a fearless, un-PC wit and Simpsons-esque celebrity cameos, it managed to be primetime and family-friendly. The popular show was made by Firehorse Films, and developed from the brazen and poly-saturated comedy of theatre group Naked Samoans. Screening on TV3 for five series it won Best Comedy at the NZ Screen Awards three years running and a Qantas Award for Ant Sang's production design. "Morningside for life!"
Freaky creator Thomas Robins’ second horror anthology for kids makes use of a sophisticated story structure. Years ago Room 21 at Killian High was cursed by its satanic school founder. A new principal dismisses warnings and opens the space, unleashing the curse onto new students. Each episode is split into three parts as three students battle demons. The number 21 plays an important role; the 21 students of Room 21 must overcome an eclectic range of demons or else the evil Killian claims their souls ‘forever’. A second season followed in 2008.
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).
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.