This TV2 take on The Truman Show sees Hawkes Bay vineyard worker Sam participating in a reality show where – unknown to him – all his housemates are fakes. In this first episode Sam’s flatmates play to the archetypes of reality TV, as host Mark Ferguson sets them ridiculous challenges (eg water bomb wet t-shirt reading). The Spinoff 's Alex Casey called it “a one off, never to be repeated format, and crikey it was good, bad TV.” The cast were only let into the show's secrets after winning their parts. Sarah Thomson ('rich bitch' Tiffany) was later an undercover cop on Shortland Street.
In the first all celebrity version of Touchdown reality TV hit Treasure Island, 14 marooned contestants must provide food, water, fire, and shelter for themselves on a Fijian island, as they compete to find treasure and avoid elimination. Presented by Pieta Keating — who was runner-up on the original Treasure Island — the "household names" include Olympians and All Blacks (Frank Bunce), model Nicky Watson, actors and TV tradesman John Cocks. Hunger and cheating suspicions soon exacerbate tensions between the teams.
The concept for this 2004 reality series involved 10 bachelors trying to succeed on the Auckland dating scene, while overcoming specially set challenges. Hosted by model Nicky Watson, and produced by Touchdown supremo Julie Christie, this first episode sees Watson pick the 10 (from 15 who began) who will move into the bachelor pad. It introduces the lewd lines, lingerie and phallic fruit that saw The Spinoff’s Duncan Greive describe the show as "an affront to humanity – but man, was it ever fun to watch". Caution: the content from the ‘lads' mag’ era is PC free.
Neighbours at War was a popular and long-running TV2 reality show. In this opening episode from the show’s second series, an Otara fence is a battle line in a bitter territorial dispute between Lois and Alec. The mediator is Labour MP for Otara Ross Robertson, who draws on Winston Churchill, General Douglas MacArthur and aroha in an effort to broker peace — amidst allegations of rubbish and porn mags on one side, and swear words and brown eyes on the other. Narrator Bill Kerton’s puns and some choice sound effects punctuate the neighbourly nastiness.
Five strangers give up their freedom to live in the confines of an apartment together in this 2004 reality series. It’s not all for nought though — $40,000 is up for grabs. Alliances are formed and newfound friendships quickly betrayed, as the contestants try to keep things civil with their inescapable roommates. The contestants in this first episode are builder Riki, project officer Marcella, business developer Brett, and students CC and “nice guy” Arron. Retracting walls leading to the quiz area and food delivered in a perspex box remind contestants they are totally trapped.
Satire Futile Attraction follows a dysfunctional reality television crew as they make a show about dating. The unfortunate 'couple' being manipulated for the cameras are a phone-obsessed nerd, and a woman consumed with being ecologically sound. In real life, director Mark Prebble became the first New Zealander to get funding for his movie via an online crowdfunding campaign (as detailed in the making of video). Alongside lead actors Danielle Mason (Black Sheep) and Peter Rutherford (Event 16), the late Alistair Browning shines as a smarmy television host.
Never mind Keeping Up with the Kardashians; in 2003 New Zealand reality TV had The Rippins. Denise (aka Peach) is the second wife for property developer Pat 'Spider' Rippin. This first episode follows the pair on a holiday to Port Douglas, Australia, accompanied by three of Denise’s four adult children. The fly-on-the-Sheraton-hotel-suite-wall camera captures the champagne, smoking, tanning, breast implants and false teeth over the passage of a New Year's Eve party. NZ Herald reviewer Fiona Rae described the show as "classic car-crash television".
“After the trouble at Miss Howick I realised that life with Vanessa was going to be a roller coaster.” These immortal lines from flatmate and cameraman Chris Wright open the fourth episode of the 1997 ‘docu-soap’. Sexual strife is in the house: Craig is having doubts about whether his relationship with Vanessa is monogamous; Christian gets a rejection letter from Finland; Natasha appears to have a tiff with Nick; and too much drinking at Ceilla’s 21st results in conflict. Elsewhere, the flatties face up to vomit, cleaning, freeloading boyfriends and a game of hacky sack.
Bros meets The Bachelor in this hit Māori Television reality show, which was billed as a "hunt for the ultimate Polynesian warrior". The contestants' muscles might look good, but do the personal trainers and dancers have their ancestors’ skills? This first episode tests the 12 entrants in spear throwing, waka portage and hakamoa (Hawaiian wrestling). The show swapped po-faced reality TV conventions for Polynesian humour: dropped lavalavas and tattooed torsos are slathered with innuendo by hosts Pani and Pani (Goretti Chadwick and Anapela Polataivao).
Popstars was a key forerunner of the late 1990s reality television explosion. The series followed the creation and development of an all-girl pop band called TrueBliss (Carly Binding, Keri Harper, Joe Cotton, Megan Alatini and Erika Takacs), who went on to record several NZ chart-topping singles and a platinum-selling album. Also a hit was the series format, which sold globally and helped inspire Pop Idol/American Idol, the franchise that would dominate reality TV for years to come. These excerpts are from each episode of the series, from the second to the final.