Hosted by Jason Gunn, McDonalds Young Entertainers was a popular late 90s talent quest for teenagers. A house troupe of singers and dancers (Super Troopers, a Kiwi take on Disney's Mickey Mouse Club) helped the contestants prepare for the judges, and opened and closed each show. Judges included King Kapisi, Tina Cross and Stacey Morrison. Young performers who featured included Ainslie Allen, Hayley Westenra, Sticky TV/C4 host Drew Neemia, actor Michelle Ang (Neighbours, Fear the Walking Dead: Flight 462) and concert pianist John Chen.
One of NZ TV's first forays into stand-up comedy, this talent quest based show ran for two series (the second as A Bit More after Ten). It was hosted by Jeremy Corbett and his brother Nigel (in his TV debut), with Ian Harcourt (ex-Funny Business) as a resident judge (aided by two celebrities each week). Home viewers also voted, helping propel eventual winner Late Night Mike into the first final. Michele A'Court, Te Radar, Jon Bridges, Dean Butler and Andrew Clay graced its set and later graduated to its stand-up successor, the long running Pulp Comedy.
Hitting television screens in 1961, just a year after the launch of regular TV services in New Zealand, this 30 minute talent show was spawned from Ian Watkins’ popular radio show (on which he memorably used a gun to signal the end of performances). Initially screening on Auckland channel AKTV-2, it became a national talent quest in 1962, with auditions in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. The following year, 30,000+ viewers used postal voting. Have a Shot was a noted platform for new amateur talent. After a four year run, it was replaced by New Faces.
Broadcast in the early 1970s — back when local television spanned just a single channel — Living in New Zealand was built around short documentary items. Current affairs was rarely on offer; instead there were pieces on novice skydivers, jetboat adventures, shopping, preparations for Expo 70 in Japan, and singer Phil Garland's search for unrecorded folk songs. An item on national talent quest Search for Stars featured an early screen appearance as interviewer by Ernie Leonard — the future Head of TVNZ's Māori Programming Department.
Based on the hugely successful Got Talent franchise created by Simon Cowell, this nationwide TV talent quest first screened on Prime for one season in 2008. It was revived by TV One in 2012 and 2013. The Prime hosts were Andrew Mulligan and radio DJ Jason Reeves, with judges Miriama Smith, Paul Ellis and Richard Driver. From 2012 the host was Tamaiti Coffey, with model/actor Rachel Hunter, Opshop frontman Jason Kerrison and UB40's Ali Campbell as judges. American choreographer Cris Judd replaced Campbell for the 2013 series.
Pulp Comedy succeeded the talent quest A Bit After Ten as a TV outlet for stand-up comics. Its origins lay in Auckland's Comedyfest which was established to capitalise on the city's burgeoning early 90s stand-up scene. Showcases at the Powerstation led to a request from TV3 for a television series. Produced by Mandy Toogood and Simon Sinclair, it ran for eight years and provided national exposure for novices as well as leading lights like Mike King, Ewen Gilmour, Flight of the Conchords, Michele A'Court, Brendhan Lovegrove, Philip Patston and Cal Wilson.
From 1996 to 1998 broadcaster Ian Fraser took time out from hosting current affairs, to MC this popular musical talent quest (Fraser, a trained pianist, also tinkled the ivories himself during the series). There were two finals: one assessed by studio judges, and one from viewers' votes. The performers ranged from covers bands to opera singers, from country and western to soul. Future Opshop members Jason Kerrison and Shay Muddle were judged runners-up in 1996 (as Akustik Fungi). Other contestants included Lisa Tomlins, opera tenor Shaun Dixon and actor Stig Eldred.
Debuting on TV Four as Tūmeke in 1999, children's show Pūkana was pioneering in its use of te reo. Given a new title when it moved to TV3 in its second year, it later began an epic run on Māori Television. Taking contemporary kids' culture cues, Pūkana features game shows, send-ups, talent quests and music. It emphasises ‘street’ rather than marae-style language. Made by company Cinco Cine, it has won three awards for best show in its category, and two nominations for children’s programme. Past presenters include Mātai Smith, Quinton Hita and Te Hamua Nikora.
This all-singing, all-dancing variety show is remembered as one of NZ TV’s great fiascos (along with Melody Rules). Presenters Glyn Tucker and Ernie Leonard had light entertainment experience, but were better known for their expertise in horse racing and wrestling respectively. Broadcast live on Saturday night, The Club Show aspired to be the TV equivalent of an RSA talent quest — but not even the geniality of its hosts could save it. It did have ‘The Silver Shot’ — an early attempt at interactivity via a viewer on the phone and a blindfolded cameraman.
Rachel Lang and Gavin Strawhan created Go Girls out of a desire for an upbeat show about "people who liked each other". Audiences liked the characters too: the show ran five seasons, after introducing us to a group of 20-something friends, each aiming to make a major life-change in the next year. Over five series various romantic adventures ensued, and the core cast of Anna Hutchison, Alix Bushnell, Bronwyn Turei, Jay Ryan and Matt Whelan were joined by others — before finally departing altogether, with one final season revolving around a new cast of wanna bes.